Don Schindler

Digital Strategy & Executive Social Media Trainer

Month: July 2008

What the heck is Princeton Premier or how Social Media can make or break your company’s internet presence?

So I got this email…

Don Schindler It is my pleasure to inform you that you are being considered for inclusion into the 2008-2009 Princeton Premier Business Leaders and Professionals Honors Edition section of the registry. The 2008-2009 edition of the registry will include biographies of the world’s most accomplished individuals. Recognition of this kind is an honor shared by thousands of executives and professionals throughout the world each year. Inclusion is considered by many as the single highest mark of achievement. You may access our application form using the following link: http://princetonpremierbios.addr2.com/url/416876/2fa84429/ Upon final confirmation, you will be listed among other accomplished individuals in the Princeton Premier Registry. For accuracy and publication deadlines, please complete your application form and return it to us within five business days. There is no cost to be included in the registry. If you’ve already received this email from us, there is no need to respond again. This email serves as our final invitation to potential members who have not yet responded. On behalf of the Executive Publisher, we wish you continued success. Sincerely, Jason Harris Managing Director Princeton Premier

_______________________________________________________

Click the following link to update your information
or stop future mailings.
http://princetonpremierbios.addr2.com/mailprefs/f920fa/2fa84429/

Princeton Premier
23-35 Steinway Street
Astoria, NY 11105

I’ve been on the net working professionally for almost ten years now so this just screams BS. But you never know, so I spent a couple of minutes just to make sure.

Google search…ouch. The first entry isn’t even them. It’s a Yahoo Answers questioning who they are. But the answer isn’t that good so I go back to Google and check out the other links.

The official site is the second link.  You never, ever want that to happen. I go to the site. It’s not that professional and looks like a scam.

Then I go back to Google and start checking out the blog entries. There are plenty of them and finally I get to one where they actually dive deep into the site and find out it costs $100 to join and you don’t get the money back if you are unsatisfied with the results. I really appreciate the time I saved by reading instead of filling in the blanks.

Now, this example is easy to show how consumers like myself can find out what is legitimate online pretty easily.

But what if this happened to your small company? What if an upset customer blogged about you and their entry was showing up before yours in a Google search?  It’s like your worst customer sitting outside your doorstep telling everyone that you suck and they should not do business with you.

That’s the number one thing I hear about social media and opening your company up to it? What if a customer complains? What if they write bad things about me on the site?

Well, next blog I’ll explain why I see it as a good thing and how to try and drive a bad entry off a Google search.

Finding Consumer Insights in Social Media

So the kids and I went to check out Eagle Creek Reservoir Beach on Sunday afternoon.

I’m very proud of my oldest daughter. She has finally learned to swim (after this summer of swimming lessons). But she’s very particular about her nose. She has to have nose plugs on or she can’t go underwater. So be it. Nose plugs it is. No matter how silly she looks.

After being in the water for an hour or so, I decided to start pitching the kids in the air. They love it and it’s some exercise for me. They swim over, I count 1-2-3 then heave them in the air. There’s a big splash and a lot of laughter.

We did this for fifteen minutes or so and I was about done. So the last one is always a doozie. I threw my daughter up as far as I could and she came down with a huge splash. When she came up, her nose plugs were gone.

Aw, man. Now I’m pretty sure you all know lake water. It’s definitely not swimming pool or Hawaiian Island clear. Visibility is like six inches. And even that is questionable.

She was really upset. Now how was she going to swim?

I started feeling the rocky bottom as best as I could in the 36 inches of water. Nothing just a lot of little rocks.

After ten minutes, my brain was telling me this was a lost cause.

You are not going to find them. Just tell her you’ll buy her some more. What are they? 5 bucks or so. Is it worth it?

Maybe not? But I didn’t stop. I prayed a bit and I kept searching with my hands on the surface of the bottom.

Because of the depth of the water, it was a stretch and I couldn’t really go over a big area of the bottom. I was by inching myself along.

Finally, I thought, just go under and do a quick large scan of the immediate area.

I went under, forced myself to the bottom and reached out.

It only took three tries and I had them. I couldn’t believe how fast I found them. It was same area that I had gone across a couple of times but here they were.

My daughter was smiling and swimming again – funny-looking nose plugs and all.

So what’s the moral of this story – what did I learn?

That once I changed how I was searching, once I dove deep into that dark water – the thing I was looking for came right away.

I believe consumer insights are like those nose plugs.  Often insights are hard to come by but they are extremely important.

There’s a good book by Phil Dunsenberry, “One Great Insight is Worth A Thousand Ideas” in which he goes into why an insight is much more powerful than an idea.

To find an insight in the past, we did surveys, focus groups, product testing, and/or relied on the engineers or service people to come up ways to make things better.  Sometimes this works – sometimes it doesn’t.  And it’s amazing how many companies bet the farm on a good idea but not an insight.

But with Social Media, you can find consumer insights.  They are right there waiting to be picked like ripe fruit

If you are new to Social Media (blogs, forums, community networks), I’ll bet it looks a lot like dark lake water. There’s too much noise. You can’t spreadsheet the answers as easily as you can with organized and self-generated research.

But here’s the deal. If you dive in, dive deep and put your hands out, you going to find the answers you are looking for.

People (and this system is entirely made up of real people) will give you honest feedback if you act like a person and not a marketer.

It takes some time – but all good things do take time.

The good thing is that you can start now and catch up pretty quick.  We are at the foundation level of this digital social media thing. You can cut your social teeth along with everyone else.

For all of you that think social media is Facebook and Facebook is fad, you are sort of right. Facebook is a fad but it is a pretty darn popular fad right now.  Some other network might overtake it but it’s not going to be overnight.  And it’s going to do a lot of the same things that Facebook is going right now.

BTW, Social Media is not Facebook. If you want a list of what Social Media is not, click here.

If you are still timid about social media, stop by MediaSauce or give us a call at 317.218.0500.  We would be happy to help you.  We have presentations and clinics you can attend.  Most are free.

I believe after you’ve been swimming in social media for a while, consumer insights won’t be lost under lake water anymore.  They will be floating in the clear blue.

Social Media is not advertising nor marketing: it’s about connections

In yesterday’s Online Spin, there was an article Agencies: Reinvented or
Replaced
by Joe Marchese.

Joe’s jist was that ad agencies need to change – that they aren’t prepared for the future of advertising within social media. Here’s what he says,

“In the end, social media is nothing more than a mirror of people’s real-world behavior (albeit amplified and with extreme ADD). If you’re taking steps to make your brand relevant to people in the real world (which I sure hope you are), then it’s not that big of a leap to figuring out how to make your brand relevant to people in a social media context. Social media should be a valuable tool for helping you answer that billion-dollar question of what will make your brand relevant to people, as well as the platform spreading your brand’s message as you achieve greater relevance. It’s listening and talking, instead of just talking.

Agencies certainly have the talent to listen. Some of the best and brightest are hungry to take on the challenge of building the iconic brands that shape our lives, and would love the opportunity to feed back the voice of the people they are talking to. But the current brand-agency relationship isn’t set up for this task – and, more importantly, isn’t compensated for it. Are agencies set up to have a conversation for your brand, or has a mandate to only be the brand’s mouthpiece crippled agencies from truly activating your brand in social media?

It’s this question that has led many to wonder if brands should be handling the activation of social media in-house. It is a valid point. If it’s true that brands’ participation in social media means much more than simply buying media and blasting the “big idea,” can agencies fill this role?

I believe not only that agencies can, but that they must. Because unless agencies participate in social media, their role as stewards of brands will eventually end — and their greatest fear, a future where their services are nothing more than a commoditized function performed by Google and Microsoft, (http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/06/22/business/ad23.php), will come true. If your function can be performed by a computer, it will be. Fighting this, rather than focusing on the areas that cannot be done even by the mighty Google’s algorithms, is a losing battle. The future of agencies lies in more than knowing how to get in front of the right people, but also in knowing how to talk and listen to those people to shape a brand and its message.”

While I’m an advocate of what Joe is saying about social media and the commitment to it by companies, I’m confused about how an agency would change to deal with this. This is a fundamental shift in thinking.

Is an agency really set up to change from push to pull? From messaging to conversating? Why must an agency deal with this at all? It’s not like advertising is going to go away. To add a social media department within the agency (essentially buying your way into social media) isn’t the answer because then you’ve got competing factions within the agency. One that pushes messages out and one that participates in the message.

On the outside, it may seem like a good idea but as soon as one of them starts making more money than the other, agencies tend to be biased in that direction so neither the message nor the conversation works.

So then it must go in house? I don’t believe that is the right call either. What I’ve found with in-house marketing is that it isn’t strong enough or large enough to participate in the conversation. There’s too much going on for a one or two person marketing department. Even larger companies are cutting the head count.

Then what is the answer? I believe social media is an entity to itself and must be treated as such. The new kind of connection agency will emerge that will consult and participate with the brand’s messaging in mind – but they can’t be held to the same standards as a traditional agency.

In other words, you can’t punish them for finding out people think your product suck. You should reward them with finding out the insights on why the product sucks and their ideas on how you can make it better. They will keep you in the loop and connect you with your consumers and your partners.

You may think these guys and gals are just research then but research is and should be at arm’s length just observing what is happening and reporting on that. Connection agencies are knee-deep with the consumer. Consumers should know that they are part of the company – transparent and authentic – and that they can help get them an answer that maybe customer service couldn’t understand or deal with.

You are also in the long haul with this kind of company. This isn’t an RFP type of arrangement. This isn’t somebody you can throw to the curb after a couple of years – or just because you want to jump to the hottest connection company of the year. They are just as essential as your operations department.

Maybe I’m wrong about this but I think agencies aren’t the right place to put this type of communication. Let them do what they are really good at…clearly communicating your message. Let the connection agency find out if it’s working and if your products are delivering the goods.

Clutter on the Web and my Desk – Siteless Web Presence

My desk is a mess.

Once, in first grade, my teacher – can’t remember the nun’s name – put my entire desk in a box and sent me along with the box to the principal’s office. Then he called my parents in so we could talk about how messy my desk was.

Obviously, the teacher’s plan to shame me into cleaning my desk did not pay off because as I look around right now – I still sit amongst chaos.

Magazines and books that I want to read but haven’t gotten to. But I don’t want to shelve them because then I might forgot them. A calendar and dead lava lamp, tons of papers (not stacked but haphazardly thrown around), my “You’ve been bad jar” for myself and co-workers (it’s usually full of treats but is empty right now – I guess a lot of people have been bad), Chex mix, CDs, pens, pictures of the family, a box of client marketing collateral…any normal person would probably start cleaning it right away but not me.

My mother-in-law says her boss is the same way – that she’s never met anyone cluttered. She doesn’t know how he gets anything done.

I defended him by saying, “That’s how I work. I’ll clean it up and then it’ll be a mess again in a few hours so why bother. I know where mostly everything is. It just looks awful to you.”

In some ways, the web is just like this. There’s not much organization. You have to search for what you want and hope that Google or the other search engines find what you want. If not, you start the search over adding different terms to your search.

It can be frustrating when you can’t find what you are looking for but it can also be exciting when you find something that you never knew was there. And when you find it, you often share it with someone. Because what’s the use of finding something cool if no one knows you’ve found it.

This is another reason for why you should have a siteless web presence. The web isn’t organized. Heirarchies have been replaced. If all you have is one website, you are one against millions and millions of other sites.

You need to be in a lot of places all at once so when someone is doing a search, they may come across you. Maybe it’s not your main site but it can always redirect there.

And, when they do come across you, you have to be interesting enough that they might want to share you with a friend. Because it’s easy to share with friends on the web (del.icio.us, stumble upon, digg – there are lots of social bookmarking sites.)

In fact, you should put this on your site. It’s from Add this! It’s easy and free and can’t hurt unless your website is painful to use and ugly – then you might get some unexpected traffic from people making fun of you and your company.

Funny story about that. I was once sitting in a meeting when a client brought up the fact that their website actually cost them business. The prospect had pointed out that if they were such a wonderful technology software company then why did their website look like a grade school student had put it together. Ouch.

If you have problems like this, then come see us at Mediasauce.com. We’ll help you out.

Siteless Web Presence Part Two or why not be in all places at once?

So how do you get a siteless web presence?

Your website is one place on the web. One place that Google can direct traffic. When a person does a search for your site then you’ll hopefully pop up. If you have the right kind of URL, Title Tags, Meta Tags, and enough relevant content about you on the home page.

Now I’m not saying you need to talk about yourself a lot – just the right keywords. And I’m never into talking about myself too much – you should be talking to your customers, telling your story, and explaining your unique benefits.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll post a blog on what kind of tags you should be using and how they work on a website. Anybody interested in that?

Anyway, back to siteless web presence, after your Google search on your website, other sites pop up. Are they your competitors or just useless information that Google pulls out of the web universe?

You should dominate that page, right? You don’t want a competitor sitting right below you or above you if they know what they are doing with search and you don’t.

You can with a siteless web presence. If you take your content and put it out on other websites that are consistently searched by Google then soon you will begin to dominate Google searches. Now this doesn’t work for all searches but when it comes to a search for you, you should be there.

Here’s what I’ve done for my company, MediaSauce. Now this isn’t guaranteed. It’s a work in progress all the time because Google is constantly updating its algorithm and indexing more and more sites.

Search for MediaSauce through Google.

We come up right away. Then there are links to some blogs where people mentioned us and then there’s a software company that sells a product named MediaSauce (they used to dominate our page but I’m trying to work them down off the front page) then there are our blogs and our Flickr account.

Now how is it that just a few mentions in an outside blog can drive a link in the middle of my search page. Well, it’s all about Google believing that the content is relevant to MediaSauce. Which it is. And I’m going to give the blogger, Jenny Lu, some Google love by pinging her back with this blog.

But our siteless presence that I can control deals more with putting our content on outside sites, putting the right information in about our company and tagging it appropriately so Google can see it and index it.

Now as far as I know there isn’t a set of steps you can do that will automatically work. It’s more trial and error and if anyone knows a set of steps, please fill me in. But what I’ve found that works is making sure you are constantly updating your external sites as much as you update your own website. By adding more and more relevant content.

Here’s what ad agency, Modernista, did. They took it to an extreme but I think it’s very powerful. Having a site like this is not for everyone and I am in no way saying you shouldn’t have a website.

I’m saying you need to also have a siteless web presence which means letting people take your stuff and put it wherever they feel like it on the web.

Take for example, you sell something in retail – maybe shoes. You have your little store in Broadripple and you are just getting into online selling. Some of your customers that are farther away are starting to buy online and you are promoting it as best you can.

What I would do to give myself a siteless web presence…I would take photos of all the shoes and put them up on Flickr or Photobucket or Smugmug with links back to my website for purchase.

I would take videos of models (my employees with good feet) walking around in my beautiful shoes. I would put them on many video sites using heyspread.com or just doing the standard youtube.com.

I would make a widget using Slide pulling from Flickr and then put that on my blog about shoes (you need a blog, just get over it and do it where I talk about shoes).

I would also allow people to take the slide widget off my website if they want so they can put it on their facebook or myspace profile or wherever they want.

I would get a cool technology company to build me a retail selling widget based on my store so if someone wanted to take my retail store and put it on their site, they could. I would take this widget and put it on my profile pages.

Then I would visit other people’s shoe blogs and talk (positively – no need to flame anyone here) about their shoes and leave behind my link or small slide widget on their forum or blog. I wouldn’t promote my own shoes but I would join the conversations and let people follow the links if they wanted.

Then I would be very careful to watch my conversions in my online presence. Is stuff working or is it not? I would watch my analytics to see if people were using the widgets or visiting the site. Then adjust.

And I would search myself on Google and make sure I was easy to find and I dominated my page…I would work on getting into other searches like basic shoe searches for the brand names I carry, etc… but that’s a blog for another time.

I feel like this blog isn’t finished. There’s so much more I would do but these are some of the basics. Siteless web presence is getting your name out on other sites instead of just trying to get them to come to you. Go where the people are.

What do you think?

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