Don’t copy your social media guru

I’m a marketing man, not a social media expert. However, because some social media tools are excellent for helping small businesses market their services, I’ve spent years studying the marketing potential of social media.

Here’s an important observation I would like to share with you.

Don’t copy your social media guru

It’s all about why you should not necessarily use the same social media strategy, as your social media guru.  Whilst their advice might be superb, simply copying what you see them do, is not always the right thing to do.

Let me explain.

In my experience, most social media professionals make their living selling a mixture of; books, downloadable products and ads or sponsorships on their blogs. Some of the better known social media figures also offer seminars / workshops internationally too.  Unlike most of their readers, they are not geographically limited in what they provide. Someone buying their latest book or eBook in the same street is no different from someone making that same purchase, on a different continent 10 time zones away.

If you run a business, which provides services (or sells to) a particular geographical area, you are going to need a far more geographically targeted approach to your use of social media.  You will need to focus your efforts in a way that attracts and develops opportunities in the area that’s of commercial interest to you.

For example, if you are an accountant or lawyer, it’s unlikely that you will be seeking business leads or referrals on an international basis.  Apart from anything else, your qualifications will restrict what you can offer internationally.  If you work in insurance, your products may have geographical limitations too.  Same again if you operate a franchise business, with a set territory.

Tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, FaceBook and FriendFeed are known for making it possible to easily develop an international network of contacts.  However, they also make it possible to search for (and connect with) your target audience too – people where you do business.

Your social media feedback

I know that a lot of my readers are big users of social media, some with great success!  If you have developed a social media strategy, which has a geographical element, or you have any tips for a more regional approach to social media; please share it with your fellow readers and myself.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Growing and securing your online network

This post is all about how to safeguard and grow your online network.

How frustrated do you feel, when you’ve just washed your car, you take it out for a spin and a massive truck goes buy and covers it in dirt?  What about when you’ve been working on a document for 20 minutes, your computer crashes and you suddenly realise you lost all that work!

Frustrating isn’t it?

social network online networkingThen just imagine how frustrated you will feel, if that social network you have spent months building on your favourite social networking site, gets trashed; following an unpopular acquisition or mass user exodus!

I wrote a post yesterday, about FaceBook buying FriendFeed.  Within hours of the acquisition, many established FriendFeed users told me they will stop using the service.  Others are posting messages, telling people how to get in touch with them – because they believe FriendFeed will be closed by the new owners.

No one outside FaceBook know’s what they are planning to do with FriendFeed, but that’s not the point.

The point is, this perfectly demonstrates how exposed we can be, is we decide to rely too heavily on any single, third-party, for the development of our online network.

I believe there are two lessons here:

  • Firstly, make sure you have at least 2 places online, where you can connect with your network – not just one!
  • Secondly, develop a central hub for your online presence, which YOU control – Not something governed by a third-party, who could pull the plug on you, suspend your account (or go broke) at any time.

My online network is spread between my blog, my FriendFeed account and my Twitter account.  I am reviewing adding another contact point shortly and I will let you know more closer to the time.

Self hosted blogs

In my experience, the best hub for your online network is a self-hosted blog.  By hosting your own commercial blog, you maintain control. Host it for free on someone else’s platform and they control it.  Through your blog, you can connect with people, share ideas and grow a community. Plus, with plugins and tools like Google Friend Connect, you can enjoy many of the features of a social networking site, on your blog.

No matter what happens with your account at; Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn or FriendFeed – your blog will remain a constant contact point for your online community.

If you are investing a lot of your time and energy developing a single, online network, this might be a good time to consider how future-proof your strategy is.

Image credit: Avolore

Creating a buzz about your business

This post is all about generating word of mouth and creating a positive buzz about you or your business.

If a friend recommends a great restaurant to you, you are massively more likely to go and eat there than you would be, if you’d found out about that same restaurant via an expensive advertisement. This is because, as we all know, a word of mouth referral is extremely powerful.

So, here’s a question for you:

Why do so few companies do anything to encourage word of mouth?

There are a number of reasons, but here’s what I believe to be the primary one: In my experience, most business owners think they are already doing enough to generate a buzz about what they do.  They genuinely care about their customers and work hard to try and exceed their customer’s expectations.

Surely that’s enough to get people talking about them?

No. It’s not!

That’s because there’s a high level of customer expectancy within the marketplace.  Think about it for a moment.  You expect great service don’t you? Of course you do and so does everyone else!

So, we all notice when we get bad service, but when we get either a good or slightly better than good service, it just washes over us.  It certainly doesn’t motivate us to want to tell all our friends.  We reserve that kind of buzz for the special companies – The one’s that stand out.

Word of mouth 101: We attract remarks, when we become remarkable

The marketplace will not start talking about a company, unless there’s a reason.  So, if we want to attract word of mouth business, we need to give people something to talk about.  A great place to start, is to continuously look for ways to offer a remarkable service, remarkable products or both.

To become remarkable takes courage; the courage to be different.  I’m not talking about being different just for the sake of it. If Bob’s the only Accountant in town to wear a batman outfit to his meetings, he will be different AND people will talk about him. (But that’s a whole different kind of word of mouth!)

Here’s a thought:  Why not take a moment to think about the companies, services or products that you are talking about and figure out how to adapt what you do, so your business becomes just as remarkable – but in your own way.  Use companies in different industries as inspiration, but don’t copy them.  Dare to be different and offer unique value.

Okay, that’s my take on it. I’d really like to hear what tips or ideas you have for generating word of mouth.

February’s Twitter unfollowing trend

The Twitter unfollow trend happened in February!

That’s right, around 6 months ago, three well-known Twitter users unfollowed all their followers; two within a day of each other.

The big names back then were; Jason Calacanis (mahalo.com founder), Natali Del Conte (Cnet) and Loic Le Muer (Seesmic founder.)

Here’s a what happened – be sure to read the comments section for feedback from Loic and Jason. They gave the exact same reasons then for unfollowing, as people are giving today.

So, this Twitter unfollowing trend is not new and it is not news.

Next story please!

2 things I didn’t know yesterday!

Here are 2 things I didn’t know yesterday, which I wanted to share with you.  If you have anything you want to add, please do so – it’s always great to get feedback.

Twitter unfollowing trend is set to continue

Since blogging about Robert Scoble unfollowing his Twitter followers, I have had a lot of feedback.  As well as the comments on the blog, I have had people emailing me, a few people calling me and even a blog post featuring me.

I’ve been told we are going to see some more well-known Twitter users doing the same as Scoble, over the coming days and weeks. Maybe even sooner!

MarketingProfs feature

I wrote a post recently, called; “How to sell against cheaper competitors” and was blown-away to see it used in yesterday’s MarketingProfs newsletter. With around a third of a million subscribers, it was exciting to get the opportunity to reach so many new, great people.

History will judge him

Isn’t it funny, the things people say without really thinking?

I was listening to the radio recently, as some experts were discussing how good a recently deceased artist was, when one of them said;

history will judge him!”

I disagree!

Surely the future will judge him?

Scoble, Twitter and the wisdom of the crowd!

My FriendFeed buddy Robert Scoble announced last night, that he was going to unfollow around 105,000 people on Twitter.  He has his reasons for doing this, most of which are valid in my opinion.

Robert also publicly said (very generously) that he now realises he was wrong, when he said that I should not have reset my Twitter account way back in January. That meant a lot to me, as Robert’s one of the brightest people I know, and I value his opinions a great deal.

Robert’s decision comes after other well-known Twitter users unfollowed their followers too, including; Loic Le Meur, Jason Calacanis and Natali Del Conte. By the way, all of these people simply unfollowed their followers. I completely reset my account – zero followers / zero following – and started again from scratch.

But Jim – Everyone’ says you should blindly follow on Twitter!

I reset my Twitter account because of the time it took me to deal with all the spam and ‘noise’, that came from following everyone back, when I was the 3rd most followed person in England.  Back then, almost everyone, including a man I really respect Guy Kawasaki, was telling people that the ‘right’ way to use Twitter, was to follow everyone who follows you. I disagreed with Guy and with ‘the crowd’ on this.

I believed then, as I do now, that different people should use their Twitter accounts in different ways, based on what they want to achieve.  In fact, if you have the same business model as Guy, following everyone who follows you might be the right thing to do.

But here’s the challenge

It might not be the right thing for you to do: Just because ‘the crowd’ are all taking one piece of advice, does not make it automatically the best advice for you or the right thing for you to do. I am not talking about Twitter here, I’m talking about the commercial importance of having faith in your own judgement.

Never be afraid to stand out from the crowd

If you know your subject, have done your research and you truly believe that you are right, do it!

Be an original, like Gary Vaynerchuk

When Gary Vaynerchuk from Wine Library became an Internet star, hundreds or maybe thousands of people tried to imitate him. Almost overnight, I saw wine expert websites and blogs popping up everywhere.

I started getting followed on Twitter and FriendFeed by wine experts. This sudden rush of wine experts everywhere was incredible – However:

  • Can I name one of those other wine sites for you? No!
  • Can I name even one of the experts behind any of these wine sites for you? No!

That’s because Gary was the  first – or rather, he was the first wine expert to maximise social media.  By the way, I don’t drink alcohol and even I became aware of Gary’s work really quickly – such is his reach and influence. I’m a diet Coke person, which is a pity as Gary emailed me recently and offered to take me out for a beer. (Yes a beer, not wine!)

The power of being an original

I was at a football game earlier this year, when I noticed that there was one person wearing a bright yellow shirt, in an area of the stadium, where they were surrounded by about 5,000 people wearing red shirts.  That one person was more noticeable by themselves, than the other 5,000 people combined.

Just like the person in the bright yellow shirt, true originality stands out.  It commands our attention.

There’s no point in someone trying to be the next Gary Vaynerchuk.  Gary himself only succeeded, because he allowed his own unique style and personality to come through.

So, does this mean that we can’t learn from pioneers? Of course not!  Google was not the first search engine; they actually came to the party relatively late. However, they did have a uniquely valuable approach to search.  It was their unique value that started them on the road to success.  If they had simply copied what AltaVista or Yahoo were doing back then, they would have failed.

If we want to stand out or we want our business to stand out – we need to break away from what the crowd are doing.  Yes, this requires a lot of confidence and courage, but the rewards can be amazing!

6 little-known facts about Jim Connolly

I have just updated the blog’s ‘about’ page and was going to include some personal information about me, which is not business related.

Then I realised that if the information just gets added to the about page, almost none of my regular readers will see it!  I like to know a little about the people who’s work I read and I know others do too. So, here are 6 things about me that you probably didn’t already know.

Early exit

On the day my son Lewis was born, (a month before he was due), a story appeared in a UK newspaper with the headline; “Jim may have to make an early exit!”  The story related to a comment I made to a reporter, about a talk I was giving at The London Stock Exchange building for AWD PLC. I said that it was my last speaking engagement because my wife was 8 months pregnant. The newspaper is a great keepsake for when Lewis grows up.

Dead serious

I ‘died’ briefly, when I was 17 years old; after receiving three scull fractures during a fight, where one of my assailants was armed with an axe. I grew up dirt poor, on a London council housing estate – very much on the ‘wrong side of the tracks’.  Although blessed with loving parents, I got in with the wrong crowd and almost paid the ultimate price.  I was 21 years old when I turned my life around (that was 23 years ago); thanks to the support of my mother, father and older brother.

Relative strangers

Billy Connolly, the famous comedian / actor is a cousin of mine.  I only found out about 15 years ago, when visiting another cousin for the first time, in Galway, Ireland.  I noticed pictures of Billy Connolly on the wall and then realised that the pictures of Billy were actually taken in the house.  I have never met Billy but those I know who have, tell me he’s a really nice fella!

Radio days

I once coached a BBC Radio presenter live on air!  Lara King was hosting her first ever solo radio show and was extremely nervous, so the interview she had planned with me on her launch show, became a live on air coaching session. Lara is a real professional, a genuinely lovely person and it was always a joy to work with her.

Boxing clever

I have been in love with boxing all my life, both inside the ring and outside.  Though I never fought professionally, I have sparred with scores of professional fighters and have a dedicated boxing gym at home.  This is one of the reasons I don’t drink alcohol or smoke – It made training so much harder!  I have just restarted training (last week) and need to lose a STACK of fat, after a serious shoulder injury stopped me from training for almost 5 months.

Jim loves tech

I own (and write for) The Tech News Blog. The blog is just a year old and has already been referenced as a news source by many of the best known people in tech news, including; Leo Laporte’s TWiT network, Dave Winer’s Scripting News, The BBC, C|net and ReadWriteWeb.

So, those were six random things about me, which usually don’t fit into the topics I cover. I hope you found them interesting and that maybe you feel you know me a little better now too.

The Power of Influence

I have a question for you.  “Why does one person’s recommendation carry a lot of weight, when another person can give the same recommendation, yet few people take any notice?”

The answer, of course, is influence.

The recommendation of an influential person is powerful and in business it has a huge commercial value too.  It’s why a sports star will get paid millions; just to be seen wearing and endorsing a brand like Nike or Adidas. Their influence is so strong that it changes the way people actually feel about the brands they endorse.  As a result, the brand makes more sales.

Twitter & FriendFeed make measuring online influence easier

One of the great things about sites like Twitter and FriendFeed, is that they give you an insight into how influential some people are – online at least! On FriendFeed, I have seen people like Robert Scoble and Louis Gray generate hundreds and hundreds of comments; just by asking a quick question – such is their influence.

On Twitter, I have seen similar results.  On Sunday, for example, Chris Brogan sent out the message below.

chris-tweet

When I checked my blog stats for Sunday, I saw a significant spike in visitors here from Twitter.  The interesting thing was the unusually high percentage of Chris’ ‘followers’, who clicked that link.  It was around 400% higher than I usually see, when someone ReTweets my posts. In other words, Chris’ followers were 4 times more likely to click a link he sent, than I usually see.  His Twitter followers clearly trust him to provide interesting links.  Now, I am the first to admit that this was a snapshot, but I see similar patterns repeated all the time.

Influential recommendations

I have a friend, who has recommended my marketing services to seven of her contacts. All seven contacts called me and within just one call, all seven became clients. Each one told me how much they respected Sarah’s recommendation and endorsement of my services.  In other words, before I even spoke to these people, Sarah’s recommendation had already reassured them that I would get the sales results they needed.

Influence, is a huge subject – way too big to cover in a single blog post. However, there’s a great tip I found years ago, which we can all use, in order to help us understand how to increase our commercial influence.

The tip is simply to study two types of people: Those who are highly influential and also those who lack influence.

You will quickly see that there are certain things, which people within each group have in common.  For example, I find that people with commercial influence are usually far more knowledgeable in their field than their counterparts.  They are also excellent at developing trust.

Okay – Now it’s your turn!  Please share your thoughts regarding influence.