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What I Learned from Summer Camp About Facebook Pages

This week my 8 year old daughter started daytime summer camp, and came home with this sticker on her chest:

Facebook "Like us" sticker

Note: Do NOT use your customer's children as marketing vehicles


It says, “See all the fun we are having at camp!” Like us on Facebook”…

So, the camp is asking me to “Like” their Facebook page. Which I totally get, except for a few things:

First, I already “Liked” their page when they asked me in an email a while ago. And since I tend to pay more attention to Facebook pages than the average citizen, I have repeatedly checked it out. And you know what? As a mom and customer, there’s just not much to “Like” about the page. In marketing language, their content sucks.

Second, I’m totally cool with them asking me to ‘Like” their page in almost every which way: Emails; at the bottom of every single one of those dozens of forms I have to sign; a big sign on the door — hey, even a camp ditty with a line about how fun their Facebook page is(n’t). But a sticker on my kid’s chest? Now you are creeping me out.

What can everyone who runs a Facebook page learn from this?

1. Don’t use desperation tactics to drive your Facebook page. Especially when it comes to people’s kids. First think, “How would I feel if someone used this tactic on me? Could I do something similar that would work just as well? ” My friend Lua over at Miss Lulu Blogs rightly pointed out that even putting it on her backpack would have been way better.

2. As the always-amazing Ramon DeLeon commented, the problem here is really lack of winning content. See, my older daughter attends another summer camp, a sleepaway camp no less, and their Facebook content is equally bad. It’s a sleepaway camp people! Can you think of a better, more interested audience than parents of kids who are away for the summer? That page should be HUMMING with interaction among interested parents. What do they got? Nada.

Just imagine:
“Name your kid’s favorite Harry Potter book correctly to win a free goody bag for the whole bunk!”

Parents name the book and their kid, camp checks, and declares the winners both to the campers on site and then to the parents, on the Facebook page of course. Thus, kids and parents have a unique interaction VIA Facebook that is fun for all.

“Congratulations to Joey in the Raccoon bunk for having a mom who knows her Harry Potter! He and all his buddies will be enjoying candy bars and popcorn tonight!”

And I just made that up.

What do you recommend for juicing up a summer camp Facebook page?

Don’t Write Twitter Off Just Yet

Recently, the always excellent Jay Baer, who speaks, writes and consults about social media, did an interview with Steve Lundin of Big Frontier about, well, social media. It’s a great interview and I highly recommend that you watch it. There’s just one thing…

During the interview Jay explains his belief that Twitter has become a sort of niche news service packed with useful links, but where real conversations have been severely compromised, and which only get increasingly harder to have as you get more successful at it. Maybe, but I think there are still plenty of ways companies can take advantage of Twitter to have excellent, on-brand, real-time conversations with influential individuals – especially if you market to moms.

Here’s my list of ways to use Twitter to connect with moms on-line:

1. Twitter Parties: It’s hard to think of a better medium for moms to get together and party than Twitter. After all, we are busy, tired, probably wearing sweatpants and have drastically different schedules depending on our kids’ ages. We also don’t love paying a sitter. Enter Twitter Parties: join when you can, from home, in between everything else that you are doing. Even better, since you are partying with other moms, if you get interrupted, everyone understands.

Indeed some of the very best, most active parties on Twitter are run by top mom bloggers and influencers, including Jyl Johnson Pattee of Mom It Forward’s Girls Night Out (#GNO) fame, Amy Lupold Blair of Resourceful Mommy; and Amy Bellgardt of Mom Spark Media, just to name a few.

Whether you are brand-new to Twitter or have been using it for years, it’s a piece of cake to hop onto a Twitter party related to your brand’s topic area and join in the conversation. And I do mean conversation.

Not into “mom” topics? That’s Ok, there are chats on Twitter about EVERYTHING, including travel (Travelers Night In is on Thursdays – just follow#TNI); food (Foodies Night In -which I co-host – is on Mondays at #FNIchat)… you get the picture.

So whether you run a hotel, a food exporting company or a local hair salon, the chances are pretty good there’s a Twitter party that makes sense for you. But don’t think of it merely as a way to get noticed. Think of a Twitter party as a way to LISTEN to your target audience. And if they talk about your competition, or if your competition shows up, please for goddsakes, LET IT RIDE. Unless you want to pay some fancy-pants marketing agency a fat fee for a competitive analysis. And even then it won’t be as good. Trust me.

2. Hashtags for Events: I know, I know for the really big events like Blog World Expo and SXSW, the hashtags are so overloaded with traffic, it’s almost meaningless. But there are plenty of small events where the hashtags are a GREAT way to listen, connect and yes, make an impression for your brand. This is particularly true of the smaller and mid-sized  mom blogger conferences.

Now this is important: If you are not actually at the conference, it is absolutely a great idea to follow the conversation via Twitter and LEARN. It’s also OK to jump in once in a while with RELEVANT comments. But it is absolutely, positively NOT OK to pretend you are there, hog up the stream, or send overt marketing messages. This is really bad manners, and if you get busted will result in a level of widespread ridicule you most assuredly do not want to incur.

Come to think of it, this is bad manners even if you are at the conference, so either way, DON’T do it.

3. Customer service. In many cases, this should be right up at number one on the list. If you do NOTHING else on Twitter but answer questions from current customers and prospects, then you are still putting it to good use. You would be AMAZED at how happy people are when they send a “help!” tweet and actually get a response. I have personally seen people turn 180 degrees around from, “This product sucks” to “Wow, what great service!” within just 24 hours. THESE are the people who go on to become your most passionate offline word-of-mouth advocates. Especially if they are under-appreciated moms. (And is there any other kind?)

So please, with a cherry on top, don’t give up on Twitter yet, OK?

How to Pick My Brain

Every free-lancer, marketer or entrepreneur faces this dilemma: How to deal with a slew of requests to have coffee and “pick your brain”. Here’s how I solved it:

First, let’s clear something up. I do drink a lot of coffee and eat lunch, but I generally do it sitting at my desk. My schedule as a mom who works full time,  freelances occasionally and volunteers at school when pressed, means my days are packed end to end. If I do have free time, it almost always happens after 10 pm when the three kids are asleep, and my house is (sort of clean) and my work is (mostly) finished. However, by that point my brain has just enough left in it to watch back episodes of Glee or Veronica Mars.

Which is to say that unless I’m having a hugely unusual week, if you wait until I’m available for coffee or lunch it’s never gonna happen.

I do, however, offer free “pick your brain” time every day, 7 days a week, from 6:30am to 7:15am — while I walk my dog. I never miss this appointment (dogs work that way), and although I normally use this time to listen to audiobooks or make phone calls to the East Coast, it’s the best guaranteed available space in my day.

When I first started doing this I was amazed at how many people took me up on it. After all, it rains 9 months of the year here in Seattle. Now, people just know that’s the best time to catch me, and some even bring their own pooches along too. The best part? I always learn at least as much as I share.

So, if a friend of a friend says I’d be a good person to talk to about writing copy, or social media or starting a business, I’ve got a built in way to respond within a reasonable time frame, while still respecting my busy schedule.

Got a “pick your brain” trick of you own? Share it.

How NOT to Build a Facebook Following

I belong to a LinkedIn group focused on Facebook success. From what I can tell it’s a mix of people from all over North America (mainly), who work in social media (or who would like to), and people who just want to get a better grip on using Facebook for business success.

Recently, someone posted a discussion thread that went something like this: “Let’s all band together and “Like” each others’ pages, so we can all build up our followings.”.

I was tempted to post back what a silly idea I thought this was, but figured it might cause some hurt feelings. Besides, no one asked me for my opinion there, right? That’s what this blog is for. So, here goes… This is a NOT the way to build a Facebook page. In fact, it’s a terrible idea. Let me explain.

Let’s say you have a Facebook page for your local hair salon. You use it to post specials, chat about what’s going on in the neighborhood association, give some hair tips, maybe even post photos of cutting someone’s hair for Locks of Love. All good stuff that your existing fans like. But you’ve only got 350 fans and you wish you had more. So, you follow the advice of this thread and ask for “likes”. Suddenly your fan count zooms to 700. Yippee, right? Wrong.

Before, Facebook was looking at your stats and rating you an A+ content provider, because a nice percentage of your 350 fans were interacting with your page – “liking” your posts, writing comments, maybe even posting “I got an awesome haircut!” to your wall.

Now, Facebook is gonna give you C, because you’ve got 350 new people who, after “liking” your page once, are never going to interact with you again. So as a purely strategic move, this is bad idea because it hurts where you will show up in the news feed. And showing up in your fans’ news feed is the #1 goal of any post. The higher, the better. After all, you can’t be relevant if you aren’t being seen.

But put that aside, and pretend Facebook doesn’t have an algorithm that rates which posts are most popular, and then put them in your feed accordingly. This is STILL a bad idea. Why? Because 50% of your fans are NEVER, EVER going to set foot in your salon or spend a dime on your services. So what business goal has been accomplished?

Of course, you could argue that artificially inflating your fan count is good simply because people love to join a winning team. Thus, the bigger your fan count, the more likely new visitors will take the step to “like” your page. This is actually, the only decent argument for doing this, and not an entirely bad one. But you have to pay a price. Now YOU have to go fan all those irrelevant pages to pay the favor back. (Unless you’re a freeloading jerk.) Do you really want to do that?

How about just building a REAL following instead? A following of people in your area who actually need their hair done? A following of people who love your services and will recommend them to others? Even a following of people from all over who are really into hair products and styles who come to your page to learn the latest and greatest?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t deploy tactics that bring in new fans. Of course you should. But when you choose them, make sure you’ve got at least a better than even chance that you’re attracting and retaining RELEVANT prospects and customers. Because don’t forget, business success – not fan counts — is what Facebook marketing is for in the first place.

Top 5 Most Annoying Things Parents Use Facebook For

Facebook

As we get ready to ring in yet another New Year, here’s my round-up of 2010’s most egregious parental Facebook faux pas:

#5 Inviting friends to your child’s theater performance. Note: I do not want to go to your child’s play. Ever. If your kid makes it to Broadway, I’ll make it up to you by not asking for a free ticket to opening night.

#4 Posting the details of how fast your kid ran in the race, or swam in the meet. Ditto for how prodigiously talented they are at soccer, baseball, tennis or gymnastics. Photos are fine – crowing about your kid’s stats is not. That is what grandparents are for. Note: You get extra douche-bag points if you post your kid’s stats to people whose kids scored lower at the same event.

#3 Posting that your 3 year old can read, or, even worse, casually mentioning that your 2nd grader is enjoying the same book as my 5th grader. Don’t think for a minute I don’t know that this is you bragging at me while pretending not to.

#2 Soliciting donations for school and activity fundraisers, like the walk-a-thon, entertainment book, girl scout cookies and gift wrap. This is what aunts and uncles are for. Don’t you know we all have to buy the same school crap from our own kids? Sheesh.

#1 Requesting advice on what to do about the fact that your child has been asked to join the gifted program. As any parent whose child has not been asked can tell you,  the “gifted program” is a code name for the “program for socially maladjusted children”.

Blogging, Dead Puppies and Small Business

The biggest blogger and social media convention

The biggest blogger and social media convention

On the way home from Blog World Expo 2010, I met a lovely couple on the plane. The husband owns a small printing shop in Renton, WA, and we hit it off right away.

As we began chatting about our respective Las Vegas experiences, and I mentioned that I had just attended Blog World Expo, he asked me to explain a little about blogs and whether he, as a small business owner, should think about having one. Luckily for me, Jay Baer had delivered the precise answer to this question the day before in one of his two excellent panel discussions. (Jay is both the author of Convince and Convert, a superb blog on social media marketing, and co-author of the forthcoming book, The Now Revolution.)

Jay explained that asking if you should start a blog is like asking if you should buy a puppy. Like a puppy, if you don’t take very good and regular care of it, it’s gonna die.

Please don't kill me

Please don't kill me

What makes this story better than just a colorful shortcut to conveying the rigors of blogging? Normally, when a business owner starts by asking you about a strategy or a supporting tactic, the next step is to back up and ask, “So, Mr. Very Busy Small Business Owner, what specific business objective would you like to achieve with a blog?”

But according to the puppy analogy, the business goal doesn’t even matter. Why? Because there is simply no point in talking about deploying a strategy that the business has no hope of executing on.

I know what’s coming. You’re going to bust me on the fact that I hardly write in this blog at all. That’s true. I don’t use this blog to pretend I’m a leading thinker in the field (I’m not), or have any smashingly fresh analysis of the social media space to share with my professional colleagues. Right now, I use it for two things only:

  1. As a place to park information I think my clients and potential clients might find useful.
  2. As a place to demonstrate my writing chops and general style.

And for those two things, it does a pretty good job. But, let’s face it: that’s not nearly enough for most businesses.

The good news is this: There are plenty of other things small businesses can do VERY WELL to market themselves before turning to blogging. In this gentleman’s case, I have a pretty solid hunch he’d earn a lot more money, and more quickly too with a consistent email marketing effort. But each business has it’s own unique sweet spot, and anyone who tells you that a blog or a Facebook fan page will make or break you is lying.

So before you go and kill a few puppies, look around for that low-hanging, achievable fruit.

How To Market to Moms Online

SXSW Interactive Conference

SXSW Interactive Conference

Want to know how to reach women and moms online?

Please vote for and attend my SXSW panel, which is designed to teach exactly how Cozi.com, a company founded by a bunch of geeky guys, is earning the attention and eyeballs of millions of moms online.

Unfortunately, voting is a two step process:

  1. Register to vote here.
  2. Vote here

Thank you!

And if you are coming to SXSW, be sure to leave me a note below, so we can connect.

7 Ways To Improve Your Giveaway Contest: A Case Study

You would think giving away a free trip would be easy, right? After all, who  doesn’t want a free ride to something?

But it turns out that running a contest or giveaway takes more than just ready cash. If you want to use it to get noticed and inspire action, you need some detailed knowledge of how to execute a contest that will deliver the most viral juice.

Once in a Lifetime's "cloud" image of Israel

Let’s look at the currently-running contest by Once in a Lifetime (part of Stand By Us), a non-profit that promotes better understanding of Israel. To apply for their Free Trip to Israel contest, entrants must create a 1 minute video about why they should be chosen and fill out a detailed questionnaire.
Read more →

4 Simple Tips for Using Facebook for Non-Profits

Facebook

Facebook

I’m always amazed at what a terrible job most non-profits do with Facebook. After all, designing and executing a good website is expensive and requires some real internet marketing chops. But Facebook? They’ve already done almost all the design work and search engine optimization for you. Come on.

So if you’re an absolute Facebook newbie working at a non-profit, this post is for YOU. If you’ve already been around the block with Facebook a few times, clear out now and wait for the next post on more advanced Facebook marketing techniques. Or better yet, follow Mari Smith, who is the absolute goddess of all things Facebook.

Still here? Ok, this is going to take at least 30 minutes. Longer if you are diligent. So carve out some time and fix that lousy page now, before an important donor sees it!

Here’s how:

1. DO NOT use a personal page for your non-profit organization. Create an actual Fan page. Facebook actually calls these Official Pages now, but no matter. A personal page has all kind of limitations on it that a fan page doesn’t. How do you know which kind you have? Simple: If you have to click “add a friend” and get permission, that’s a personal page. If you can click “Like” and be instantly admitted, that’s a fan page.

A friend page looks like this

A friend page looks like this

Red Bull's Fan Page on Facebook looks like this before you "like" it

Red Bull's Fan Page on Facebook looks like this before you "like" it

2. Use the Info Tab: You see that little tab at the top next to the “Wall” tab above? It’s called “Info”. You know why? You’re supposed to put your information there! ALL your information, not just your website and phone number. Would you leave the “About” Tab on your website blank? Sheesh.

3. Add a Link to your website: The photo below is a screenshot of the far left column of Choose Spun’s Facebook page. (Choose Spun is not a non-profit, but it is a small business.) See the link to their website? You enter it in the summary description of your organization and the link will be live.  It works EVEN BETTER when you write something compelling, (like “Save a Life Today”) and link to the page on your site that best follows up on the message in the box (like the “How To Donate” page.) Do that right now.

See the link to choosespun.com?

See the link to choosespun.com?

4. Post Something. Preferably EVERY Day: Your fans have given you permission to talk to them and keep your organization top of my mind. Not posting is like having a free web ad and letting someone else use it. (And believe me, plenty of other organizations and companies will be happy to fill up your fans’ feed if you don’t.) So get on there and start sharing with your fans.

If you do a halfway decent job, they might even share back.

Copywriting That Sells: Or, I Don’t Care About Your Passion

Here’s a tip you can use to write just about anything better: Your customer doesn’t give a rat’s ass about you. Or your passion. Or your company’s mission. Your customer only cares about himself. Really.

So take a look at your website, brochure or any other marketing copy you are using right now. Do you have a sentence, or worse, a paragraph or page describing why you love what you do, or how passionate you are about your chosen career ?

Strike it out immediately. Now re-write it forcing yourself to answer WHY your customer should care. Voila, your copy is already 100% better.

Doubtful?  Check out these examples:

This is the FIRST paragraph of a website selling — get this — sales consulting services:

Howard writes about the art of selling. When not writing, he is consulting, teaching, or coaching business owners and professional service providers how to sell their expertise using the New Media Reality. He has been an Entrepreneurial Junkie since the 1960’s and is passionate about helping YOU sell more.

Now let’s see. The first sentence is about… Howard. The second sentence is about… Howard. The third sentence is about .. well, you get the idea. But, wait! Howard does want to help you, and you know that because he’s PASSIONATE about it. Are you sold yet?

(Howard also mentions a New Media Reality, which must be pretty important to him since it’s in Capital Letters. But since we have no idea what that is, it just sounds like jargony jargon to us.)

Too bad, because Howard looks like a nice guy, who probably knows more than a little bit about the art of face-to-face selling. But he waited until the very last words of his very last sentence to talk about you. Worse, even then, he didn’t give you any reason to believe him.

Ok, that’s an individual, now let’s look at a company website:

GreenPages Directory connects people seeking healthy options in their social, economic and physical lives with inspired innovators, conscientious entrepreneurs, innovative products and services, and the most current information, all aimed at making our world a better place.

When we focus on sustainable solutions together, we can begin to heal our planet at the same time we pursue profitable and ethical business opportunities.

Are you still awake? This writing provides excellent competition for Ambien, but it does absolutely nothing to convince a green business WHY they should pay the directory for a listing. Which, after all, is the whole purpose of this site.

If I run a green business on a tight marketing budget, the FIRST thing I want to know is how many more customers this listing will drive, how affluent I can expect those customers to be, and what kind of results other listers have experienced. It’s entirely possible that information is buried somewhere in this site, but I don’t care, because I’ve already bounced away to something else.

Each of these websites could do a much, much better job of winning new customers, just by telling the people who visit how the service will deliver what the reader wants – RIGHT AWAY.

Try it.

Then come back here and let me know how it turned out.

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