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Byadmin

Don’t Shoot….Fire Up the Messenger

We all know the old saying, “Don’t shoot the messenger” a term founded in times of war to protect the safety of those delivering and receiving enemy communications. Today it has less of a life-threatening implication, but a boss reacting badly to difficult news might still be responsible for corporate collateral damage.

Fire Up FB Messenger & WhatsApp

Enough of the negative talk though, this is an entirely positive reference to current communication trends and how I believe we are mostly failing to capitalise on the power of the latest messaging tools.

In private, we all use SMS text, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and DM via Twitter or send a note privately via Instagram. We’re comfortable chatting digitally with family and friends in this way, sharing photos, amusing gifs (technically pronounced Jiffs don’t you know) to punctuate a particular mood and generally allow others to participate in the minutiae of our daily lives.  It’s true to say we’re far more comfortable with digital communications and this has somewhat marginalised good old e-mail and for personal communication somewhat left it out in the cold.

Talking of cold, GDPR heralded something of a frosty wake up call for businesses who’d become rather complacent about their flabby, irregularly checked and verified e-mail lists. Some of you may have faced the daunting task of “starting again” to build your prospect database or at best felt obliged to send one of those…”I know you’re sick of these e-mails but…” communique’s flagging up the shiny new privacy policy. I’m not suggesting that e-mail has had its day, it still shoulders a huge workload for businesses across the globe. I’m certain it will continue to do so for some time to come and it will be a long while before we wave goodbye to the overflowing inboxes, spam and oversized attachments that clog up our portion of the cloud.

So, what’s the point of this article? I hear you ask.

The point is there are a number of very positive developments happening within the aforementioned world of messenger apps and they are certainly worth considering for your business.

WhatsApp – Is launching a new feature for group admins which allows you to simply broadcast messages without the fear of being embroiled in a days-worth of small talk. This is an ideal option for any business that wants to communicate with trusted customers, clients. You could send discrete special offers, news or technical information to improve their experience. Equally powerful if you have multiple channels, sectors to communicate with and each sector head could take responsibility for sending tailored messages to their respective groups. By way of specific example a law firm could create a WhatsApp Group for HR managers to share breaking news covering updates affecting employment legislation. That’s just one example, I’m sure you can think of many others relevant to your business.

How to: To enable this setting, open “Group Info,” tap Group Settings > Send Messages and select “Only Admins.” This setting is rolling out to all users around the world on the latest supported versions of the app. [WhatsApp]

Facebook Messenger – FBM has many commercial applications, from adverts to autobot responders but if you’re planning an event and want to increase the reach of your invitation you may consider Facebook’s messengers code.

To introduce the prospect of communicating on Facebook messenger for the first time your contact e-mail list could be issued with your own FB messenger code, (that QR code looking circle around a profile picture). Once scanned the code can provide all the details they need to sign up for the event and receive updates via the Zuckerberg Express. I know they’ve had some bad press recently but you’ll be knocked out by the response rates once customers migrate from e-mail.

How to: Messenger Codes are codes people can scan to start a conversation with your business on Messenger.

You can create a Messenger Code from your Facebook Page or Profile, and you can share them in several places:

  • Your website
  • EMail
  • Your Facebook Pages
  • Fliers, posters and stickers
  • Anywhere you often market your Page or business

You can find your Messenger Code in two ways:

For FB profiles:

  • Open Messenger on your iOS or Android phone.
  • Tap People and then tap All.
  • Tap Scan Code.
  • Tap My Code to view your code.
  • To scan a code, tap People and then tap Scan Code.

For FB Pages:

  • Go to your Page.
  • Click Messages.
  • Click the tool tip to download and share your Messenger code

The stats are stark. Typical open rates for e-mail sit at around 20-25% for a good campaign. Compare this to Facebook messenger campaigns that regularly achieve a 90% open rate. With the opportunity to secure invites via the app and then share useful information just prior, even during and certainly afterwards its one way to engage.

These are just two examples of how the messenger apps are developing and evolving to cater for the commercial world. As long as the communications stay relevant, not spammy, or too hard sell you should be able to develop stronger, loyal connections through these apps. Handle with care and the return will be worth it.

If you’d like to discuss these or other marketing ideas please feel free to connect on WhatsApp and you can join a group I’ve created called Marketing Matters.

Byadmin

Do Your Customers Experience Autopilot Service

Are Your Customers Up in the Air?

With the increased investment in call centre systems and application of artificial intelligence, organisations can swiftly route our enquiries and answer specific questions.  That’s the theory, but the reality is that it leaves us feeling far from satisfied, like indigestion after a fast food meal or disappointing, big budget film that failed to live up to its hype. Why is that?

First let’s look at the specific examples that cause our blood pressure to rise.

E-mails from “no-reply” senders 

These little suckers landing in our inbox are a terrific wind up.  You receive an e-mail that sparks interest but you don’t want to click the link and spend hours filing in forms and sharing info.  You’ve a genuine query you want to raise but… the e-mail has been sent by a one-way e-mail server only capable of giving not receiving.  Any e-mail sent to this address simply bounces back to you.

Auto Answer, Option Rich Call Handling

A famous way of creating fury these multi layered telephone systems offer wide variations of numbered or spoken responses.  Tremendous if you fit one of their categories, don’t have short term memory problems and speak home counties English.  Not so good if you have a non-standard query, or you fail to remember option one when the call handling bot gets to option six, or you hail from Glasgow, Gloucester or Gwent.

“I’m sorry I didn’t understand that please try again”

Webchat

The latest trend seeking to syphon customers away from front facing humans is the wonderful “Webchat”.  Oh, how my heart skips a beat when a tweet of discontent is met with a direction to seek an answer via the all-knowing, fat fingers behind company webchat services.  I’m sure the management meeting that authorised the use of such services had every good intention, but from a customer perspective they are ponderous, mind-numbing torture.  You patiently await the next nugget of wisdom from your web-chatter as the screen says, “your adviser is typing” only to be asked for your security details, only the third time that session!  I’ve discovered they often lack a sense of humour too, not appreciating the typing of “your customer is snoring/ fallen into a coma”

 

Auto-Renewal

The fourth of my “usual suspects” diverting customers attention is the infamous auto renewal.  You’ve signed up for anti-virus protection, design software, web hosting or a Cable TV package and as per tens of thousands of other customers, your busy lifestyle aids the business by rolling over your contract.  At best, you quickly realise and end up paying a month more than you wanted, at worse the supplier points to the small print of the terms and conditions and imposes a swingeing release fee.  At their most insidious, these methods create situations where monthly charges creep up and suggest you should serve a period of notice before ending the relationship.

 

Time to Switch Off the Auto-Pilot

Of course, these “innovations” in customer management offer benefits however it appears to me the larger the corporation the greater reliance falls upon auto-pilot communication.  As far as I can determine auto-pilot just leave customers up in the air. Trying to sort out a mobile phone problem, billing issue with insurance company or technical fault with digital TV is not a straightforward exercise.  No longer can we simply pick up a phone and expect to talk to a human being who has service at the forefront of their mind.  More likely we’re part of the space time continuum caught up in “We’re experiencing a higher than usual volume of enquiries at this time…” My immediate thought when I hear this oft spouted excuse, is of those hundreds of fellow sufferers all hanging on the phone wishing for a time before tech and the opportunity to experience proper service when called upon.

My advice for business owners, customer service directors and marketers…keep it simple and keep it human.  We are sociable creatures that require direct human interaction for reassurance and comfort.  If you want to promote your organisation as the best in its particular field, it must start in the way it communicates to its customers, not as numbers, units, financial returns or demographics but living breathing people with unique and genuine needs.

Byadmin

Give Your Time an MOT

Do you run your day or does the day run you?

Scan through this simple list of symptoms and see which apply to you;

  • Do you find yourself easily distracted?
  • Do you take longer to complete relatively simple tasks?
  • At the end of the working day do you feel deflated as its mostly been unproductive?
  • Is your sleep pattern disturbed?
  • Are you tired more often than energised?
  • Do you get irritated by little things?
  • Are you checking your e-mails several times an hour?
  • Is your smartphone always on and close to you at all times?
Thought Leader

Thought Leader

If you answered yes to any of the above the chances are you’re suffering with a level of stress that is having a negative impact on your quality of life.  We actually need a certain level of stress in our lives otherwise we’d not get much done.  Positive stress, also called eustress, gets the deadline met, the presentation delivered and you on board the right train at the right time.  It delivers adrenalin, excitement tends to be short term but can improve our performance.

Negative stress is where the mind starts to introduce anxious irrational thoughts that appear to be beyond our ability to manage.  It makes us feel bad, it can be both short and long term, has a direct impact on performance and if left unchecked can lead to unwanted mental and physical symptoms.

There are very many causes of negative stress.  It can be a relationship breakdown, new boss, new neighbourhood, too much work, not enough work, starting a family, financial worries, illness or losing someone close to you.

The fact is we ALL face these bumps and hurdles in our lives and for most of us, most of the time we can deal with them without any difficulty.  Unfortunately, the statistics seem to suggest that an increasing number of us are not coping so well.  As many as 12 million adults in the UK will consult their GP about mental health issues each year.  Diagnosed with anxiety or depression typically caused by stress this results in 13.3 million working days lost each year. It’s a sizeable and growing problem.

Here’s the disclaimer…I’m no GP, psychologist, counsellor or psychotherapist but I, like many others have had my moments with this increasingly common problem.  First and foremost, I would suggest that if you are worried about stress and its effect on you make an appointment to see your GP.  If you can sense that there are one or two warning signs and you want to find a way to improve the way you feel I would strongly suggest taking back control of your life.

Of course “taking back control” can be easier said than done but often we fall into patterns of behaviour which help propagate feelings of negative stress.  The result is that we lose control of our time, others fill it all too quickly and with that loss of control comes added anxiety.  The answer is to evaluate those things we are doing that are causing angst and

My “self-help” route was helped enormously by an old friend who I’d overlooked for too many years. The “friend” is in the shape of a number of tried and tested time management principles that I had learnt as a young manager at Thomas Cook and carried with me or so I thought through my career.  What happens over time and new challenges is that we adapt and grow and learn but often let key nuggets of working practice slip through our minds.

I have a theory.  Actually I have lots of theories but this one is relevant to our 21st Century dilemma.  Once upon a time, long ago in the 90’s, talk of computers, online business and e-mail suggested we would have more leisure time. Thanks to the advent of this fabulous technological era we would all be “chilled to the max” reclining on Ikea furniture and enjoying our newly won down time supping on Sunny D or Sprite.

Fast forward to today and that pipe dream of a technological Nirvana is about as far away as anyone could possibly have imagined.  Smartphones, social media, the Internet of Things and now robotics, VR, AR and AI…are you keeping up?  All these new wonderful innovations are not going to create time for us they’re going to squeeze into whatever time we have, competing with the multitude of tasks expected of us.  As life moved faster so did expectations.  News used to arrive via a broadsheet paper stuffed through the letterbox by a schoolboy on a Raleigh 5 speed. Now it’s instantly delivered in our hands via Twitter and we know about a Japanese tsunami before the BBC news team can brief Hugh Edwards.

So with steely determination I attacked the bookshelf in my office, being self-aware enough to know “Googling” the subject would result in momentary success followed by a likely hour of distraction.  I found notes in an old Filofax, yes do you remember those?  I also found a previous blog on the subject and arrived at the following list.

 

  1. Limit screen time – deliberately my first rule. Just see how productive you can be if you step away from the screen, PC, MAC or Smartphone.  Browsing Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or even your e-mail inbox can drain your productivity, step away and see the benefit.  One final point – turn the smartphone/ tablet off at night several hours before you go to bed, you’ll sleep better.
  2. Allow yourself to do fewer tasks. Give yourself a break, the trick is to focus on the things that are important so work out what they are and stick to dealing with them.
  3. Let prioritising and self-analysis of productivity become a habit
  4. Exercise and have a healthy diet. When we’re time starved we cut corners and often that can result in too many fast food meals which can leave us feeling sluggish and demotivated.  Drink can also be used as a self-medication for stress but conversely it can add to feelings of depression and hinder a restful night’s sleep.
  5. Get organised. Being tidy with a system for filing important information can help enormously with your efficiency and taking control of your environment.  It’s true that a cluttered office can lead to cluttered thinking.
  6. When something just has to be done allow yourself scope to lock yourself away to concentrate on the job in hand.
  7. Don’t be phased by a long “to do” list break the tasks down into absolutely must do’s down to non-priorities. Take them out one at a time.
  8. Don’t always start with the biggest task or greatest priority. We all perform better at different times of the day. If you’re an early bird and sharp first thing but fade after 4pm make sure you keep those taking tasks to the morning.  If you’re otherwise inclined reverse it.
  9. Set time limits for certain tasks. You may have a job that’s going to take days possibly weeks.  Set aside a proportion of time to take it on and work though it systematically.  Break it down into sub tasks and monitor your progress.
  10. Reacquaint yourself with the word “No” be polite but assertive if you don’t have the time to take on a particular project don’t be afraid to say so – often things that seem urgent to others are not as pressing as they seem.

If you’ve experienced problems with stress and/or or time management drop us a line today.

David Laud

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Byadmin

Social Media Management for Professionals (4 of 4)

The final Q & A covering aspects of social media management for professionals

social-media-marketing-for-professional-services

Q1.      What do you do if staff have a personal twitter account, the content of which is at odds with the business or could bring it into disrepute?

A1. As covered in the previous Q&A your social media policy should cover such eventualities. If the account and its content is in clear conflict with your business you can request that it is deleted or amended to suit the firm. If they refuse check your social media policy – it should offer the firm the option of dismissing staff who breach the rules however allow time for the matter to be resolved before taking hasty action. Very often staff are not aware of the commercial sensitivities and competitive issues involved in running a business. If the reason for concern is raised in a reasonable manner and time granted for any suitable action to be taken you should resolve most matters quickly and easily.

Where the firm has acted reasonably, there is a clear conflict and yet the staff member has refused to co-operate you would be entitled to take appropriate action.

You will require an up to date social media policy and evidence that staff have been made aware of the rules and consequences of any breach. If in doubt consult an appropriately experienced employment lawyer before taken direct action.

2.      Is there a role for video within social media platforms and how can we make the most of it if there is?

A. Video is an excellent medium for promoting your business but in my experience too few are using it to best effect. We have moved on from the simple written word and hyperlinks to an increasing use of images as a form of visual branding. Video moves the message on a stage further where both the impact of moving images and sound can exponentially increase the reach of your message.

There is therefore a growing role for video as an effective mechanism to promote your company and social media platforms can significantly increase the audience reach of such content. The video may be beautifully produced, excellently articulated and worded to aim at your key customers but simply uploading to your website will not deliver the audience it deserves.

Examples of video best practice;

  • Prepare a clear plan or script, setting the scene, target audience, players, location, content and expected duration. This should also consider the platforms to which the video should be linked. Is it to be uploaded to YouTube, Vimeo or be a “live” broadcast on Periscope or Facebook?
  • Avoid talking heads – the subject talking directly to the camera but clearly reading a script. Seek engagement by using an interview scenario and vary the shots. It’s worth investing in a professional broadcaster to pose as interviewer or provide training for those most likely to be front of camera. Nothing worse than one of your senior and most accomplished practitioners looking shifty on camera due to nerves and poor preparation.
  • There are tools that can create video from presentation slides to create a webinar. If you must use this technique keep the video to a time frame between 5 and 10 minutes max. If you have more content than 10 minutes can handle consider breaking the project into a series of videos rather than one or two lengthy broadcasts. Also seek out a voice-over that is bright and impactful not dull and sleep inducing.
  • Don’t oversell the video. Viewers like to discover new content and be the one’s to share and inform their own networks. It is precisely this section of your audience that can turn a “nice project” into a “winning performance” gaining significant traction through online engagement and recognition. Be informative as to the content of the video but don’t get carried away in a narrative. If a viewer thinks they’ve discovered a gem of informative and entertainingly presented content they will only too quickly share. If they have been presented with an overtly self congratulatory introduction they will sit back and expect to be “wowed!”

Overall I would recommend experimenting with video but be careful not to damage the firm’s brand with an overly amateurish production. Smartphones are actually powerful enough to create good video footage but investing in sound enhancement equipment and editing software will be money well spent.

3.      Is there a role for paid-for promotions on platforms like LinkedIn?

Experiment, see how they work measure results and decide on future investment. I’ve used several and the best so far has been Facebook.  Facebook works for me because it provides access to a significant depth of demographic data which helps tailor campaigns. If you’re looking more to a B2B over a B2C campaign I would suggest LinkedIn but again tread very carefully before committing £££. I’ve had mixed results with LinkedIn and the jury is still most definitely out on whether it can deliver over time for a variety of prodct/ service offerings. Most LinkedIn users are acutely aware and wary of in platform advertising and promotions.

My advice is to treat any advertising expenditure on LinkedIn or other social platforms like that of TV, Radio or Press. You want a return on your investment you’re not simply investing in the channel hoping it might work.

On the upside I have found LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to be very supportive when issues have arisen. Now is a good time to experiment with this area of advertising as, (a) Not many are using the medium to advertise (b) The platforms are very keen for their ad propositions to work and ergo, happy to help and respond if it goes poorly.

4.     What can firms learn from social media analytics?

Typically it’s the last thing considered but it is so important in deciding the demand for future investment and resource. Twitters own in app package is actually very good, Hootsuite can produce tailored reports LinkedIn is useful when looking at the tracking of post activity and e-mail apps such as MailChimp and Campaign Monitor also help. There’s the daddy of drilling into data,Google analytics but I’m not going to lie, it can be difficult to identify the specific data set that you need,

My advice, unless you have an analysis ninja to hand is to keep it simple and focus on the key metrics of engagement, brand profile, reviews, comments and ultimately client acquisition. Nothing simpler than asking a new client what brought them to you, where they heard of you and had they been aware of your social media accounts, if so which ones. Old fashioned? Yes Effective? Most definitely.

This concludes the four part Q&A social media management for professionals. If you have any questions not covered by this series of articles feel free to connect and ask me directly or comment below.

Byadmin

Social Media Management for Professionals Part 3

social-media-marketing-for-professional-services

Q1.      How do you keep a level of consistency in your message and retain engagement on a long-term basis?

A.

  • Be clear about your target audience and ensure your network includes a healthy proportion of those key individuals and organisations.
  • Listen, share, originate, post [repeat].
  • Measure your social engagement on Klout, Kred or Buzzsumo identify what works and repeat that approach and for whatever fails to hit the mark avoid doing it again.
  • Keep up to date with platform developments and regularly run sessions for departments to share successes and lessons.
  • Ensure those charged with posting for your business have the knowledge and capability to maximise commercial opportunities and identify appropriate content to share.

Q2.      How should firms organise accounts on platforms like Twitter – one single one for the business? Regionally? By practice? By service type?

A. No set right or wrong method but try and avoid confusing the audience. Consider those with whom you want to connect and if a distinct account is merited due to personality, service offering, sub brand or language and location go for it. My advice is “keep it simple” quite often firms can have internal conflicts or demands which require separate accounts but consider the content that is being created and the objectives. If goals can be equally met by one account rather that two or three stick to the single offering.

Q3.      Can a firm have too many channels/ platforms?

A. I would advocate experimenting on a small scale and certainly seeking to secure an account name for the firm for protection and readiness for future action but decide within reasonable time-frames if any new channel requires the investment.  Some law firms may consider channels such as Pinterest or Instagram as irrelevant and a waste of time but ignoring their potential without properly evaluating is the real folly.

If an account such as Instagram is able to present a positive reflection of the firm’s brand then ask yourself why you would not want to at least try it.

A large number of professional practices are getting to grips with Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and that seems to many to be enough. If you’re limited in your resources identify which is most likely to be a platform that your ideal audience would be attracted to. Then take time to understand and develop a presence within that medium.

Q4.      How do you maintain and protect your firm’s reputation on social media?

A. Great question. No simple answer. You cannot possibly guarantee to protect the reputation but you can ensure that those charged with using the channels on behalf of the firm are appropriately experienced, trained and aware of the consequences of any breaches of your policy. [You do have a social media policy, don’t you?]

As for all other staff they too need to be aware that social media can be a dangerous area to express personal, particularly strident or abusive views. The media channels all too regularly report on examples of dismissals for inappropriate posts. There’s no harm in sharing these examples with your staff as and when they hit the headlines to remind them of their obligations and consequences of breaching the rules.

As we know all too well, social media has its dangers especially in the hands of the opinionated, erratic, drunk, naive, angry or untrained users. Equally it can be a very positive tool to help raise the firm’s profile and effectively engage with those with whom you want to build lasting relationships online and offline.

Take great care in deciding on those charged with managing your online presence and as owners or managers in the firm take an active, ongoing interest in the content that is being broadcast in your name.

Byadmin

Social Media Management for Professional Firms – Part 2

Here is the 2nd part of my review of social media management for professional service businesses, derived from typical questions posed over the past few months.

social-media-marketing-for-professional-services

Q.      How do you inject personality into a firm’s twitter account to encourage engagement?

A. Many large corporate organisations adopt a mechanism of allowing their social media team to leave their initials or first name after tweets. This works well for customer service related posts and responses to queries, concerns or complaints. I recently had a very lively exchange with Aviva’s twitter team proving they were confident in their personas and on top of my particular issue. If you don’t have the scale of resource that makes that possible you could nominate a member or members of the marketing/ PR team and let them be the face of the firm. The only danger with that in professional firms is that there can be an expectation that the person posting has direct experience of the law, surveying or accounting practice and is not a marketer. It can therefore be too easy to come across as somewhat “fluffy” lacking in substance and rather more preoccupied with cake and lighthearted matters than the business to which they are charged with promoting.

If you think you need to create a professional persona for your twitter account you may wish to consider the following.

Ask yourself…”What is the culture of the business?”  If it were a person how would it behave in a meeting, socially and when presenting generally?

If you find that too tough a concept or you’re heading toward a rather schizophrenic answer try asking a few trusted clients.  Humour can be an excellent mechanism for injecting both personality and creating interest but beware the fine line between laughter and tears. Avoid contentious points and consider the maxim of steering clear of core topics of sex, religion and politics.

If there’s no obvious personality traits to hang your online identity to try the following more direct approach;

a) Identify a personality in the firm that clients warm to and has proven successful.

b) If not familiar with social media introduce them to the basics and the essential do’s and don’ts

c) share posts with the “personality” and ask them for their view on how they would present it to an audience, keeping to their own style and not adopting a corporate persona.

d) Test, refine and seek feedback from networks it’s an ongoing process but over time those promoting the firm via social media will start to adopt the personality and it will become established as a clear identity. It may help to give it a name.

Q.      Do professional firms properly understand their audience?

A. Honestly the answer to this question is too often no.  Many firms, be they big city affairs or regional niche practices, measure their success by their number of followers/ connections. Of course you’ll make no headway at all without a network of a certain size but it’s not just numbers it’s proper connections with those who will add value.

Your target audience is client (decision makers), client (staff influencers), 3rd party influencers/ opinion formers, potential staff for your firm, potential suppliers/ supporters, sources of sector specific news and information.

There are a number of techniques that can help identify the above but the advice should be to grow your network steadily over time and continually monitor the membership profile.

Q.      Do firms drive enough conversation on social media or are they guilty of transmitting rather than communicating?

A. Too many broadcast because of a lack of quality home grown content and ignore the opportunities to listen to their networks. We can all be guilty of it but at heart know ourselves when someone is truly listening or just waiting for their next opportunity to speak.

Social is as much listening as sharing, it’s a vital element of effective social engagement. Social selling is not traditional selling its consultative, relationship based and takes time. Trust is key and that’s built over time. Broadcasting puts your brand out there listening and responding intelligently elevates the brand perception of your network.

Q.      Which channels should firms focus on? How should they adapt to different channels?

A. LinkedIn is the classic professional networking portal but is awash with samey articles as the platform has morphed into a publisher of original posted content. As a result you need to work hard to retain a profile and audience interest.  Consider taking your LinkedIn connections to another space….e-mail.  There is a much underused tool on LinkedIn which provides the ability to download connections and their contact information to a spreadsheet.

Twitter has merit in keeping your profile raised and there is an expectation now that every business should have at least one main account. Twitter can provide a client service measure notably one to watch for both positive and negative feedback. As mentioned in previous points time needs to be given to thinking about the audience and how you might properly increase traffic to the website.

Facebook – If only to own the space and name the firm should have a page. Staff are far more likely to engage than clients but no harm in that. Often used effectively by law firms to show their community engagement, work with charities and staff achievements such as fund raising or extra curricula activities.

Google+ worth retaining a presence and keeping a watching eye on developments – has not realised its goals, unfinished business. The vast majority of firms in the UK use Google+ primarily to enhance their main Google ranking.

YouTube – Video is becoming an increasingly important medium for communicating to online audiences but thought needs to be given to its execution. No hour long death by PowerPoint presentations but 5 minute nuggets of information.

Persicope / Blab – interesting developments in video streaming and great for events but always a potential risk when “live” streaming so needs to be carefully managed.

Byadmin

Social Media Management for Professional Firms – Q&A Part 1

Social Media Management for Professional Firms – Q&A

social-media-marketing-for-professional-services

The following series of questions and answers were sourced from meetings recently attended, in particular a panel appearance organised by Infinite Global in London.

Q. Who within the firm should own the social media function?

A. I don’t like the use of the word “owned” because it suggests acquiring a right which can either cause friction with others who have an equal interest in the medium or offer up a “get out of jail free card” for those who feel they don’t own it so don’t need to contribute.

Whomever you appoint to take overall responsibility must do so in the knowledge that they are reliant upon others to support and participate. By way of example, a digital marketing manager may, quite logically, be given the task but if they lack the gravitas and personal authority to generate a response they’ll struggle to deliver. Equal to and perhaps of greater importance than the digital know how are the skills to engender collaboration and communication across the firm? “Soft skills” and application of emotional intelligence (EQ) are absolutely essential in harnessing the collective knowledge and skills to communicate the capabilities of individuals and the firm as a whole. Consider this before appointing the person to take ultimate control of your social media activity.

Q. Should PR professionals be the broadcasters of your social media Channels or just managers?

A. The PR function has moved into the centre ground in thoughts of strategic delivery with the increase in digital marketing opportunities and insatiable demand for quality, engaging content. PR is in essence communication but it isn’t all about the external facing message.  Before you consider their role with regard to delivery you need to consider THE most important piece of PR in a firm, the internal campaign to win hearts and minds of key decision makers on the direction of the firm’s communication strategy. Social can, and in my view should, hold a strong part of that strategy but without “buy in” you’re on the outside looking in to those who have the eyes and ears of the senior management team.

Most PR/marketing professionals will have their own twitter accounts and it is expected that they will have a LinkedIn profile. Only by using the medium can you fully understand it but don’t assume PR’s and marketers are all highly proficient with everything social. It is a medium that moves very quickly and deserves to be treated with respect. Outsourcing has its risks as does the handing over of the keys to the firm’s twitter account to the “socially savvy” new recruit. My advice would be to set clear objectives for what you want from your social activity. Here are but a few examples;

  • Increase in brand awareness by (%)
  • Monitoring client feedback
  • Gaining (x) new clients and (y) referrals
  • Creation, management and communication to a social network that reflects the core target areas of the firm (set realistic size target by viewing peer group leaders)
  • Achieve greater news media coverage on key service areas (this should feed back to brand awarness and new clients)
  • Increased traffic to targeted sections of the website (ensure google analytics track social feeds and report regularly)

Once you have your agreed objectives you can decide on who takes the reigns managing or broadcasting or both. That decision is very much down to the make up of your firm and the resources available for such activity.

Q. How do you bridge the gap between those who produce the content (lawyers) and those who are actively promoting the content?

A. There are a few excellent examples of where producer and promoter are actually one and the same. In these situations all the marketing team need do is ensure the practitioner is up to date with the mechanics and protocols of the platforms used.  These “thought leaders” can be extremely powerful advocates for the firm showcasing depth of knowledge and experience alongside their connection to social media management.

Typically the above tends to work for smaller practices with entrepreneurial, driven leaders who have identified the potential of social media marketing. Having a solo performance can be effective however it does place a great deal of pressure on the individual and at times of holiday or illness the firm can be left adrift with only the testcard available for broadcast. (anyone under the age of 40 may need to Google “testcard”)

Of course not many law firms possess the individuals who can both create the content and find the time to promote it. Typically the marketing team are charged with making the very most of the “carefully crafted” content.  This content, let’s say it’s an article on inheritance, will quite often be first posted and hosted on the firm’s website. It might seem obvious but the authors profile should top and tail the article. A brief introduction to the expert at the beginning followed by a more detailed “cut out” section at the end. Browsing behaviour is such that readers may only take in a few lines so there is no harm in repeating the name and contact details of the author. When posting on LinkedIn the publisher can also share the content on Twitter.  If sent on the firm’s main or department twitter account I would recommend a strong headline to draw in the reader and again a very brief bio before the link to the website.

Social media users prefer to deal with real people rather than logos and brands however including a bio of the author and if space allows, a link to either their own twitter or LinkedIn profile will help increase engagement.

Q. What role should lawyers, accountants or barristers play in social media activities?

A. If you have willing volunteers chomping at the bit to tweet don’t dampen their enthusiasm but do ensure they know the ground rules. Be clear and try at all costs to avoid “the tail wagging the dog” as enthusiastic broadcasters monopolise the firms social channels leaving little space for the areas you really need to promote. The firms strategy should point to the key areas requiring promotion, say a specific service area that is topical and requires a greater profile. The marketing team then identify those who have the knowledge and capability to demonstrate expertise, (not necessarily the most senior practitioner or head of department).

On an ongoing basis to better manage the process each service area/ department should have at least one “social advocate” ideally someone who knows the difference between trolls and twitterati. They should be kept up to date with general social trends and specific industry activity to ensure they make the most of their time online and don’t fall foul of any pitfalls i.e. tweeting specific client info or inappropriate comments when “relaxed” after a glass or two.

They should be tasked with helping to generate content in the form of regular articles, news items that can be commented on and any changes in legislation that clients and contacts should be made aware of. In effect they are your radar for their specific area of interest.

Typically you’ll encounter;

a) enthusiastic disappointers, talk a good game but don’t deliver

b) surprising stars, those who’ve kept their social skills secret thinking they were either too junior or simply not capable enough

c) Just can’t be bothered, too busy, too important

d) Steady Eddie and Edwinas who can deliver but prefer to stay in the background

Whichever you identify be very clear as to what is expected and set realistic goals for output. If they fail to deliver don’t be afraid to remove the responsibility and seek out someone who can.

If you don’t appear to have many in the firm with the core skills to contribute and support your social activity relay this to HR and consider building in social media related questions when recruiting to help identify those strengths.

Part 2 of this Q & A feature will arrive next week. If you have any specific questions relating to the above please feel free to comment or simply connect and drop me a line.

Byadmin

How to Choose the Right Platform

Do you know which social media sites are the best for promoting your business?

Have you launched marketing initiatives without considering the subtle and not so subtle differences between the platforms?

Platform2

As social media evolves respective sites take on varying features and functions that for some, like Facebook and Twitter, may see similar developments whilst others such as Snapchat keep themselves distinct.

It might seem obvious but we really do need to note these differences to make sure we’re not heading in the wrong direction.  From the stark 10 second or less Snapchat experience to the Twitter poll these variances are impacting on the behaviour and attraction for users.

In very basic terms there are strengths and weaknesses of these social media platforms and our awareness of them will help shape our strategy.

To determine which best suits your business, ask yourself these questions,

 “Where do my customers go when they’re online?”

“What do they do when they’re there?”

Main activities by media type:

  • LinkedIn – B2b & B2c, growing online networks, sharing content, raising personal and business profile, getting a new job, recruiting
  • Facebook – Primarily B2c personal & social, chatting with friends and keeping up with what’s going on, leisure activities, business users can brand build and advertise to a specific demographic with FB
  • Twitter – B2b & B2c, news, search, trends, less chat with friends more customer service focus, business users
  • Instagram – B2c growing B2b engagement used for sharing personal and business photos/ videos and following accounts
  • Snapchat – B2c sharing quirky photos/videos using filters (face swap), telling stories, product placement opportunities.
  • Vine – B2c high impact when well produced, sharing 6 second videos to convey a message
  • Google+ – B2b & B2c Hard to see beyond the SEO advantage
  • Periscope – B2c & B2b mainly used by consumer brand marketers and a few professional service marketers. Live streaming has risks bus is becoming increasingly popular. Too early to offer a definitive view but worth trialling

Here comes the disclaimer…the above is a generalised view of 8 popular social media platforms.  Your business may have a product or service which is more likely to use Pinterest, Tumblr or of course YouTube.  The important factor here is to differentiate between the sites by applying your needs, customer behaviour and the all important creativity to engage effectively.

It’s also worth considering how users interact with the sites.  Increasingly we’re accessing them via smartphone and tablet.  The age of our customers may also play a significant role in our targeting and there are clear generational divides forming over the preference for apps used e.g. Snapchat and Instagram are the preferred choice of Generation Y or Millennials (those born 1980’s to early 2000’s).

Whatever your target audience you should ensure that you choose the correct platform to launch your marketing activity.  By heading in the right direction you’ll save time and effort by concentrating on those key sites to grow your business.

Byadmin

How to Manage the Top 10 Digital Distractions David Laud

Time is a precious commodity.  We need to find available hours to complete a project at work, enjoy time with family or our favourite leisure activity.  Unfortunately there seem to be more interruptions than ever eating into our best laid plans and none so compelling as the digital distractions we face each day.

Digital distractions

Smartphones have evolved to more than match the personal computer and become the essential companion to keep us connected to the wider world, preventing missing out on any conversation, trend or breaking news.  The trouble is that as humans we are vulnerable to these constant pings, buzzes, chimes and flashes on our devices.  Without a strong and determined approach to manage we can lose focus leading to a negative impact on performance.

Here’s a review of the top 10 distractions and how you can best manage them.

E-mail – Oh boy this is a big one.  Probably worth a post all of its own so let’s concentrate on the key problems.  “Always on” e-mail responders are those individuals who live online and will reply instantly to any message and expect the same in return.  That’s just not practical. If you’re not offering frontline customer service set aside time to review your e-mail, on the hour or three or four times a day.  If it’s truly urgent and someone needs your response they can call you, the old fashioned way.  This may prove controversial but e-mail is by far one of our biggest daily distractions, if you can control the time you invest in e-mail communication you will benefit from being more productive.  If in a position of authority take the opportunity to build a culture where colleagues develop greater personal communications such as face to face or phone contact, it will improve the productivity of the business.

Google – We’ve all come to rely on the search giant but how often does our essential “Google” become a 20 minute meander through associated and sometimes random topics?  Search engines are indeed essential tools to help us in business but don’t let it take control of you.  Start with a clear objective and keep to it. If something else looks interesting note it, bookmark for later.  It’s amazing how these eyeball grabbers are far less interesting a day or two later.

Text/ SMS Messages/ WhatsApp – Depending on the culture of the organisation you may find colleagues and certain customers prefer to text you.  This is an area that needs to be carefully managed and understood.  Text although technically no different to tweet or e-mail are perceived by many as a personal rather than commercial communication.  There is a generational divide in preference so be mindful when you look to use the medium as sender or receiver.  As with e-mail, turn off alerts and check at intervals that allow you to get on with your life.

Twitter – Despite the frustrations many have with the platform there are plenty addicted to the 140 character challenge. That constant need to check if anyone liked or re-tweeted your last post can result in an obsessive compulsive desire to feed the bird with attention every five minutes.  Be strong, keep the bird in a cage and arrange visiting times that don’t interfere with the more important parts of our life.

YouTube – There are only so many cute cat and dog videos, well so you might think.  Every day millions of hours of content is uploaded to video sites and they can be compelling to watch especially when friends or colleagues comment on them.  As with Google, once you drop-by one of the popular video sites you can quickly be drawn in as the pages are designed to promote similarly compelling content.  Best advice is leave it for a lunch break or better still after work or the weekend.  If work related check the length of the content and set time aside after other priorities have been addressed.

Facebook – Despite the proliferation of similar platforms Facebook remains one of the biggest distractions.  Well it’s obvious, you’ve added all your friends, old school buddies, ex-boyfriends or girlfriends, family and those randoms you just can’t remember adding. You may well have work colleagues, some suppliers or customers too.  A whole bunch of conversations in differing time zones and from people at alternate stages of life.  No problem catching up at breakfast lunch and dinner but during the day it will just cause indigestion and interference with your to-do list.

LinkedIn – The watercooler way to network with professionals but it’s equally capable of taking large chunks out of your day.  Who’s viewed your profile? How many likes of your post? Who’s that person trying to connect with you? If you comment on a popular post you may want to turn off alerts each time someone posts and as with others set a time when you can make the most of the site.

Instagram – We can appreciate a good, arty, tasty, funny or clever photo, even better when we can keep up with a favourite celebrity or our family and friends.  The visual draw of picture sites can be all too easy to distract us via their smartphone apps.  What we don’t need is a Biebergram or Obamagram drawing us into a compulsion to quote or share when we should be completing that monthly report. Set a time and schedulegram your Instagram.

News Alerts – If, like me you need to know what’s happening in the World you’ll have downloaded news apps.  Remember you can set alerts and allow yourself the option of keeping these muted or allow their interruption.  News editors will decide on what they think is breaking and important news but you will need to determine what is really worth taking time out to read and possibly share. More than 75% of the alerts will not need to be actioned so keep a sharp eye on your mental filter and avoid being sucked into the newsfeed.

Snapchat – 10 seconds may sound but a brief moment in time but add the time taken to check out your contacts latest “Snap” and the drive to respond with an equally funny use of the latest filter and you’ve lost 10 minutes or more.  Snapchat can have a business application but it is mostly for light hearted fun.  That’s one for your lunch break or after work.

There are hundreds of sites, too many to mention in this post but as a rule we just need to be clear as to what value they offer to our working day and what we really should be doing to move our business forward.  Each of the above can prove very helpful in developing and promoting a brand and serving to educate and improve internal communications.  The danger is with the proliferation of digital interactions and there unfettered use.  By taking a few direct steps to schedule our use of these applications we can better manage our day and be far more productive.

It may also be an idea to look at your company policy on use of internet, smartphones and social media.  Check to see if the policy wording has kept pace with some of the more recent trends and behaviours associated with this technology.

If you would like help with your policy feel free to drop me a line.

Byadmin

Don’t be afraid to fail

C5It’s suggested that we live in an increasingly risk averse World.  I would tend to agree, it’s not so much the meek who’ll inherit the earth as the health & safety officer.

In business we’re challenged with key decisions and often significant levels of pressure and responsibility.  Those who’ve survived the past 10 years may have the scars to show for working through tough times but that shouldn’t prevent a positive view on the future and the all important search for new products, services, markets and momentum.

Innovation and creativity are at the heart of a strong enterprising company and now more than ever businesses need those with an entrepreneurial spirit to step forward.

As children we were free of stress and financial concerns and in play with friends or on our own could tap into the amazing resource of our imagination. Where schools were once guilty of sucking such fanciful ideas out of pupils and replacing with strict discipline and routine they are now actively encouraging creativity by integrating games such as Minecraft into mainstream lessons.

Those of us too old to enjoy the new teaching methods should work hard at remembering a time when we were less shackled and open our minds to lateral thought.

Even brainstorming has been hit by the politically correct brigade but don’t let that stop a session where employees can be allowed to participate in idea generation.

Of course not every idea will be a success.  Even the great Clive Sinclair had his less than brilliant moment {see photo for details} but the fact is it didn’t stop him inventing, creating and trying to develop new and better products.

Ultimately business ventures themselves will often falter and fail but what we learn from such an experience are valuable lessons that can help avoid the same mistakes in the future.

Without the bravery of putting ourselves out there, by speaking out in a meeting or setting out on our own in business we will have the reassurance of not failing. That safety first approach will also potentially offer the ultimate frustration of not knowing what that entrepreneurial version of ourselves would’ve achieved.

If you’ve an idea burning a hole in your brain, keeping you awake, worried someone may steal before you get a chance to do breathe life into it then take a chance.

Now may be as good a time as ever to back yourself.

The best way to predict the future is to invent it

Alan Kay

Byadmin

Anchor Plan

Anchor logoAre you looking for a new, innovative method to connect and broadcast to your network?  You might want to read on…

We have social media platforms that offer every possible form of communication, commonly written, increasingly live streaming video but very few that focus purely on the spoken word.

In February this year two huge fans of radio, Nir Zicherman and Michael Mignano launched a new app that puts voice at the heart of its communication platform.  Anchor based on the East Coast, New York, aims to provide users with an opportunity to create regular feeds and grow an audience similar to that of a talk radio station.

Having opened an account and exchanged a few early “waves” I’m a fan.  The look and feel of the app is clean and functional and I can see immediate opportunities for users to develop strong engagement.  The reason for my positivity rests with the manner in which users “waves” are open to replies and a stream of conversation.

Those who find posting content via YouTube, Periscope, Meerkat and Blab uncomfortable, might prefer to work just behind a mic than a camera and this social media newcomer offers a perfect solution.

Anchor is backed by experienced New York broadcasters and aims to use the power of the audio content to grow an engaged and enthusiastic audience.

If you’re something of a big deal such as Ron Burgundy or simply an aspiring broadcaster wanting to try a new platform I’d strongly suggest having a look at Anchor.

Worth noting however that it’s only currently available in IOS format but the team are working hard on the Android version which will be arriving shortly.

If you don’t have an iPhone but have an iPad you can still create “waves” on a tablet.

For more information and to download the app follow this link https://anchor.fm/

To hear an example of a “wave” click on the picture or this link https://t.co/wG0nSfVwkM

Feel free to connect with me on the app if you decide to weigh up the Anchor.

Byadmin

Is Twitter in Trouble?

It’s amazing how quickly bad news or rumours travel.  Something in the human psyche gives a turbo boost to negative stories.  We have a strange compulsion to share and be the harbinger of doom, aided by the multiple social media platforms at our fingertips.

#FlapJack - Is Jack Dorsey in a Flap?

#FlapJack – Is Jack Dorsey in a Flap?

Ironically it’s one of the most prominent of these platforms, Twitter, which appears to be at the heart of a current storm raining stories of corporate unravelling and demise.

The truth is Twitter is like any business and if you trade for long enough you will go through a variety of cycles and fortunes.  The first flush of launching the enterprise on the world, investment, growth, recruitment, competition, compliance, governance, profit concerns, executive fall out, re-organisation, innovation and resurgence.

Of course businesses do fail and in our socially connected world the “crash and burn” can be accelerated but I get frustrated when unqualified comment feeds a frenzy of ill-informed negativity.

Twitter is certainly going through challenging times, highlighted by last year’s return of Jack Dorsey as Dick Costolo stepped down as CEO having held the role for 5 years.  The company has been criticised for having lost its direction, connection with users and allowing other platforms such as Facebook from stealing a march in innovation and monetising methods.

There have been other high profile departures and since Dorsey’s arrival, hundreds of redundancies. Now an emerging controversy over technical changes to the site.  The latest furore is due to the announcement of a change to the algorithm which will affect how posts will appear.  Rather than seeing a list of tweets of those you follow in clear timeline order they will appear in order of relevance rather than simply strict time order.  This is something Facebook has already introduced and has had its own critics.

The reality is one of the biggest strengths of Twitter is its immediacy.  Fans of the medium point to the fact they can always find out what’s going on with regard to pretty much any topic by searching its content by keyword or hashtag.  The downside and an often repeated criticism of twitter is clutter, the abundance of randomness and Jack and the team are clearly looking to tackle this issue with the changes.

My view is that Twitter will very likely offer options to users to improve the experience.  Rumours are also circulating about removal of the 140 character limit, which for me would be a mistake.  It’s the character count that makes Twitter unique and has created a communication form and style that hundreds of millions have embraced.  If you want to use Twitter to write chapter and verse you can via Direct Message, that works for me as it is often a one to one exchange that requires added content.

So Twitter is not resembling a *Norwegian Blue or demised duck and it’s too dramatic to say it’s more of a Phoenix. Its flight path may have faltered recently but it’s growing some bright new feathers and I suspect will soon be flying high again. The key to success will be in retaining the engagement of users by staying relevant and straightforward.

*Norwegian Blue – for those who are not Monty Python fans, it is the alleged variety of Parrot purchased by John Cleese from the dodgy pet shop in The Dead Parrot Sketch.

Byadmin

Friends, Randoms, Connected-men, The Truth Behind Online Relationships

Social Networking

Social Networking

His original research was undertaken in the 1990’s well before the explosion of social media activity and as a result many had started to question its validity in the all new socially connected world.

The original research determined that the average human would have 150 friends (stated as between 100 and 200), those who they would know by name, meet with individually or in a group reasonably frequently and have knowledge of their personal circumstances.

The argument by social media advocates followed the line that Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter amongst others provided an opportunity to reach and interact with far more people and therefore Dunbar’s number needed recalculating.

As ever the whacky world we live in threw up such an opportunity to test this when Dorset bakers and biscuit specialists Thomas J. Fudge’s initiated a rather interesting PR campaign.  The idea was to see the sharing of biscuits with tea or coffee as an ideal opportunity to meet face to face, with more people and actually grow the number of “friends”.  Of course the idea being to promote the quality of the Thomas J. Fudge’s product as well as the quality of relationship building and offer a ready supply of PR opportunities.

The start of the process quite correctly involved research to establish a current benchmark figure of average “friend” numbers on Facebook. Step up Professor Dunbar who worked with the University of Oxford research team and surveyed a mixed group of over 3,300 Facebook users.

The results highlighted that there were wide differences, as expected, in the number of “friends” linked to a user’s account however when the definition of friend as being someone genuine and close rather than simply known to them was applied, commonality in numbers emerged.  The average for women fell slightly higher than men 166 to 146 in group one and 196 to 157 in the second group analysed. This delivered an average of 183 well within Dunbar’s original range.

When it comes to our very nearest and dearest friends, those we would call upon in an emergency, emotional or financial crisis the number shrinks dramatically down to just an average of 5.

So it would appear that these results support Professor Dunbar’s work in the 90’s and clearly indicates that we are ultimately limited in our ability to cognitively engage with others despite the advent of the social media age.  The orbital prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain developed for such social interaction and it comes into play when we are online but more strongly when we meet face to face. So crumbs, the guys at Thomas J. Fudge may well be on to something.

It’s not all bad news for social media though as its effective use can help to prevent decay of relationships.  Facebook in particular can be a very effective tool to mark birthdays, weddings and other notable events that otherwise may well have gone unnoticed and offer support as and when required.  The truth however is that to have genuine effective relationships we need to invest time and effort and not simply be reactive.  That effort can in part be online but if we can we should ideally schedule in a bit of biscuit banter to prevent losing the connection. I’m game if you are…just wonder if Thomas J. Fudge do gluten free biccies?

Paper – Do online social media cut through the constraints that limit the size of offline social networks?

Published in Royal Society Open Science http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/3/1/150292