Get Social

Well, not really. Local Social isn’t at the point where wrong decisions mean life or death (yet), but we have experimented with Trunk.ly. This Australian company’s motto is “never forget a link,” and it’s certainly genius.

If you’re in the habit of RTing useful links, or posting them to a friend, sign up for Trunk.ly and visit your page when you’re scratching your head/pulling out your hair because the link is lost in the depths of Gmail. Think of this service as a backup for your brain– and cleaner than favorite-ing every link you just can’t be without. You can also export your posted links as yet another form of backup.

You can enjoy the plethora of useful content I keep track of on my personal feed while our team is hard at work building our website for a tentative launch on– gasp– Monday. Stay tuned!

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“Please do not take offense, but you haven’t branded yourself.”

This is an actual quotation from a perspective client email. A start up man himself, I should have known something like this was coming after an 8 pm conference call that same evening in which he asked , “So, do you have an LLC or what?”(The answer is yes, by the way, we’ve formed Local Social as an LLC.)  But enough overt ranting. What I wanted to address here is 1)what components of our business are branded and 2) explain why I’m not overly concerned with overtly branding our type of venture yet .

I can’t help but think of the etymology of the verb “to brand,” and documentary footage of livestock being stamped with an insignia or marker number comes to mind. Obviously, branding in a business marketing sense is more fluid; companies can reinvent their images as core products change, market demands fluctuate, or new management comes on  board. Still, I’m being very deliberate– and  likely all too meta– about how to brand Local Social. First, we started with some key words and phrases that came to mind:

* boutique, smart, content, writers, marketing, social, social media, restaurants, promotions, daily deals, media, PR, consultant, young, hip, in-the-know, savvy, media, bold, experimental, grounded, technical, sales, growth*

I could name more, but I’ll stop there. There are core competencies and value adds we bring to the table. We’re smart and versatile across a variety of tools, networks, and industries.

I’ve given myself an informative email signature that shares Local Social’s relevant presence on the web(see this post for the visual). I’ve given myself the title of “Socialite,” a fancy way of saying “brand manager.” I’ve written a kit that bundles our services with pricing that has a clear, branded tone, incorporating the keywords listed above.

I stressed to this person and others that we haven’t “gone 100% public” with our branding. You can follow us on Twitter, but I don’t seek out new handles to follow and don’t target potential clients through that channel at this time. We’re merely a presence that shares useful articles I find around the web and posts links to this blog. When I gain a new follower from these efforts, I follow back. It’s all very organic. This blog, I  hope, brands us. And yes, I’ve changed the template three times. And we do not yet have a logo. And we don’t have a website, but we have the domain, so we have professional email accounts. And, if anyone’s skeptical about us after viewing some client work and our kit and isn’t convinced,  share my resume as more collateral to speak to my experience.

And not only am I justifying here that I have begun to brand Local Social, but that it’s not all 100% necessary at the very beginning. We’re thankful to the awesome clients we have who believe in us, and to anyone reading my ramblings as we develop our idea into that scary five-letter word.

As a business consultant constantly considering scaling and always re-evaluating roles, it’s been on my mind lately if our Local Social salespeople should stick to just sales. In my own experience, I look back to my first job out of college, in B2B market intelligence, where I was constantly frustrated that I had so many other talents and interests but was forced to stick to my 150+ cold calls per day. Then, I think about how happy I’ve been with start ups like CoupMe, where my focus shifted constantly and I was responsible for sales, but had other tasks on my plate too– and a good chunk of “sales” meant account management and client services, really. In the case of the former, I see how I benefited the company, but I left after 8 months from burning out and constantly exceeding my previous milestones in terms of sheer volume and engagement to challenge myself. So, net unsuccessful. In the latter, I see how I benefited the company by sharing a variety of skills, but at a time when the need was for sales, sales, sales, and the team wasn’t delivering, my full attention to selling could have made a significant difference. So, net unsuccessful again.

There’s a pretty clear dichotomy here; on the one hand, we have the argument that sales people should stick to a singular task. Sales is mentally taxing, and demands that an individual be focused on your business’ value adds, relevance in the industry, and economic need to keep selling itself to stay profitable (and keep a team employed). I’d say 95% of the sales people I’ve worked alongside are good at talking to people, gauging emotions and timing, and have the schedule flexibility to put their time in where it’s needed. Maybe they take that 20 minute bitch break at 3:30 pm, but they’re also picking up the phone at 8 to place that call back that a gatekeeper demanded. Those 95% are also not people I felt were better suited to complete other tasks. I wasn’t thinking, Bob’s such a witty writer; it’s too bad he can’t contribute copy or, I wish Susan managed vendor payments since she has a strong administrative background. Now, I’m a 20-something Bostonian who has shied away from super corporate environments, and I’m not going to say I can speak for everyone. But, in my experience, I’ve met very few sales people who I feel are wasting a different talent.

On the other, we have someone like myself. In the case of Local Social, we are two young professionals starting a brand without a budget and without the desire to expand so quickly that we haven’t developed a demand for our services before we build a team. Personally, I’ve backed off sales, because it’s not my strength(and I’m so concerned with hitting financial milestones that I’m not negotiating contracts well), and it is my bias that sales should be a completely separate responsibility. I’m happy to sell our brand in a different way; while I’m not picking up the phone and convincing local business owners to give us a try, I’m locking down clients through network referrals, and selling our services through the client work we do and the (hopefully) useful content posted to our blog.

So, sorry for another “all about me” post. We’re striving to be an industry resource, however, and points on how to delegate workload for an itsy-bitsy new venture are quite relevant. If I’ve given you any insight to take away and consider, then I’m meeting my milestones here. [Source]

[Source]

As a way to strengthen our business and value add to clients, we’ve been mulling over what exactly makes us quality social media marketers; what skills, traits, and experience do we possess that make us successful? As we consider expansion and to provide you with some helpful tips on how to break into social successfully, here are a few competencies this mythical Social Media “Consultant” or “Expert” (note I didn’t say “Guru” or “Ninja”– enough of that already!) should possess:

  • A good writer.  Seems like everybody’s start up blog is championing the merits of those who can write, and therefore, communicate. My recent read, Rework, even goes so far as to say it makes sense to hire people who possess basic competencies such as the ability to write well over bringing on individuals to fit an “inside the box” job description. Why does your social expert need to write well? No brainer, right? Words are his/her ammo to post content to blogs, Facebook, Twitter, forums, wherever, and it’s certainly embarrassing to get a tweet like this. More than someone who can contract words properly, your social media marketer is first and foremost a writer who can 1) maintain a consistent brand voice while still adding personality, 2)modify content to fit various character limits in a sensible way, 3)be comfortable writing in longer form (i.e. blogs) but understand the demand for “one stop shop” quick posts à la Twitter’s  micro blog.
  • Organized. I was that girl in high school who made solid plans for the upcoming weekend on Monday to lock in my calendar, and completed first drafts of English papers ahead of the due date. I’m still that girl who booked a B&B in Newport(have a look-see! looks delightful, doesn’t it) for the end of July. I’m also now the girl who balances multiple clients’ social media channels and has set times to check in for each client, receives and reviews daily brand Google Alerts, and checks in at the end of each week with clients for weekly summary reports.  Find someone who’s constantly meeting (and exceeding!) deadlines, since managing social is a round-the-clock responsibility and requires someone who can schedule this time and balance it among other duties.
  • Passionate about your brand. A couple points here. I’m looking for a full-time gig, and I do not apply to brands hiring in my area of interest (social media) but whose brand doesn’t excite me(sorry, Carbonite). Nothing against this brand, or any other that wouldn’t prompt me to leap out of bed to get to work every morning, but I’m so much more productive for my clients because I’ve selected ones that speak to my interests– dining out, fitness, and pets, for example. I believe in their missions, and can work well with the owners and management teams involved. Marketing is, after all, a collaborative effort. That entry-level receptionist who sends you random emails about industry events, that barista who’s in the know about other locally owned spots, or the account coordinator who’s sharing articles on the competition to stay up to speed? Those are the individuals to seek out and work in some extra responsibility making your brand known.
  • A quick (and thoughtful!) decision maker. Social is a job that doesn’t keep business hours, and any good employee or consultant is aware of this fact and is plugged in to your brand during off hours. When your store is closed or the executives have taken off for the long weekend, this person is still monitoring brand mentions and responding to inquiries. Find someone with whom you trust decisions and can think for him/herself. Surrendering complete control of your branding can be a scary thing, but the right individual will answer those tough questions and think on the fly.

Any other qualities we missed? What makes you successful as a social media marketer, or what are the traits that led you to hire someone for that role?

This seems so basic, but if you’re trying to spread the word about yourself or your brand, do you have an interactive, visually pleasing signature?

I’m a fan of the (free) WiseStamp myself. It’s a browser-based plugin (meaning you need to install it on all machines you use; it’s not traveling with your Gmail account) that allows you to customize the font and color of your signature and add links to relevant social networks. Share your Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Yelp, WordPress, Youtube…even Etsy, Ebay, and Amazon profiles. You can use those cute little icons, or text, or both. Who doesn’t need fun colors added to his/her signature?

It seems like only last year my Facebook friends were mysteriously single, pregnant, or engaged to their best gay friends…and about three “???” comments in, the collective realized it was April 1. As the day I was supposed to be born but wasn’t (ha!), I’ll keep a special place for April Fool’s Day. This year, the internet got pretty creative.

Getting sore sitting in that desk chair all day? Or just bored of regular email? Google Motion solved that problem. If the video’s still up, watch it here— a mere two days after launching the much-discussed +1, my eyes were deceived for a moment upon loading Google and seeing the notice for Google Motion, a tool integrating ergonomic and “sensible” physical motions into email use to make the whole experience more interactive, intuitive, and dare I say fitness oriented.

In my favorite trendy corner of the interwebs, a couple of daily deal vendors offered some unbeatable purchases…but if you were gullible enough to fall for ’em, you likely couldn’t find a buy button. Yelp, who releases semi-frequent (maybe biweekly or so) deals, integrated a banner for $425 to rent a new puppy each month from the puppy of the month club. As someone who has perused Flexpetz, which I do fear is real, I did click on through to read reviews of how one puppy ate a chick’s box of cocoa puffs, while another was lauded by a child-fearing boyfriend as “an awesome contraceptive.”

I also got a chuckle from The Level Up aka SCVNGR, who took advantage of this snow-covered opening day and offered $45 for a Fenway streaking package. In keeping with their premise to offer two better deals upon the purchase of the first, $90 gets you a pinch hitter pass ($180 value), and $180 gets you a Fenway Park ‘internship’ with Ben Affleck (priceless). Evidently, the final scene in The Town was merely a rehearsal for a real robbery that you too can be a part of if you buy today’s deal.

Nice job, April Fool’s 2011. The internet’s just full of ways to entertain yourself at work!Any other good chuckles out there on this April 1?

 

This evening, I had a conversation with a client who noted that a response I’d made to a fan through their Facebook fan page used the pronoun “I,” and my client was concerned readers would think she was the one who’d had the experience. I explained that shouldn’t be a problem, since this business, like many, isn’t branded to a specific individual. So, it got me thinking about why I manage social networks with a bit of a personal touch.

Genuinity. Readers like seeing that their source of news about a particular brand is genuinely invested and involved. I recently felt it appropriate to @ mention a designer jeans manufacturer with an obscure product question because I’d noticed semi-personal tweets coming from their twitter handle…stuff like, “x is playing on office radio today,” or “this vacation is much-needed!” I thought, this person (or maybe people, you never know!) is real, and maybe s/he has time to help me out with something. These little updates made this particular brand (@7FAM, if you were curious) more personable, so I felt comfortable reaching out.

Consistent Voice. I vary my tone, approach, and topics covered across client brands, but I maintain a consistent voice: brand-savvy, intelligent, up to date on current trends and topics (thanks Google alerts!) for all. Sure, the local burger joint is a bit more conversational, and I’ll tweet up my followers having a brew at the pub down the street, whereas I’ll keep things more buttoned up for a local non-profit, thanking readers for pointing me to relevant events. Using “I” in my posts slips in from time to time– tonight’s “I’ve taken my dog there for a few years,” for example, or, “I love Stone beer,” “I’m getting through the morning with some @Starbucks Indonesia blue…how are you coping through Monday?” Three posts that are “me” centric for three different brands. Content relevant to all of my clients is buzzing through my head– so I share it.

Avoid Sounding Corporate. Big corporations have done wonders for their social images and CRM. Starbucks is a great example here, and Skittles is another. These brands are gi-freaking-normous, but manage to engage on a daily level by reaching out to individuals to answer questions, resolve disputes, and even just shoot the breeze. No generic, “your time is important to us, please continue to hold” recordings on loop here. We’re still talking about a brand with a consistent message and voice, but at least one consumer-facing channel (twitter) is approachable to hoi polloi. What I’ve learned from these giant ‘Super Brands’ is whether you’re an army of one or one million, it never hurts to connect with your audience with a one-on-one perspective.

So. I’ll take those infamous “I”s out of posts for clients upon request, but did want to dig a little deeper into why  that personal touch is so crucial for all brands.