Here’s the stuff we wrote about in our last incarnation. Some of the stuff is still valid. Some of it – not so much…

Social Media 101 – Step 3: Find or Make a Hole and Fill It…

SARLACSocial media and social marketing have what SHOULD be a high calling. It’s a great way for folks of like mind to share information and create groups and socialize with folks who are interested in the same thing.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of noise, and folks throw out a lot of information, links, videos and what-not without a lot of thought as to the usefulness/interestingness of that information. And, yes – I make up words…

Which is what this cute little post is all about. To make the most of your time (and investment), you really want to find a place or space where you can innovate, or you want to stick with the tried and true. You want to find a hole where you fit – and fill that place up with good info, humor, photos or whatever. If you fill a void and fill a need, you’ll attract visitors, fans and – most importantly – interaction. But, be warned – if you try to maintain the status quo and do only what the “experts” tell you to do, it can come across as hollow – and repeat visits and viral sharing will be more difficult.

And so, in the interest of helping you identify and fill those “holes” and keep your social interaction genuine and compelling, I offer the Insanely Important Tip #3:

Lesson 3: Find or Make a Hole and Fill It…

Who is your audience and what do they want to see? Are your competitors offering that info? Is it oversaturated? Has that message become so diluted and over-done? If it has – innovate.

You’ve got to define the need (hole), define the current solutions to that need and then find a way to differentiate yourself and become an “innovator”. That’s pretty broad – but with just a tiny bit of thought and action, you can set yourself and your information apart – and generate a lot more interest and interaction, which is what this social game is all about. And so…

The Exercise:

Part 1: Who’s Looking in the Holes? Define your audience. This should be pretty easy. You know your business, right? If you need help here, contact us – we’d love to explore your audience, clients and customers and make some suggestions. Examine who these people are – online and offline. See what they like, what they expect, what they buy. Google the crap out of the demographic. There’s plenty of info out there. Write it down and keep it within easy reach – you really have to keep this in mind, because you’re NEVER going to appeal to 100% of the world’s population – so it’s better to try to narrow it down and focus on the folks who are REALLY your consumers.

Part 2: What Are the Holes – or Do You Need to Create Them? Define your audience’s wants, needs and expectations. See Part 1, above. You probably don’t have enough money or time to be so broad that you accidentally fill those wants, expectations and needs. Being precise saves time, money and psychic energy. Fill the obvious holes, look for new ones or create new ones. If you see a need (hole) in your field – fill it. If you can do that, you can innovate and capture a great audience – but breaking free of people’s expectations is difficult and fraught with danger. People are reluctant to change, so plan accordingly.

Part 3: Fill the Holes with the Same-Old-Same-Old and/or Differentiate. Which do you want to do? The answer is the one that is going to work best for your business and your viewers/fans/customers/clients. If your audience expects and consumes primarily pie charts, give them pie charts, but give them kick-ass pie charts. Give them something a little different and a little better. Add your own spin – humor, color, better design, more usable formats, etc. If your pie charts suck and the next guy’s are a little bit better, which one is going to sell harder? You get the idea. You want to fill the outstanding needs a little better than everyone else – but “better” is kind of subjective here. Sometimes, just your personality is enough of a differentiation to make your stuff more compelling. If you’re going to be completely different and offer your customer base something other than what they expect, you have to plan for a little blowback – but in the long run, standing apart from the field can be a GREAT boon to your bottom line – as long as it’s done judiciously and with your expectations in check.

In summation – Define your audience, define their needs and expectations, then define how you’re going to fill those “holes.”

Now, young Padawan,, if you’ve completed Step 1, you’ve defined your business. In Step 2, you defined your “message.” Today, you defined your audience and their needs. Put them all together and you have your basic “Social Marketing Plan” or at least the bones of your concept. You’re ready for the big guns and the real rubber-meets-the-road Step 4: Get Rolling…

Facebook Timeline (Suckline) Could Change Your Marketing…

cb5First off – a hat tip to Dru Collie, Director at Sole Hope for the link. I’m usually off somewhere learning about how aliens run the White House or about David Yow’s cats, so it’s nice to have friends that think to send me interesting tidbits. If you’d like to send me tidbits, I’d love to see ’em. I heart tidbits because my caffeine-addled attention span on the internet is right around nothing.

Which brings me, in an incredibly round-about fashion, to my point: How Timeline Radically Changes Your Facebook Marketing Strategy.

Now, a lot of the article is vague and somewhat obvious if you think a little bit about what you’re doing on Facebook, but the most applicable and helpful bit for me was the first “Marketing Takeaway.”

It suggests that you put out content at different times and monitor the success of those posts and interactions based on time posted, using Facebook Insights. That way, due to the short lifetime of a Facebook post (3.2 hours,) you can deduct when the most optimal times to post are, and when your “audience” is online and receptive. Now, one of the other things that looking at your Facebook Insights* does is tell you how effective your subjects and content is with your current audience, and whether or not Facebook is a good investment of time and money.

In everything that you do, marketing-wise, it’s best practice to actually monitor the returns you get for any effort. Newspaper ads are expensive – do you have a way to monitor what sort of interest you garner from that expenditure? Facebook pages and posts and interaction are cheap, by comparison – but they can eat up a lot of time, so it’s better to know if social marketing is even effective for your business. It might not be – and no matter how good your Facebook pages look or how awesome your posts are, it could all be a waste of time.

So – use your Insights and make sure you’re actually making some headway with Facebook. Think about the whole thing a little differently and objectively and make sure your current social media strategy is actually valid and offers a return on your investment – time or money. Don’t let some slick-selling, longhaired dude that smells like coffee and wastes too much time getting to the point sell you something you don’t need. If you don’t need it and it doesn’t work for you and your clients/customers, it’s not worth having, no matter how hip it is.

Give us a shout and let’s discuss your Facebook page, your “fans” and whether or not this is even a game you should be playing. We’ll be honest with you, even if it means we’re not going to make any dough. If nothing else, we’ll shake hands, buy you a cup of coffee and wish you the best in the future. Both our businesses will be better for having met and discussed and thought. Real social marketing, right?

Social Media 101 – Step 2: Consistency of Message

imagesOne of the cool things about social media (and social marketing) is that you can do just about anything. You can blog and Tweet and Facebook and Tumbl and generally show your butt across a million different outlets. Unfortunately, this freedom can also be a hindrance…

You can wind up so scattered that you waste a lot of time. While paring down the list of places that you update is a good idea, it’s not really as important as the consistency of the message that you’re putting out there. You want that message to display who and what you are – but more importantly, you want that message to have a consistency of subject, feel and personality. It’s best practice to have message you post up, Tweet, blog or Tumbl to have the same “brand.” After all, you’re building your brand here – whether you’re a multinational conglomerate responsible for the construction of lightbulb filament coating or some long-haired schlub sitting in a coffee shop pecking away at a laptop, making bad jokes and referencing coffee way too many times – you are trying to build a consistent and recognizable brand. You want people to be able to recognize your stuff without you having to tell them it’s your stuff. You want them to have a comfort level that grows – because that comfort is where real interaction comes from. And, my dear readers, that interaction is the heart of social media/social marketing.

Keeping your message consistent is paramount. So, I present to you The Incredibly Important Tip #2:

Lesson 2: Keep on Truckin’ in the Same Truck

What you need to do is to define your message. Are you all about sales? Then be all about sales. Are you all about humor? Then keep up the jokes. Are you all about weird photos of cats saying reasonably humorous things using misspelled words? Well – keep that up. It’s been done to death, but – whatever.

Me, I’m all about farting around and doodling and writing things. I’m kind of a hipster doofus with weird taste in music and clothes. I love art and design and coffee and I enjoy helping folks think differently about what they do. So – my social media life reflects that. I decided to forgo the fake “agency” thing a while back, and it fits me. I’ve built my brand around who I am. That might not be right for you or your business – but it’s an example of what CAN be done.

Since you’ve already defined your “brand” (who and what you are) in Step 1, you should be able to pretty easily translate that into your social media message. Now – you’ve got to keep it consistent…

The Exercise:

Part 1: Write down how you want people to perceive your business/self/brand/product. If you look back to what you did in Step 1 (you DID do Step 1, didn’t you?) this should be easy. Remember, though – perceptions don’t have to be 100% accurate, and you can manipulate those perceptions. If you decide to go with phony, you’ve got to really keep it up – or people will find out and get PISSED. Plan accordingly.

Part 2: Write down the general content you want to put out there – it doesn’t have to be huge: Stuff like “information on taxes (or whatever your business/brand/whatever is)” or “humor” or “coffee.” You can pick a few – but keeping it simple will help you in the long run. Try to narrow your focus – and try to cater to your intended audience. You want to give them something of value so they come back, reTweet, post links, etc – again, that’s the Holy Grail of social media/marketing.

Part 3: STICK TO THIS. You’re trying to build a comfort level here. If you are putting out mixed messages, you make it hard for folks to identify and remember you. Pick something and stick to it. Social media and marketing is about the long haul – so pick carefully and wisely. It’ll pay off.

Once you’ve got this defined and refined and ready, you’ll be ready for Step 3: Find or Make a Hole and Fill It

 

Social Media 101 – Step 1: Define…

shakeO.k., you’re ready to step into the much ballyhooed “Social Media.” You’re pretty sure you want (or need) a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Tumblr blog and a WordPress.com site. Good! Independent Studios can help with all of those – but what the hell do you do with them? What’s the plan of attack? What good will they do?

Well, I’m going to give you the “wisdom” I have in that realm. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be popping up a post or three a week to guide you through the hows and whys of Social Media and Social Marketing. The price? Free. Why? Because I’m awesome and I’m tired of seeing people waste a lot of time, energy and money on Social Media & Social Marketing when, with a little coaching and real thinking, everyone can do this and do it right. Then, we all win.

Now, when I’m doling out these little gems of knowledge, keep in mind that every business is different, so some of it might not be quite as applicable to you as it is to others. But, at the same time, all businesses are very much the same – so I’ll strive for that universality. If you can’t apply one day’s lessons, wait a day…

Now – first and foremost is:

Lesson 1: Define Who and What You Are

Going forward, the one thing that I am going to assume is that you’ve done this. It is, without question, the single most important thing to do in social media and social marketing. Now – read that lesson again – it’s not saying “Define Who and What You Think You Are” or “Define Who and What People Expect From You,” or even “Define Who and What You Ought To Be.” It’s a very finite thing – you need to define what you are as a business (or person, or cause, brand or whatever.)

If you nail down this definition, everything else you do in social marketing and social media becomes a lot easier. Heck – it’ll make everything about your whole business a lot easier.

If you’re a real estate agent – what kind? How do you want people to perceive your business? Are you a single person, offering singular and personalized service, or are you part of a conglomerate that offers 8 zillion different services? Make up your mind – and then stick to it.

Are you part of a business? If so what is the personality of that business? What’s your “brand?” Every business has a personality – just as much as an individual does. Find it – define it.

Are you a “sole proprietor?” What’s your personality? How do you want to do business and what sets you apart? What’s the added value that you bring over Joe Schmoe? Define it.

Really, this is a HUGE question – but it’s so relevant because that definition is going to dictate, in a lot of ways, how you approach the social thing. An individual is going to approach relationships a lot differently than a group – and the “personality” of those interactions must stay consistent in order to build the social marketing empire that you’re looking for.

Now – The Exercise:

Write your business name/your name on a piece of paper (and yes, I’ve done this myself) and start adding adjectives. Are you (your business, product or service) personal, broad, awesome, lame, helpful, funny, cool, hip or useless? (if you’re useless – you might just want to stop reading and go watch some TV.) Write 20. Start with the stuff you KNOW you are. If you need filler, end with stuff you’d LIKE to be. Keep in mind that if you define yourself with these terms, you’re going to use them a lot – and if you’re full of crap, PEOPLE WILL FIND OUT. Be real, be honest – even if it’s not pretty.

Now, narrow it down to 10. Cut the fat.

Then, narrow that down to 5. Trim it a little more.

Now, narrow it to 3.

Now, you have a very quick-to-digest list of what your business/product/service personality is. The other nice thing about this is that you now have an easy “in” to writing a killer tagline for your business/person/brand/product. Keep those 3 things in mind and get ready to step into Step 2: Consistency of Message…

 

Mountain Java – Loud, Rainy, Quiet, Dry…

wilkinsI’ve always enjoyed the rain. Since I was young and can remember – I have always liked it when the skies gray over and it opens up.

There’s something about the gray sky that makes me feel safe. I like knowing that I have a warm home to go back to. I like that the smell of everything is different. I like that people shuffle around quicker and windows are rolled up. I like the sound of rain on the roofs. I like the clunk of my windshield wipers as I drive without the radio. I like how a good cup of coffee seems to be even warmer in my hands.

Mostly, though, I like not being rained on. I try to find a place to hole up and watch it rain – and so…

I had a client meeting near Merrimon, and I wound up setting up shop in Mountain Java, way down on Merrimon Avenue. The table was a little small (actually, I’m a little big and my laptop is a little giant,) but it was warm and dry and cozy inside. I ordered a cup of the house blend (a large, as is my norm) and the gal behind the counter charged me for a medium and let me know that ordering a medium in-house would get me refills. Already off to a great start. Because, as I’ve mentioned, I’m cheap and I drink a lot of coffee. It was, as I recall, $2.08. Not shabby.

The coffee was good. Fresh and hot and strong. Nothing too out-of-the-ordinary, but that’s cool. It was mellow and roasty – not herbal or fruity. A good, solid cup of coffee with refills – excellent (insert Monty Burns rubbing hands here…)

The decor is simple, the chairs unpadded (which is fine, because I have such a big, soft ass) and the lighting was nice and neutral. Big windows allowed for a great view of Merrimon and the cars whizzing by in the rain, throwing off rooster tails of vapor. Folks came and went, seemingly quite happy with their choices of coffee and related beverages – and with the food, which smelled great. I didn’t partake, but they seem to have some good grub. One day, I’ll break bad and actually PAY for food. That’d be weird, huh?

My one complaint (and it’s pretty minor) is that it’s a little loud – but then again, headphones. I popped in the earbuds and was whisked away to a magical land of marital arsonists, floating yellow eyeballs and insane landlords by David Yow, David Wm. Simms, Mr. Washam & Mr. Bradford. It’s amazing how “quiet” it got. But – if you’re looking to do a lot of phone calling or quiet meditation, you might want to look elsewhere.

Surfin’ was easy – no hoops to jump through, 5mbps down. The upload was a little bit draggy at .36mbps, so uploading a zillion png files to my server was a little on the tedious side, but – you get what you pay for, right? I’ve come to expect very little in the way of upload speed. If you’re doing a lot of development, you probably want to stay at your home base. My home base is dripping with children and tomfoolery, so I have to adjust my expectation and workflow accordingly when I’m living out my absurd gypsy artist fantasies.

There was plenty of juice – at least on the periphery of the room. Every table, it seemed, had a dedicated plug (the one by the bathroom actually had 4 outlets,) and it was all within easy reach. Nice.

The meeting came and went, and I took off, but I found myself back a couple of days later – it’s just a good place to hang and work and drink coffee. The second time I was in, I actually hung out for a good 4 hours. The seating is well away from the bar, so I didn’t feel like the staff was eyeballing me, waiting for me to take my cheap creepiness elsewhere. Sweet! I rate this place pretty high on the campability scale.

This was a great place to get in out of the rain, listen to loud music while enjoying hot coffee and “working.*” I was so pleased, so pleased, so pleased.

Here’s my grades, because I’m such a freaking expert and you WILL LISTEN TO EVERY DAMNED WORD I HAVE TO SAY:

  • Coffee: B+
  • Atmosphere: B
  • Internet: B-
  • Electrical: B+
  • Campability: B+

Website: Can’t find one – Mountain Java people: Call me, we’ll work something out.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mountain-Java/126123740776126

Find it on the Map: Google Map Here

Interesting Tidbit: Ike’s Intercontinental Deli used to be in the shopping center behind this place. I have fond memories of Ike’s. They had the most amazing sandwiches, and I still remember the smell of the place. I’ll have to find out if the spirit of incredible sandwich artistry has hovered around like a gauzy apparition in this area – perhaps guiding the hands of the staff at Mountain Java. I’ll let you know. Maybe I should start a new blog about sandwiches. That’d be sweet. Although I can’t really eat bread now. Damn this old age.

* I LOVE my job, and I take it very seriously. Sometimes, I can’t believe how blessed I am to have folks pay me to sit around in coffee shops and play on my laptop. Thank you, clients. Thank you, God.