Thursday, December 11, 2008

How Does Your Social Media Brand Stack Up?

Do you know what’s being said about your business? Do you know whether people think your latest product launch was a success or a big flat-out fail? If you think you do know what’s being said about you online, if you’re not using social media then think again.

Far from being an Internet fad that only a select few use, social media and its list of tools and applications is fast becoming the most important business tool online. Not only can it let you know what’s being said about you, it can also help you with market research, sales, PR, customer interaction and much more.There are many different sites and tools available to help businesses get the most out of social media, some better than others. But one that is beginning to stand head and shoulders above the rest is micro-blogging site Twitter.

Business in 140 Characters

The beauty of Twitter and its use to businesses and professionals is the simplicity in which it works. Users open a Twitter account, choose a username, set up a profile and that’s it – you’re ready to start communicating.

By only allowing a maximum of 140 characters to converse with at any one time, Twitter also ensures that the majority of its users converse effectively. Yes, there will always be the odd, “My cat’s breath smells of cat food!” moment but you can filter these out. If you want Twitter to be used mostly as a business tool, then you can choose who you follow and who follows you (“follows” are your connections).

For anyone that hasn’t used Twitter yet because they don’t feel it offers any value to businesses, consider this:

  • An advertising campaign by pharmaceutical company Motrin (part of the Johnson-Johnson brand) had to be pulled after complaints from the Twitter community that it was demeaning to mothers.

  • Charity fundraisers on Twitter alone raise thousands for good causes like the 12for12K Challenge and Tweetsgiving.

When these types of results and other like them happen because people are simply conversing online, that’s the sign of a powerful business tool. Yet like the best tools, there are ways that Twitter should and shouldn’t be used.

- Converse with your audience.
- Offer quality input and share advice.
- Listen to what’s being said.
- Mix the people you’re following as opposed to just your niche.

- Use Twitter simply to broadcast your own message.
- Add followers by the hundreds at first – take the time to add quality contacts instead.
- Direct Message people with a link to your website or sales product immediately after you’ve connected.
- Forget that everything said on Twitter always has an audience somewhere.

There are many tools that you can then use when you become used to Twitter to enhance tour experience of it, both business and personal. But that’s another blog post. In the meantime, if you’re not using Twitter already it’s probably about time you saw what you are missing.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Obama and the Future of Business

When Barack Obama won the US Election on November 5, it signaled a groundswell change in American history. The first black President and one of the least senior candidates ever, Obama’s victory marked just how much change the citizens of America felt was needed.

Yet while there’s no doubting the significance and historical aspect of Obama’s victory, what does it mean for businesses nationwide? After all, there’s probably never been a situation in the history of the Presidency exactly like the one facing the new incoming leader – two wars, economic meltdown, stock market uncertainty and environmental issues.

The good thing is Obama seems to be creating a solid team behind him as he prepares for office. Additionally, he’s already stated what his goals for businesses will be, and it’s clear that while some areas may be better served than others, the new President looks set to deliver on his promise of making America profitable again.

The businesses that seem set to benefit from Obama the most – at least initially – look to be the ones in construction and technology. This is an ideal mix for Obama to aim for – helping both blue and white-collar workers in one fell swoop, while planning on the next step in the economic recovery.

For example, Obama has said he wants to expand the roads and the bridges across America. This means that companies in the construction and engineering industries will be amongst the first to benefit from the new President.

The effects of this plan on America and her businesses in the months and years ahead are clear. Construction has long been one of America’s core industries and has helped the country become the nation it is today. Millions of families rely on the construction industry as their main source of income. With the announcement of bridge and rail expansion, Obama is sending out a clear message that he sees this industry as important as any other in corporate America.

Additionally, business owners in this industry will at least enjoy some smoother sailing after the many knocks they have taken over the last few years. Bridges and the supporting infrastructure that comes with aren’t built overnight – meaning longer-term contracts and improved outlooks for future business planning.

Of course, once these projects are complete, they will open the doors for other businesses to benefit with easier cross-state business partnerships opening up.

Another industry that Obama will be boosting is the technology one. He’s already made his intentions clear on this with the announcement that his cabinet will include some of the biggest names from the technology and online field.

While it’s early days yet, and things may change when Obama actually gets to the White House and is able to survey what exactly lies in front of him, one thing is clear. Although the US is in a mire at the moment – along with the rest of the developed world – businesses with a tie to construction and technology look set to be the first to start the steps to recovery.

With the changes that this month’s historic election are heralding for the country, at home and abroad, now is the time to look at your own infrastructure. Does it meet your customer and business needs, or does it need investment of its own? We are investing.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Using Blogs to Improve Your Business

One of the many benefits of business blogs is their ability to connect with the readers of them. Whether it’s with customers of a company, potential new clients or simply visitors looking to see what’s happening in that particular industry niche, business blogging is an instant way to connect with your target audience.

Yet this works both ways. While there’s no doubt that business blogging can offer an invaluable way for businesses to connect with their customers, bloggers can also connect with businesses and offer insights into where they’re going wrong.

With the power of a large following that many bloggers now have, they can virtually make or break a new product or service with a scathing review. Once that review or comment is online, it’s instantly available to millions of readers worldwide – a powerful number in anybody’s book. Therefore, knowing what’s being written is just as important as what you’re writing.

One of the best ways to interact with the blogosphere is by reading different blogs by leaders in their field. They don’t necessarily have to be in your particular business niche, either – the best bloggers write about topics that can be transferred into any business model.

For example, the emerging trend online at the moment is social media. While the basics of social media have been around for a few years, it’s only now that the medium is being exploited fully to enhance business use. One of the foremost bloggers in this field is Chris Brogan, who not only writes about social media, he encapsulates all that social media is about with consistently useful advice on how to use it more effectively, both on a personal and professional level.

Another blog similar to Brogan’s but from a marketing perspective is that of Seth Godin. His outspoken manner isn’t always everyone’s cup of tea, yet for out of the box thinking and fresh spin on old ideas, you can’t go far wrong by reading Godin’s blog. His books on marketing are bestsellers, so you know the information will be worthwhile.

Perhaps one of the best and most thought-provoking blogs for any business owner is by Howard Lindzon. A self-made entrepreneur who manages a hedge fund and continues to lead the field in new ventures and innovative thinking, his blog posts are not for the faint-hearted. What they are, though, is a collection of some of the best insights into being both passionate and unafraid to take risks when it comes to succeeding in business.

These are just three particularly strong blogs in an impressive worldwide blogosphere. To truly benefit from all that blogging can offer, however, they are excellent starting points that you can begin to build a varied and knowledgeable reading base. The added benefit is that as well as offering excellent business views and opinions, reading more blogs will invariably improve the quality of your own blog. And that can never be bad.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why Blogging Isn’t Going Anywhere Soon

Despite recent stories to the contrary both in online and offline publications, the popularity of blogging shows no sign of abating anytime soon. From its early days as an outlet for bedroom writers to share their personal thoughts to the power it holds today as a business tool, blogging’s popularity is, if anything, increasing.

A recent report from Technorati confirms that blogging is growing at a phenomenal rate. Hailed as the Blogger’s Bible, Technorati measures not only how popular blogs are individually, but also how many are currently being written worldwide. In their State of the Blogosphere Report 2008, Technorati shares some impressive figures:

  • As of March 2008, there were 184 million blogs worldwide

  • Blogs in the US enjoyed 77.7 million unique visitors, compared to 41 million visitors to Facebook and 75.1 million to MySpace

  • 77% of all active Internet users read blogs

Apart from confirming that blogging as a pastime continues to find new fans, these figures from Technorati also act as a wake-up call for any businesses yet to have a corporate blog.

The Numbers Game

According to recent statistics, over half of all businesses in North America don’t have a blog, which means that just under half of all businesses do. If your business is in the half that doesn’t have a blog, you’re offering your competitors a major advantage over you – access to your target audience.

One of the reasons that blogs are so popular is that they offer an instant voice, both from the blogger and the reader. A personal blog can share the latest news or pictures of a newborn baby to family and friends in a different part of the world. A business blog works on the same premise.

Working on just some of the figures that Technorati provides, it’s easy to see why blogging should be a part of every business’s marketing or PR strategy:

  • 46% of all bloggers are professional bloggers. This may mean that they’re writing a corporate blog, or simply writing about the industry that their company is in, while not necessarily mentioning their company at all.

  • This equates to just over 84.5 million bloggers that are, in essence, business bloggers. If your company doesn’t have some kind of blog presence, that’s potentially 84.5 million businesses ahead of you when it comes to reaching your target audience.

  • Online sales in 2007 totaled $260 billion. Blogs are known to increase awareness of new products and offers from companies. Less than half are utilizing this, which means that 1 out of 2 companies are losing a large part of $260 billion dollars of online income.

As the economy continues to waver and businesses tighten their belts, not using every tool at your disposal is akin to commercial suicide. The popularity of blogging and blog readers should be seen as one of the most cost-effective and essential business tools available.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why Market Research is Even More Important in a Tough Economy

“Goals are not only absolutely necessary to motivate us. They are essential to really keep us alive.” – Robert H. Schuller

The smart business owner knows two things – economic downturns are not new, and how we deal with them defines our future success. Continuing to look for growth even in the toughest circumstances is key to seeing any difficulties through. This is why it’s so important for businesses to keep a level head and stay focused with their market research, and make it business as usual.

While it’s natural for us to look at the markets and wonder what tomorrow will bring, it’s also an opportunity to take stock, evaluate how we can turn negativity into positivism and move forward. By keeping a level head and continuing with your current market research plan, you can minimize any risk that your business might face in the current climate.

Think about it – what’s helped you get where you are today? Yes, you may have a great product but if your intended customer doesn’t see it or isn’t interested in it, who’s going to buy it? Market research can help take away the doubt about what audiences go for, and whether your product or service will be accepted. Limiting the risk also reduces the unnecessary costs of a poorly planned launch.

Obviously you need to make sure that certain things come above market research – the ability to meet your expenses and pay your staff. After all, your staff have helped your business get to where it’s at today as much as anything else (if not more so). So of course you need to look after them as much as you possibly can.

After that, you need to make sure your name is the first one in the mind of your customers – old and new – while your competitors are staying in the shadows. To do that, you need to know what your customers (and those of your competitors) are thinking. Market research will tell you all of this and more.

As well as knowing what your target audience is thinking, market research offers two crucial advantages to your company in this type of market:

1. Reduced risk of costly campaigns. Testing your advertising before you go to market is a good way to stay on budget and use your best option.

2. You have access to a company that knows your market; that of your competitors and most importantly of all, can offer you unbiased answers from your potential customers. Well designed market research can get people to really open up and say what they want, without the sub-conscious thoughts of saying what they think you want to hear. That’s how you know to launch a product or service that will be a success.

In this time of economic uncertainty and unstable stock markets, businesses can’t afford to be missing out on a single opportunity. Having a solid market research plan that you stick to in tough times will keep it business as usual.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Daring Adventure

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable."
--Helen Keller

Perhaps, courage can be defined as turning to face your fate. You can either turn and face it or choose to look away. Ignoring her fate would not have made Ms. Keller any less blind. Perhaps, by accepting the hand that she had been dealt, which she could not change, she was able to focus on what she could change.

She was the first deaf and blind person to graduate from college. She championed a woman's right to vote and opposed the war (she was born in 1880....). Fortunately, this courageous woman shared her story and left behind her words as inspiration.

As a business owner I am grateful for both the inspiration and the daring adventure!

Saturday, August 16, 2008


The quest for perfection is something we've been hearing a lot about lately in sports. The New England Patriots coming into the Super Bowl 18-0, Tiger Woods' "Tiger Slam" and his ensuing dominance of the PGA Tour, and now, with The Olympics upon us, Michael Phelps in swimming, as well as, the U.S. Men's Basketball team. They all have their rightful place in that argument, but i don't think any of them can match this.
1 Gold Medal (soon to be 2)
18 consecutive tournament wins
104 match winning streak
Over 200 combined career wins
Have only lost 10 of 114 sets played this year
Who am I talking about? The U.S. Women's Beach Volleyball team of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh. If you want to see dominance and the quest for perfection tune into The Olympics and watch the most dominant team in sports play.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A drug test is a drug test

I have been watching The Tour de France (TDF) for weeks (July 5 to July 27) and as a cyclist myself I can watch it hour after hour…day after day. I know it is going to end soon and I am trying to prepare myself for the daily 3-5 hour gap in time that will be available in my day on Monday July 28. Then I remembered that I didn’t have that time in the first place.

The TDF has provided an opportunity for cycling to be much more of a topic of conversation over the past couple of weeks. My friends and business colleagues have asked a lot of great cycling and TDF questions since the race began this year! There have been good questions:

  • How many stages are there? 21
  • How many days? 23 (they get 2 rest days…)
  • How many miles? 3,500 kilometers
  • How many miles is that? It is about 2175 miles.
  • How many miles do you ride? More than that…but I have all year!

Here is what I have learned:

  • Everyone thinks Lance is the best ever!
  • Lance is the best.
  • Don’t think that you can beat the system because you can’t.
  • A drug test is a drug test and you’re going to get caught if you cheat. Come on boys!