Tag Archive fun with social media

Byadmin

What Can You Do in 1 Second? Try a Boomerang

Boomerang

Facebook owned Instagram is capitalising on the massive popularity of GIFs through the introduction of a new App called Boomerang.

Specifically designed for the smartphone Boomerang enables users to take a photo burst of 5 pictures that become looped as they in Vine but for a much shorter period.

Why might this work for business?

Photos, videos, Gifs, animation are all hot methods of engaging with eyeballs online and specifically the increasingly cluttered world of social media.  Historically for the untrained and impatient amongst us creating a Gif was rather a faff. Now you can do it with one click.

Finding a creative use of moving images, even if it is as brief as 1 second can help make that business stand out from the crowd.

It’s very new, having only launched 22nd October yet major brands have immediately seen the benefit of the app.  Timberland and Elle both showed flicking through their content whilst the Rugby World Cup social media team scored and converted with their early adoption and 1 sec clip of South Africa’s Schalk Burger before their clash with the Kiwis.

The apps key strength is its simple straightforward use, it is pretty much idiot proof…even I could immediately get the app working although my target subjects were not so easy.

It’s also incredibly easy to share the new moving content via a variety of platforms, obviously Instagram and Facebook plus Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ etc..

You can find the app in your devices store under Boomerang from Instagram.  Download, have a play and see how it might add some all important interest to a product, service or topic you want to highlight.

Byadmin

Absolutely Blab-ulous! – Why the Business World is Tuning in to Blab

A new kid on the block of live video streaming apps has an appropriate name,Blab.  It’s similar but sufficiently different to others such as Persicope and Meerkat that I thought it worth investigating.

Blab


The biggest difference with Blab is that it actively encourages others to join in and share the limelight, a bit like Google hangouts but without the overly fussy set up and management.  Four individuals can share screen time with typically one of the four being the host whilst any number of viewers can join in to watch the live event.  The US users are quick to point the similarity in look to the classic TV show “The Brady Bunch” and its opening credits.

The success and take up of Periscope and Meerkat has been possible due to advances in mobile video streaming capability with better wifi and 4G access.  Blab however has more of a “studio” feel.  There are a greater number of professional and good amateur presenters using desktop access and higher quality cameras and microphones compared to the many Periscope users who are just streaming video by way of a variation on a tweet or Facebook post.

It is still early days for Blab, in fact it’s still in “Beta” mode but you can already see how this platform could revolutionise webinars.  The site offers an opportunity for active participation from up to 4 panel members who could each be located on a different continent or just as easily be in the same room.blab logo

Viewers can log in to pre-publicised broadcasts at the allotted time and enable e-mail alerts to remind them when to watch.  The video can also be saved and sent as a link via e-mail or placed on your website to be watched at a time to suit the viewer.

The interaction with twitter is far better via a desktop but if you are on the move and have a healthy connection it provides an excellent method of catching your favourite experts, podcaster or topic of interest.  You can also broadcast your own Blab on the move but if you check out the better received content on the platform it tends to be generated from the desktop pc or laptop.  The reason for this is the scope of information you can gather and use via the screen, helping with visitor interaction as they message you during a broadcast.  Sounds a little manic and it can be but that’s all part of the charm of Blab.

Unsurprisingly the vast majority of users and participants are based in the US but the word is spreading and my guess is it won’t be long before brands and business advisors across the globe start to see the advantage of the format.  There’s certainly no reason why you shouldn’t investigate the possibility of hosting your own “show” where you may participate with colleagues, peers or invited guests.

The screenshot of the Blab featured in the main picture used for this blog involves social media experts Heather Heuman (Sweet Tea Social) and Stephanie Nissen.  They delivered a very informative session with guests taking their hot seat shown as the “call in” space to ask questions, it works very well indeed.

I would recommend having a look at Blab, click on a few shows, if feeling brave take part in a chat or if feeling even braver take a seat if there’s one spare.

Remember that you will need a webcam, yourself in view, good sound quality and hopefully a good background.

Smarter Blabbers introduce their Brands via signs or pictures placed behind them but in good sight, so those tuning in can be reminded who they’re watching.

I can see companies using Blab for internal training or conference calls with the private approved users only feature stopping others joining in.  As a tool for a wider audience it can deliver key messages, seminars, promotions and consultations.

Go take a look at  https://blab.im/ and let me know what you think, see if you agree that it could have genuine appeal for your business.

Byadmin

Is Marketing Dead?

Headlines of a similar nature have been peppering business news feeds for a couple of years now.  It’s a dramatic supposition. A management function that has breathed its last, passed on, is no more, has ceased to be, expired and gone to meet its maker, stiff and bereft of life, it rests in peace.  Apologies I slipped into a Monty Python moment there.  Just holding with that “Dead Parrot” thought, it does at times feel as though traditional marketing methods and traditional practitioners have been nailed to their perch to give an impression of life where actually none exists.

Marketing Dead

What do I mean when I suggest Marketing may have “shuffled off its mortal coil”? 

Of course as a discipline it’s somewhat absurd to think that it no longer exists or matters but in my view and that of many marketers its traditional construct is no longer relevant in today’s world.

Lecturers and consultants have been surviving on a diet of “P’s” for a very long time to provide a Platform and Purpose to their approach to marketing.  In its day Product, Price, Place and Promotion were a big hit and can still be seen as the core thrust for setting a marketing strategy.  The trouble with a diet of “P’s” is that it can cause wind, and there’s lots of it around.  The classic 4 P’s are just not going to work.

Why?

In today’s socially enabled World building a marketing strategy almost exclusively on a “Push” approach of promoting your product or service, is not going to cut it.

Today when customers wish to engage with a supplier to purchase goods or services they have a variety of sources to choose from before they make a decision:-

Personal social networks, peers and opinion formers or as Malcolm Gladwell refers to them, connectors or mavens in his book Tipping Point.  These are the new, trusted salesforce that businesses need to engage with as their reach and influence can prove invaluable to building brand profile and loyalty. These individuals are actively responding to questions raised within LinkedIn Groups, Facebook forums, Twitter or a picture of the proposed purchase on Snapchat, Pinterest or Instagram seeking feedback from followers.

Search – yes of course internet search remains a key element of the process. Customers will “Google” a term appropriate to their need but typically, for more complex or high value items they will in the first instance consult with their own networks.

Consumers are becoming increasingly tired of TV advertising hence the introduction of “red button” Shazam and interactive ads that seek to offer a greater experience and hopefully generate a community conversation that increases brand profile.

Case Example – Socially Grown Brands

The emergence of Aldi and Lidl as major supermarkets in the UK is largely down to good old “word of mouth”.  Whilst the ads are clever, they are but a supporting act to the real promotional drivers who are converted shoppers demonstrating their prowess in managing the family budget.  The previous snobbery surrounding a visit to a budget supermarket has been superseded by a need to save in recessionary times, an issue that still faces very many households.  Once the stigma is removed newbie shoppers who were prepared to “try it out” became evangelical in their praise for the shop that cut their weekly spend without a loss of quality.

Aldi have neatly tapped into this growing number of customers by introducing social media campaigns encouraging them to share their stories such as #AldiChallenge.  Lidl launched a TV campaign in 2014 that also played on the kudos of knowing something your neighbour doesn’t with #LidlSurprises .

Whatever spend these two supermarkets put into their advertising it is clear that the biggest single factor in their success has been the conversations between friends, families and trusted members of social networks.

The Envero Brand Trust Index 2014 – extract from www.envero.co.uk

 

Envero’s 2014 Brand Trust Index surveyed over 30,000 consumers covering over 2,500 brands in 20+ countries.

 

The Index measures people’s willingness to positively recommend brands (advocate) but also to recommend against them (detract), and the underlying drivers of this recommendation behaviour.

 

Richard Evans, Envero managing partner says:  “Aldi has seen by far the biggest increase in net recommendation, which measures advocates minus detractors, of any brand in the survey since 2010, when it didn’t even make the top 100. Now it’s number 21 and if it continues to increase its advocates at this rate it will soon be in the UK top 10 ahead of any other UK supermarket.”

 

The Future

Whatever we call it and let’s face it marketers love to give things a name, we won’t entirely lose the “Marketing” moniker but we should certainly look at what is being done in its name.

Traditional thinking is dead and any marketer who is not fully conversant with social technologies and considering community engagement strategies might want to think about an alternative career.  The World has changed and it’s not going back, we are living in an exciting and scary time of global connectivity.  You can equally grow or destroy a brand in hours with the right or wrong communication.  This is why it’s important to understand the new media channels and essentially those who use them.

New marketing is a conversation, connection and an interest in communities linked virtually via distinct networks.  CEO’s and business owners should be challenging their marketing departments to show how they are proposing to take the company forward in light of these seismic changes.

As far as I know there isn’t a definitive guide to navigate these new waters – most likely this is due to the pace of change, which has been such it would be out of date by the time it was published.  At such times, like the Wild West, snake oil salesman proliferate with their cure all solutions.  Be it SEO, Social or straightforward customer acquisition there are no simple answers.   When looking to grow your business you should back your instincts and look to trusted resources to achieve the objectives.  Look for recommendations, testimonials, talk to others who have similar issues and don’t make hasty decisions.

Traditional thinking is now akin to driving whilst only ever looking in the rear view mirror.  This “brave new World” is throwing up quite a few twists and turns requiring innovative, entrepreneurial thinking and eyes that are firmly on the road ahead.

Suggested To Do List :-

  1. Challenge the status quo – review current activities, plans their impact/return
  2. Review resources/in-house and outsourced
  3. Conduct thorough evaluation of proposed resources/seek out trusted recommendations
  4. Create a plan to deliver social engagement in target areas
  5. Factor in a mechanism to continually update the plan based upon emerging technologies/ trends
  6. Set realistic parameters for success ie increase profit, Klout score, brand awareness, network size and relevance
  7. Share the plan internally
  8. Measure results regularly and hold resources to account

 

Byadmin

Marketing – Is it really all about the 3 C’s – Content, Content, Content?

Pick up a copy of a business magazine, webinar, SEO whitepaper, workshop agenda or open one of those hundreds of marketing tip e-mails [not all such e-mails are the same of course 🙂 ] and the chances are you’ll not go far before the word “content” is mentioned.

Content Marketing Plan

Content Marketing Plan

If you want your website to be a successful shop window for your company you need it to be well furnished with content, lots of it, all shapes and sizes, colours, creations and categories……or do you?

Call me an old cynic…but when I start to sense a trend forming and a bandwagon being jumped on I have a natural inclination to run in the opposite direction.   Sure SEO is important but what if you produce masses of poor content?  All that will prove is that you’ve created a big website full of “stuff” that nobody is going to read let alone share.  Surely the idea with this facet of marketing is to produce quality, focused material that appeals to those who you have identified as your target audience.   Badly written and presented content will have the adverse effect.  I would argue that even if you did rank higher as a result of your prolific production once anyone clicked on it they would be more inclined to bounce straight out again.  This would only create a negative impression.

Ok back to basics, what is “content”? Does anyone really know or is it just another “buzzword” that sounds good but has little thought behind it.

 

Content varies from the obvious written word, blog, news update, article to more visual and increasingly popular sources such as infographics, webinars and other video based productions such as YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Snapchat, Instagram, Meerkat and Periscope.

Just for starters WordPress report that there are 42.6 million blog posts per month. Now imagine how that number is going to escalate with the buzzword of the year “content” driving marketing activities.  Add to the written word the growing trend of video posts and you’ve a very busy and somewhat cluttered space in which you’re trying to make a name for yourself.

Typical Examples

A)     You can just see the common scenario developing where a young marketing manager, having read all the latest guides, asks the MD to produce a blog for the company.  The MD is very busy but she knows this buzz of blogging and “thought leadership” is the thing she really should be doing…so she writes one.  It’s not great but it is her first effort.  The marketer doesn’t feel that they can correct the boss so is left with no option but to post it.  No one comments on it, it’s only read by staff internally who universally agree the MD should stick to running the business.

B)      Or what about a situation where no one in the business has the time to write an article or blog so they look around for help.  Now for the purpose of balance I must advise that yes, there are excellent copywriters, journalists, wordsmiths who have both the intelligence and skill to produce high quality “home grown looking” material that is both informative and easy to digest.  Unfortunately given the “content” Goldrush we have no shortage of prospectors panning for nuggets but finding fool’s gold, those who look the real deal, talk a good game but simply don’t understand enough about the business and the best way to communicate with their target audience.  In this example the business spends a large chunk of their annual marketing budget on an agency who simply fails to connect with the client and produces low grade results albeit in large quantities.  The company sacks the agency when the MD asks a few pertinent questions at a board meeting such as “Do they own a dictionary” “Have they met our production team” “Why are the web visits up but the engagement down?” The result, the agency blames the client and the resultant lack of business demonstrates the importance of having a well thought through strategy that involves communications that connect with the target audience.

So what should you be doing?

  1. Know your audience and understand what they want, how they consume information and if indeed an MD blog is the way to grow your business profile.
  2. Google does seek fresh and relevant content so it is an idea to have your website populated with dynamic regularly updated and appropriate material.
  3. Don’t overlook the use of video or slides as content alternatives but ensure they are well scripted, planned and executed and not “handmade”.
  4. Don’t follow the competition, find your own voice and methods of communicating that speak of your business, its culture and strong sales points.
  5. Whilst it’s important it’s not all about digital.  Consider the offline use of content such as print, face to face and traditional broadcast mediums.
  6. If you can make use of the writing talent within your business.  It doesn’t need to be perfect but be prepared to offer constructive criticism to ensure that the finished article is as professional as possible.
  7. Provide training – consider bringing in a professional writer/ journalist to deliver a session on writing for a specific audience.
  8. Don’t make it a one hit wonder. Take responsibility for driving the content creation within the business.
  9. If you do outsource vet the suppliers with terrific care. I would strongly counsel against allowing an agency to run social media sites for your company however more complex written material may need external expertise to deliver. Seek out those who are prepared to understand your business and offer true bespoke material rather than a factory production line.
  10. Last but by all means not least, be clear as to your objectives and strategy. Ask the question IS CONTENT CREATION THE CORRECT SOLUTION FOR MY BUSINESS? If so what will work and where are you best employed to deliver optimum returns. If not don’t be badgered by the bandwagon promoters, trust your instincts.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog please contact David Laud via twitter @davidlaud or call 08456 446624

Byadmin

Putting Theory Into Practice – Can Social Media Generate Business?

Consultants, coaches, business advisers and circuit speakers can frequently fall into a trap when handing out advice as they touch on subjects that they’ve lost touch with.  In the current cauldron of technological innovation and digital dependence that’s not all too surprising because they rarely have time to stop and revisit their thinking or more importantly put their theory into practice.

Ballet Icon on Computer KeyboardJust because advice sounds plausible, logical and possible doesn’t make it a cast iron sure bet to work.   My view is that we must accept we can’t possibly stay at the sharp end, understanding latest trends, tips, wrinkles and methodologies, without being self-aware and putting those golden nuggets of advice to the test to establish their true value.  Instead of sticking with ideas that are possibly past their “sell by date” or untested put yourself in the position of a client.  Rather than act as an adviser seek to prove those ideas, strategies and actions by applying them to a real situation.

 

How to generate new business is one of the most regular questions posed by clients and for obvious reasons.  Winning new customers is essential to growth and sustainability and over time owners, directors and managers can become complacent, lose focus and need a guiding hand to put the company back onto a positive footing.

 

Luckily for me I’ve recently had an ideal opportunity, which was literally very close to home, to test the theory of business generation in a very contemporary field of marketing, social media.

 

My wife decided last year that it was time, following years of looking after the family, to take up the challenge of running her own ballet school.   Being the true professional that she is, my wife ensured that she was fully up to date with syllabi and best practice according to the Royal Academy of Dance.  Whilst I had every confidence in my wife’s capability as a teacher I could see as a potential hurdle with her previous steadfast view that she did not “do social media”.  No personal Facebook page, no twitter and certainly nothing as exotic as Instagram or Pinterest.

 

Here was an excellent opportunity for me to not only help my wife achieve her ambition of running a successful school but to also put those many theories to win business through digital channels to the test.

 

It’s often said that it can be a dangerous, potentially painful process working with your other half but in our experience it proved pretty much straightforward.  I know nothing at all about dance let alone ballet and she knew very little of social media and marketing matters.

 

My first concern was to have a website and to ensure that it was given the right treatment to appear in search terms, to also provide the essential link to sites such as Netmums and Yell.com but also as its essential when creating social media accounts.  The website also needed to be fully responsive, smartphone and tablet friendly.

 

The key target audience for the ballet school is mothers of children aged from two and a half to teenage so my first piece of advice was to establish a solid Facebook page.  Starting from scratch it was also going to be important to get matters moving quickly and create a steady flow of enquiries.  As with many businesses the primary customer activity when looking for this service/ activity was to go online.  A google search for “ballet school” on google would automatically bring up schools that were registered and verified with the search site.  To do this the school needed to have a Google account and for the best chance of high profile recognition an active Google+ account.

 

It was essential that the school became verified and that the map engine within Google had Mrs L’s business linked to the address.  That way the school would show up listed with other verified schools and the closer to the target location the higher the ranking.  Simple but so many businesses miss his very important step.

 

After Google+ and Facebook we created twitter, Instagram and Pinterest sites to add breadth and visual impact to the school’s brand.

 

I suggested that my wife needed to create a regular dialogue with our local community and that was through a localised, gender and age specific “like” campaign for Facebook and a daily news feed of curated stories relating to the art form on twitter simply called “Ballet News”.  The latter news update has been a huge success.  Why such a success?  Mrs L’s attention to detail and regular posts have created an expectation of consistency, entertainment and information which her community greatly appreciate.   In response to my prompt on the importance of engagement on Facebook Mrs L launched a regular ballet related picture post and specifically once a week “Tutu Tuesday” featuring a new outfit each week.  I take only a very small piece of credit, the genius of the creative idea and execution was entirely down to the proprietor…not me.  That signified a watershed moment, the owner of the business owned their media and understood it enough to capitalise on its power.

 

And what of the results of this test of social media guidance and marital relationship?

 

Well no divorce…quite the contrary.  A thriving business that since launch in April has grown to over 40 regular students and 3 to 4 new enquiries each week 90% either via the website, fed by twitter and Instagram accounts or directly from the Facebook page.

 

Of course it helps that my wife is a talented teacher and has great rapport with students and parents alike but for me it proved the power of social media.  Mrs L has commented that she doesn’t know how she could possibly have managed without Facebook or her website.  Interestingly we experimented with more traditional marketing – the results were mixed.  The local paper proved the most expensive investment and produced nothing whilst a magazine targeting primary schools more than covers its costs.  By far and away the most successful medium for promoting the school is Facebook and the website, searched for on Google.

 

All of the above and the ongoing success of the school proves that there are advantages in having a strong, well-articulated digital presence aligned to a good product.

 

Key Social Media Steps for a Start Up

  • Research your market and grasp the key actions taken when purchasing/ researching your product/ service.
  • In line with the above data create a website and keep the content fresh and optimised for search engines.
  • Create social media accounts that are relevant to your target market
  • Build a network for each account reflecting that audience, eg other associated interests
  • Build content that is fresh, interesting and relevant to your network
  • Don’t bombard your audience with sales messages and endless promotions, share useful posts and engage
  • Respond – download the social media apps and e-mail accounts to your smartphone and be prepared to react as and when enquiries arrive
  • Don’t panic – it won’t happen overnight, it’s definitely a marathon and not a sprint
  • If you’re stuck seek advice but be sure to not to simply outsource your activity – that will not work for you in the long term
  • Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself but watch out for cross platform links and potential duplication, best to keep things simple to start with.
  • Try new platforms but test the results, if it’s not working ask why – keep up with developments
  • If operating multiple social media accounts consider using tools such as Hootsuite to manage your time and posts and measure results.

 

I’m not ready to don the tights and show you my arabesque but I’m very happy to help you grow your organisation be it in education, retail, manufacturing or the service sector if fact any business that thrives on generating new customers.

Drop me a line via the contact form below.

David Laud @davidlaud

 

Byadmin

Ice Bucket List – Why the ALS Charity Challenge Works

Unless you’ve been tucked away on a desert island without internet, TV, phone or radio you can’t help to have been exposed to a never ending parade of people posting short videos of self-emersion in cold water. The #icebucketchallenge (don’t forget the hashtag) has become a phenomenal success for the charity that took ownership of the act – the ALS Association representing those diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.  The disease is also known by the name of US Baseball legend Lou Gehrig who died at the age of 37 in 1941. 2 years prior to his death July 4th 1939 he gave an emotional farewell speech to a packed Yankee Stadium stating that despite his diagnosis he considered himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth”.

Lou Gehrig (USAToday)

Lou Gehrig (USAToday)

The disease is reported to affect some 450,000 across the globe.  A diagnosis is devastating as tragically the body shuts down and life expectancy from that point is a shattering 2 years. In the UK we use the collective term Motor Neurone Disease.  It covers a range of conditions such as ALS that cause the death of nerve cells controlling muscles and thereby gives rise to degeneration. It’s fortunately rare but nonetheless a terrible condition that often strikes the sufferers down in the prime of their life. ALS is the specific condition behind this most recent viral sensation.  A very worthy cause and one that deserves to receive recognition.

The current campaign has been one of the most successful viral events of all time.  The results are quite staggering. The ALS Association has raised some $62m in just 4 weeks that’s over 30 times the $2m they raised in the same period in 2013. They have an amazing 750,000 new donors and the numbers just keep on growing.

MND the Motor Neurone Disease charity has also benefited by an additional £250k donated as a result of this campaign. So how did this happen? As most will testify, cause related campaigns on social media sites are nothing new. Facebook in particular is frequently used as a launch pad by fundraisers to reach as many potential supporters in a short time at little cost.  It can be very effective, I know having raised a few £’s over the years with my running but that is but a tiny imperceptible spec compared to the massive wave of ice bucket drenched donors. The previous success of the #nakedselfie #nomakeupselfie was impressive. £8m raised for Cancer Research in just 6 days.

The ALS campaign appears to have been given a far bigger boost and the momentum just keeps taking it forward.

The challenge sets out very simple rules.  Once nominated take the ice bucket challenge and donate $10 to ALS, if you don’t take the challenge pay $100.  When taking the challenge record the act on video and upload as proof, post on facebook or another social media site of choice having nominated 3 more individuals to take part who in turn have 24 hours to complete the deed.  Simple and very effective.

The factors for success: Humble beginnings & credibility – The ALS challenge was started by the friends and family of a former Boston College baseball captain, Pete Frates who was diagnosed with ALS at 27.  The initial post of a video was of others taking the challenge as he was too weak to participate.  Those family and friends challenged local Bostonian athletes to follow suit. Nominations spread through the Boston area and soon enough athlete’s across the US including many major stars were taking part for Pete and others with ALS.

Pete Frates Fight Against ALS – The Start of the Icebucket Challenge

Celebrity power – Soon Hollywood and the business community got the call through nominations and celebrities were engaged.  Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, George Bush, Lady Gaga, Victoria Beckham….the list is extensive and adds hugely to the attraction for others to participate having seen their favourite singer, actor, entrepreneur take the challenge.

Narcissism – Ok this is a little negative but social media does offer us an opportunity to “perform” to a wider audience, be centre stage and demonstrate our caring and charitable efforts. Most of us want to be loved, at the very least liked by others and this just works very nicely.  But who cares it’s raising money for a great cause.

Competition – As seen with many celebrity posts there’s been a fair share of “anything you can do…” iced water dropped from helicopters, thousands of dollar bills not water falling from the bucket (Charlie Sheen) and self-made apparatus (nice one Bill Gates). This effort has been replicated by many non-celebrities with terrific imaginations finding new and whacky ways to go that bit further when taking the challenge.

Simple – You don’t have to train for this.  It’s not a marathon or even a fun run you just have to stand or sit and take a cold shower. So it opens the challenge up to young and old alike, fit and those not so fit which makes the potential participant demographic very wide.

Connectivity – the opportunity to involve members of your own network through nomination feeds wonderfully into our desire to connect to family and friends through social media.

Technology – the proliferation of smartphones with video record capability enables millions to participate.  This added to an encouragement to users by many platforms to make video related posts and as a result easy to use upload apps means the task of sharing such events has never been easier.

The above ingredients all combine to produce a campaign that has every chance of becoming one of the biggest viral events ever seen.  Predictably this success has caused side effects such as the bandwagon jumping of others to benefit from the trend.

One notable example is Macmillan Cancer Support who leapt onto the challenge and attempted to claim the #icebucket as their own.  As a result they’ve received considerable criticism not helped by the Head of Digital for the charity quoting their missed opportunity with the #nakedselfie as justification for jumping on the ALS campaign.  Just Google “ice bucket challenge” and you’ll see that Macmillan have gone to the trouble of taking a paid keyword advert placing them in top spot on the search engine.  Many have complained that they donated via a short text code advertised by Macmillan thinking it was for ALS.

My advice to Macmillan is to spend time and effort working to create original ideas that will bring credit to this great charity and not ride on the back of other charities innovative drives.  Yes, the ice challenge has been used to raise awareness and funds for their chosen charity in the past and no doubt the future too but leave it to the individuals to make that choice.  It was Pete Frates friends and family who drove this phenomenon and that’s what makes it a true viral success.

Have I taken the challenge?  Oh yes I was nominated and had some fun doing it too.  I did use the opportunity to raise awareness of 2 other charities I work with but didn’t overlook the fact that it’s the ALS campaign first and foremost so they too benefited from a donation. David Laud icebucketed No one should feel forced to take part and be bullied or otherwise pressurised into taking a dowsing for ALS.  It’s voluntary and an individual choice that others should respect. Unfortunately there have been examples of peer pressure and negativity thrown towards those who’ve not followed their nominators’ request.  That’s not how charity works and is one of the uglier side effects of such successful viral campaigns. Overall the positive far outweighs the negative.  I say congratulations Pete Frates and your inspirational friends and family.

The ESPN video is certainly worth a watch and helps put this campaign into perspective. It proves the power of the human spirit and the ability to turn such a negative situation into something so immensely positive. If you have any comments on this or any of my articles please feel free to add them here.  I’d love to hear your experience of this and other charitable campaigns. David Laud

Byadmin

New “Face” lift for Twitter

The dust is starting to settle after the initial rather mixed response to the Face “book” lift applied to twitter accounts.

You get a rather gentle prod by the platform to decide if you really do want to give it a go but I suspect like many the temptation to see what the fuss is about mixed with the nagging fear of being left behind drives users toward the new look layout.

Big Tweets for All

Big Tweets for All

Personally I don’t mind it, I think it’s a natural evolution but it’s also strikingly similar to many other sites and for a great number of twitter fans it’s a step too far.

But what exactly is all the fuss about?

  •  Larger profile photos – Your profile snap is now 400 pixels by 400 pixels it’s the same square ratio as before but you might want to check that the upsizing hasn’t distorted the original image. It could be the ideal opportunity to upload a new profile pic
  • New dimensions for the header image – Like Facebook the main image dominates the screen and fits across the browser.  The image size required is 1500 pixels by 500 pixels.  If you really like your current header image you’ll need to ensure it hasn’t become blurred by the change in dimensions.  Note that alternative screen sizes will cause the image and its layout to appear differently.
  • Top tweets –  Tweets that you’ve generated that created the most interest and engagement will appear larger than other posts. A good way for anyone visiting your twitter stream to see what others find interesting in your updates.
  • Pinning tweets –  Now you can pin a tweet of your choice to the top of your profile page. This is useful if you want to extend the life of an important message given the average lifecycle of a tweet is but 30 seconds.
  • Filtering views –  There’s a useful choice now for you to be able to see tweets of others in isolation or to see the tweet and replies to review a conversation.
  • General layout – The look of twitter on PC and laptop certainly can be likened to that of Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest with far greater emphasis on photo and video linked tweets on top of the increase in profile and header image prominence.

 

Time to Update the Profile Pic?

Time to Update the Profile Pic?

Is it progress?

  • Yes – if you see visual content as king and the future of meaningful social media engagement.
  • No – if you were happy with the platform as it was and enjoyed the simple yet effective construct of the site.

My personal view is that it adds certain useful features, in particular the pinning of tweets to the top of your profile page.  One problem I see with the changes is the proliferation of smartphone and smaller tablets and their use over PC and laptop.  You can now take photos and post so easily from these devices that they are quickly taking the place of the traditional methods used for online interaction.  As it stands the new changes have not migrated fully to mobile device formats but no doubt it’s just a matter of time before they do.

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The Power of Personal Branding

Later this year our first born turns 20.  Her generation has been the first to grow up in the “social” World we all now inhabit.  Migrating from MSN messenger a brief flirtation with MySpace before Facebook appeared on the scene.  Now she can count twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine and Tumblr to the portfolio of sites that enable her to connect and share with friends.

The Power of Personal Branding by David Laud

The Power of Personal Branding by David Laud

In the early days it wasn’t quite as all-consuming as it is now.  Accessibility was limited to time on Dad’s laptop or PC but as we all know now smartphone and tablet proliferation provides instant easy access.

 

As a parent we will naturally be protective over the sites visited and posts read and made by our children but it’s not always easy to build and maintain trust whilst coming across as an Orwellian control freak.

 

Parenting is one thing but what of ourselves?  Are we immune from the attractions of social media and the desire to connect and build our own virtual networks?  For some the thought of sharing aspects of their lives on any potentially public platform is just too scary or ridiculous to consider.  For others it opens a whole new world of opportunity.

 

Successful social media entrepreneurs have created impressive personal brands that can equal that of a large business.  Commentators and influencers are now being actively sought out by the traditional brands to aid them in their quest to understand and grow their own sphere of influence online.

 

What about you?  Do you see yourself as falling into the “personal brand” category?  From my perspective anyone who is prepared to put themselves out there with a unique and homespun message that

shares even a small part of their lives has created a brand.  The difficulty with such a notion is that people see a brand as belonging to something far greater than an individual, its Nike, Coke, Apple, Dyson, Virgin…. But just consider the celebrity brand.  Stephen Fry, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, One Direction, Jeremy Clarkson; there are hundreds of examples.  One of the most stunning examples of an individual harnessing the power of social media is that of Barack Obama and yes he had a team behind him but the principle of Obama the brand, his message and reach through social media is a lesson we can all draw upon.

 

If using social media for personal or business purposes or in my case a schizophrenic combination of both you really should take time to think about how your persona is presented.  I often see accounts on twitter where individuals are obliged by their employers to state that the tweets produced are their own and not associated with the business they’re fronting.  I understand why these statements are made but I do fear they undermine any efforts to positively promote that business, it gives an impression that they are free to talk behind the businesses back rather than be trusted to offer opinion and general comment on the world around them.  If you’re worried about what someone might say in the name of your business or by any loose association, don’t give them the keys to the account!

 

Back to the personal brand idea – what should you be doing to make the most of your social media presence?

10 Tips for Personal Branding with Social Media

  1. Think about why you’re investing time in social media sites
  2. Be careful not to imitate others, be original and find your own voice.
  3. Draw up a short list of simple objectives, what do you want from all this time you’re investing?
  4. Consider setting yourself some basic “house rules” for social media use such as:
    • No swearing
    • Respect others
    • Block negative contributions from your network
    • Protect and enhance your reputation
    • Add value to your network
  5. Ask for feedback from others who you trust to give an honest appraisal of your online persona, does it match your own thoughts?
  6. Don’t get hung up on social ranking scores
  7. Focus on the level of genuine interactions
  8. Regularly review where you are against your objectives and don’t be afraid of changing them
  9. Update the profile pic to keep things fresh
  10. Try not to take yourself too seriously

The last on the list could easily be top.  One of the biggest “turn offs” is the overly earnest, terribly persistent and infuriatingly opinionated narcissist.  It’s really not a good look; but given the personality type they’re often so self-obsessed they don’t see what we can.

Being aware of your personal brand is not taking yourself too seriously it’s actually taking responsibility for your current and future reputation.  Most employers and clients now “Google” the names of individuals who they might be working with.  It’s clear that those who have strong, well established and consistent content will put themselves in the frame for future work.

As far as branding goes…it really is getting personal.

David Laud – i2i Business Solutions LLP

Follow me on Twitter

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Putting the “Social” Back into Social Media Marketing

Have you noticed it’s getting harder to generate meaningful responses and take part in active “real time” conversations on social media platforms?  I have and I know many others who experience the same issue which is why I think we need to put the “Social” back into social media marketing.   In my view one of the root causes of this trend away from network engagement is the application of tools to assist in posting multiple messages and scheduling content broadcasts.

Putting the "Social" Back

Putting the “Social” Back

For this I have a confession, I’m guilty as charged.  I occasionally schedule posts using a very well-known and popular application and yes I get a sense of relief and satisfaction knowing that I’ve organised myself and my business.  It’s planning ahead and that’s good isn’t it?

In the strictest sense of business management yes, it’s good to be organised, but what have I actually done by scheduling tweets and G+ updates and sharing blog content at times when I’ll be very busy with other matters?

I’ll tell you what I’ve done…I’ve removed myself from the core principle of social media…engagement.  Of course I have alerts set up on tablet and phone so if one of the automated tweets receives a favourite, re-tweet or mention in any way I will have an immediate notification.  Despite the efforts to acknowledge and have an interaction with followers it’s still only a reactive response to my own content and not a supportive comment or conversation based upon my networks very current posts.

I do still take time to post personal messages and support others on-line but if I’m being brutally honest I’m not doing enough.

Too many social media users have lost focus on the “social” and become more obsessed with simply broadcasting.  Marketing teams are schooled in how best to push the message through these new channels and only a few companies are really engaging with customers and their networks.  The best examples of making social media work in large organisations is having teams readily accessing channels to pick up on comment, complaint and feedback.  That’s listen mode ahead of broadcast mode.

As a marketer I do see social media platforms as communication channels but they are not the same as TV and radio they are uniquely designed for personal engagement.  Creating campaigns to deliver sales messages over and over again interspersed with the occasional useful content is not going to impress many in your network.

Social media has evolved and for many it still performs and delivers but it’s worth taking a step back and giving your current strategy a little “Spring clean”.

I for one will be turning down the auto tweets and returning to the fundamental foundation of the medium.  Listening first, learning about others and encouraging positive engagement.  The best advice I can give is to place yourself in the position of one of your network members and try see how you appear in their timeline.  If you come across as one of those annoying spam phone calls that’s pre-recorded and doesn’t allow you to respond it’s time to re-think your approach.

One shining light in the social media tunnel is the introduction of interest, profession, sector or location based groups who meet on-line at specific times and share a hash-tag # to help bring everyone into view.  Here people can and do actively engage in the moment and enjoy the virtual networking experience that can prove so very useful and motivational.

Above all you get far greater rewards from real-time engagement it just takes a little more investment in time and effort.  No one is expecting you to “camp out” on twitter or permanently “latch on” on to LinkedIn.  Set yourself a sensible time schedule, assess when others are also on-line and start listening.  Find out which groups that interest you are already “hanging out” at specific times.

I’m looking forward to putting the emphasis back to where it belongs on social media sites and having some fun while I’m doing it.  If you have a story to share please feel free to post a comment, I’d love to hear from you.

David Laud

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Think You’re a Thought Leader? Test that belief with 12 tips to thought leadership

“Thought Leadership” now there’s a two word phrase that has emerged through the social channels in the past couple of years. As with any trendy term the bandwagon soon becomes full and chased by those who think they know the answers but often started after the opportunity well before they’d studied the direction in which they should be travelling.

Thought Leader

Thought Leader

Personally I’m not a fan of such glib phrases mostly because of their all too often over use in the hands of those who think using it will magically propel them into the top echelons of that particular sphere.

Before my cynicism takes hold I would like to make a few positive observations about the concept of thought leadership and how it can be a powerful force for good, in the appropriate hands at the right time and with considered execution.

Let’s start by reflecting on what makes a thought leader. It’s not necessarily a business owner nor entrepreneur but someone who has a depth of knowledge and clearly articulated view on a specific topic. The best thought leaders have a passion for their chosen subject of interest and that enthusiasm carries through in the variety of channels they chose to convey their message.

What it’s not – it’s not a sales platform to funnel in a pitch for a particular product, service or concept that offers immediate financial return for the communicator. That is out and out selling and will be spotted from some distance by your audience of network members.

What it should be – open, honest and thought provoking communication that adds to the knowledge and understanding of your target audience. Of course there will be an unspoken understanding within your network that behind this altruistic sharing of intelligent analysis and opinion lies a commercial objective.

How do you capitalise by giving your best ideas away for free? – No one is suggesting that all of your best thinking needs to be shared openly however it’s a very cluttered and noisy world and the challenge is in how you may find a voice for yourself, colleagues and your business by positioning them as leaders in a particular field. The danger of holding back on a particular subject may leave a door open for a competitor to establish their viewpoint and be perceived as the new “go to” source of information.

Do you need to be an expert in all areas? – Of course you’re setting yourself up for a fall if you’re a self-proclaimed “Guru” and for me that’s the biggest turn off. The phrase is “Empty vessels make the most sound” and unfortunately there are no shortage of those. What can be refreshingly appealing to an audience is an industry commentator who admits that they don’t know it all. That openness and honesty builds trust with a network and an affinity that you won’t see from those who are clearly making it up as they go along.

How can this apply to my business? Whichever area you work in – legal, IT, manufacturing, organic farming, charity, education or public sector there are individuals who will be looking for answers, original thinking and leadership. Social networking platforms enable everyone with an internet connection and a suitable device to link to millions of data sources each day. Creating a space for you or your organisation by positioning it as a lead in the chosen specialist area will add value to the brand and over time ideally lead to an increase in the volume and quality of enquiries.

Is it all about the broadcast? What you say is of course very important but what you do is equally telling. If you receive a re-tweet or a G+ or comment it should always be offered the courtesy of a response. If you see someone else posting very good content, useful links or other material supportive of your sector don’t resist the opportunity to praise the contributor, even if it may be a competitor – it’s about positioning and taking a “big picture” view rather than scrapping things out in the trenches.

What should the message be? True thought leadership is sharp in focus and unique in its perspective. Not borrowed or paraphrased from others. It should follow a consistent line. If customer service in retail is your particular line of interest the messages conveyed need to retain a common theme leaving the audience in no doubt of your view and suggested course of action. That message should deliver insight and information that leaves the reader or viewer feeling that they have gained from the experience. Investing time in absorbing data online is very popular but won’t pay off for you if the content falls short or leaves the reader frustrated.

Who should you be directing your message to? This might sound obvious but it’s surprising how many, who are active on social networking sites, persist with an obsession with the numbers. How many you have in a network will play a minor role in your success especially if the network is largely made up of competitors, friends or random individuals who will add no value to your business. The audience needs to gain real value from the knowledge imparted and for an opportunity to impress and create impact an in depth understanding is essential. A detailed awareness of your network, their jobs, problems, aspirations and interests will help shape the message and provide a tailored communication that has far greater prospect of engagement.

Developing as a thought leader. Sitting back and expecting inspiration to flow will work in the short term, if you’re lucky, but not in the longer term. As with any other industry expert you can’t afford to sit still and ignore the developments that are happening all around you. Actively seek out available information from those who are influential and recognised sources, subscribe to trade press e-mail alerts, twitter accounts, join sector specific associations, work groups on LinkedIn, attend conferences and build a continually growing bank of information. From this source you can articulate your view and place your own organisation at the centre of that conversation.

What makes a good thought leader? Malcolm Gladwell uses the term Maven in his excellent book Tipping Point (recommended reading) and the (i)Wiki definition really puts it very well.
(i) A maven (also mavin) is a trusted expert in a particular field, who seeks to pass knowledge on to others. The word maven comes from Hebrew, via Yiddish and means one who understands, based on an accumulation of knowledge.
Those whom I would site as leading Mavens or thought leaders of note include, technology futurist and social media strategist Guy Kawasaki @GuyKawasaki, Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson @RichardBranson, and leading business strategists Rosabeth Kanter @RosabethKanter and Stephen Covey.

How do I start? A suggestion would be to think long and hard about the message you wish to convey, how your business wants to be positioned and who within the organisation could be sufficiently qualified to take the role of a thought leader. You may need to face the reality that you don’t have that particular skill but look to recruit for it. As you’ll fully appreciate it’s not a given that everyone can be a thought leader but if you have a passion for your business, access to strong communication skills and a connected network you can begin to build a presence and see where that journey takes you. Above all have a plan and be consistent.

Each industry or sector will have its own leading lights but that doesn’t preclude you from learning from their approach and finding your own voice and space to communicate.

If you would like further help with the development of a “thought leader” strategy in your organisation or have your own particular view we would be delighted to hear from you.

David Laud – Managing Partner i2i Business Solutions LLP
follow me on twitter @davidlaud

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Small Screen Invasion of the Social Media Minors

How many of us sit down on an evening to watch TV and look around to see children or partners face down in their smartphone, tablet or laptop?

Smartphone chain

Not an uncommon experience these days but what is it doing to our family life?

Family lawyers often hear of distressing stories where an ex uses the children to spy on the previous partner by using “Skype” or “facetime” technology. These communication tools are useful when used to keep in touch with loved ones but take on a whole new sinister meaning in the hands of someone with an ulterior motive.

What cases such as this also highlight is the danger of these tools in the hands of those who are not so worldly wise.

In a recent discussion on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour I was posed hypothetical questions raised by their listeners as genuine “real life” examples of social media intrusion.

1. How I would respond to accusations of being an alcoholic by a friend of my daughter who’d heard we were having a wine fridge installed and posted the comment on her very popular Facebook page?

2. In another scenario how would I deal with a son or daughter who posted embarrassing video of me on YouTube celebrating a Barbarians rugby victory over Australia?

These are two real examples experienced by radio 4 listeners and there are hundreds more like this.  I’m sure we can all point to at least one “awkward” social media experience.

The answer is to set clear ground rules. Not just for the children but the whole family. If mum or dad post inappropriate photos on facebook or instagram it is highly likely the kids will see this as license to behave as badly on their own accounts. Trust and respect for personal privacy is at the heart of good social media etiquette.

The issue of privacy has raised its head a few times in the house of Laud’s – that’s when an embarrassing shot of one of the family appears on instagram or Facebook.  In our home we can face fines of up to £5 if a mugshot or video clip appears on a social networking site without permission.  It works, as I found out to my cost.  My youngest daughter fined me £45 for 9 counts of posting without permission following my “proud dad” uploads from a holiday in Spain.  She was quite within her rights as I had overlooked the very important need to obtain the OK of the subject in the shot.  To be honest I think she was a little surprised her protestations proved successful but we can’t afford to be hypocritical with our children and we need to put our hands up and admit our mistakes.  As a result everyone in the family is now acutely aware of the implications and treads very carefully around the issue ensuring awareness and consent when agreeing to upload or be tagged in a photo online.

After a rather slow start schools have made great strides to understand and manage pupil engagement with handheld technology and the growing number of social media platforms. Primary schools quite rightly banning phones during the school day, introducing their own social sites for after school activities and secondary schools introducing best practice guidance and building it into the curriculum. The fear unfortunately remains that when the children are in the wifi home environment their parents just don’t know what their children are doing online and who they are talking to.

For the 14-18 year old generation we are mostly playing “catch up” as the genie is well and truly out of the bottle. This generation has grown up with social networking sites and have a knowledge and understanding far beyond most parents teachers and so called “experts”.  It then becomes an ever harder task to persuade them of the dangers of posting too many “selfies” or drunken escapades and more importantly be made aware of the more malicious intent of predator posters and followers?

Recent Advertising Standards Authority research highlighted the scale of the problem of children lying about their age on social networks. It identified 42% of respondents as being younger than the 18 year old they were attempting to be.  It’s also a worry to note that many parents are either unaware or consider it unimportant that their pre-teen child is on Facebook when the sites permitted entry age is 13, they therefore have created false profiles to obtain an account.

New image based social sites are also a concern.  Vine and Snapchat are 2 that offer time limited posts.  Despite the belief that many posts are transient, specifically Snapchats selling point, that messages are wiped away in an instant, we know that is just not the case. The web has a long and unforgiving memory and for the sake of future careers and relationships the sooner we understand the risks the better.

Of course social media sites offer great opportunities to share and make friends and these are clear positive aspects. It’s true that I have my own children to thank for my interest in social media. A parents curiosity that became a large part of my life.  Unfortunately the risks are real and we need to protect and educate against exposure to self-made stupidity, inappropriate content and individuals.

Understanding how to make social networking safe has become an essential skill for parents, teachers, managers and business owners and we owe it to ourselves to improve our collective knowledge.

If you are concerned and want help managing social media related issues at work or at home please drop us a line, we’d be happy to help.

David Laud david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk

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Teenagers, Smartphones, Relationships & Privacy – David Laud on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour

bbc-radio-4

i2i’s Managing Partner, David Laud, recently contributed to a discussion on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour concerning the increased use of technology in the home and its impact on family privacy.

Click the link below to hear the clip

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01b9r54

This brief discussion covers a growing domestic problem and highlights the need for parents to stay up to speed with social media platforms and the exchanges children are having.

David is interviewed by Radio 4’s Jenni Murray and joined by Ruth James who runs a blog to help parents with teenage children. http://survivingteenagers.co.uk/author/survivingteens/

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The Trouble with Twitter

Working as I do with professional firms I’m often asked or challenged on the true effectiveness of twitter and other social media platforms. For the purpose of this blog I’ll focus on twitter as it is the most frequently quoted cause of confusion, frustration and anxiety.

twitter

Yes, I did mention anxiety. Managing partners, Managing Directors, VP’s & CEO’s are more than aware of the phenomenon that is twitter but few can put their finger on what it is doing for their business.

In the beginning it seemed simple. Create an account, charge the marketing team with tweeting about the wonderful services on offer and sit back and wait for the results. And wait they did, the wind whistling through the trees whilst tweeters tweeted in an increasingly desperate fashion hoping upon hope that someone would tweet back.

Aware of competitor firms growing large follower networks and seemingly becoming the popular point of contact the business owners call the marketing team to account. “Where’s our ROI?” “Show me a spreadsheet of time and cost vs return.” “Why do Bloggs & Co. have five times the followers of our account?”

In a panic and under pressure the marketers fail to deliver the key financial justification for continuation and are forced to concede defeat.

Ok, perhaps an extreme example but the story will have a ring of truth for many. The demand for results, analysis and business owner frustration that the firm is failing to match others or capitalise on this new medium is a very common experience.

What is the answer? It’s not as simplistic as suggesting that having an account and sending the occasional tweet will eventually deliver results but time is a factor and it takes more than you might think to build a truly effective twitter channel.

Here are a few suggestions for those grappling with twitter and losing the fight;

  • Revisit the plan (or if not already created draft one) focus on what you want to achieve and keep the objectives modest.
  • Think about the membership of your network, who do you want – followers with special interests, local to your office, commercial, personal or both. Search for your targets and start following them.
  • Consider targets for follower count (you want to aim for 500+ if you’re a medium sized regional firm). Set a target for the number of re-tweets of your content and measure its reach.
  • One example of measurement – aim to achieve a Klout score of 30+ within 12 months. (see Klout.com)
  • Create content such as regular blogs that feature key individuals and services. Make this regular and not too heavy – 400-500 words is enough.
  • Don’t delegate the generation of your tweets or blog content outside of the business or to anyone not qualified to comment effectively on behalf of the firm. Your network will soon realise if you do have a 3rd party or unqualified communicator and it can hamper responsiveness.
  • Profile, use a photo, ideally of a real person in the business – people follow and interact with people.
  • Ensure the profile copy is clear and impactful with a hint of personality.
  • Make sure you visit the account at least twice a day and check the timeline for contributions from your network. Re-tweet frequently when you see good links, tweets.
  • Don’t make your tweets all about work, consider the interests of your network and show off your personality…be careful to avoid controversy and making or supporting offensive messages.
  • Manage your network as its grows through using lists to segment specific groups.
  • Feed back to the business owners on a regular basis, be proactive and keep them informed as to network growth and interactions.
  • Get creative, build in special offers, competitions, quizzes and above all have fun with it.

Managing the expectations of the management team and business owners is all important. It can be hard trying to convince an analytical driven leader that they need to invest resource in something that can be quite so hard to quantify. As a marketer I fall into the camp of wanting to measure marketing activity and in all circumstances you should strive to analyse the impact of your efforts. Twitter apps are available to measure any number of actions but don’t get lost in analysis. Keep the focus on the big picture of building the business brand and connecting with your network.

Traffic visiting your website through tweeted links will be one clear indication of reach as will comments or feedback from network members.

As I’ve referred to before by way of analogy, twitter is very much like a broadcast channel. Decide on your audience the type of output you want to produce and the viewing figures you’d like to generate. Remember very few of us would want to tune in to a channel that is 100% or even 50% advertising so keep the balance fresh and entertaining.

If you would like more specific help with developing your social media strategy or simply making your existing activities more effective please drop me a line.

David Laud – i2i Business Solutions LLP e-mail david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk

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A Question of Quality, Quantity, Quill-pushers, Quarrels and Quakes

Managing a Law Firm in Uncertain Times

My year has so far been a flurry of activity – clients seeking new initiatives to stave off the competition and the search for a bright torch to show the path through the darkness. The darkness cast over the legal profession impacting on a managing partner’s vision has been caused by a multitude of concerns;

• The regular announcements of new, SRA approved, dynamic alternative business structures (ABS’s).
• The spread of ineffectual but tempting branded “legal networks” seeing an opportunity to build a business on the fear of failure and their belief of strength in numbers.
• Government changes to Legal Aid removing such client support for key practice areas including Family.
• Further legislative changes to reduce Personal Injury fees via the Jackson Reforms.
• Changes to employment legislation and general job loss fears reducing the number of employment law matters.
• The property and construction markets flatlining.
• The Ministry of Justice removing claims referral companies as a source of new Personal Injury work.
• The regulatory body for firms in England & Wales – the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and their insistence on adding layers of bureaucracy through two new compliance officer roles.

And of course the ever present need to find enough fee income to pay for Practising Certificates and Professional Indemnity Insurance.

Add to this the pressure to invest in technology, talent and training and you have a series of seismic events that for many are leading to nasty rumbles if not catastrophic quakes within partnerships throughout the UK.

On the upside there are significant opportunities for law firms across most areas of the practice spectrum. Those opportunities are not in the same shape, colour and size as before. Clients are far more comfortable and capable accessing information online before deciding on contacting a lawyer. Clients now come pre-packed with knowledge and a revised expectation of what value your service is to them.

They also select their law firm or lawyer on criteria that has evolved to include recommendations but often accepting them from comments posted on web forums and increasingly social media. Twitter is now far more likely to be used to find an answer that will be acted upon than Google as responses are provided by a trusted network.

Firms that believe clients will still flood in because of their “long standing reputation”, “location”, “profile of senior partners” will find themselves falling further behind as competition increases. This will be ever more apparent in firms who have failed to implement Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions to enable a meaningful ongoing interaction with existing clients.

Well that’s a bright and cheery view. I make no apology; it is the reality of managing a modern law firm in 2013. To be successful, a legal practice like any other business needs to grow through innovation; understanding of customer needs, a clearly articulated vision and quality execution of service.

After 5+ years of recession we can be excused for feeling tired, battered and lacking that vital spark to revitalise the business but now is the time to do it.

If any of the points above are a current concern to your business and you would like to discuss please email in confidence to david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk or call 08456 446624 to arrange an initial meeting.

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Read All About It! – The Effective Way to Keep in Touch With Your Customers

We all know it’s logical to keep in regular contact with our customers; it’s so much easier to cross sell services and products to an existing customer than generate a new one and sell to them, but how many of us actually do it effectively?

There’s an argument to support “less is more” with customer communication certainly when the reaction to direct mail, e-mail, texts or tweets can generate more negative than positive feedback when poorly executed.

Recent examples of this poor execution – the bombardment of literature from supermarkets to purchase their credit card, one reason not to use their loyalty card. Another, the apparent lack of geographic understanding from a major motor brand who are trying to connect me to their showroom over 200 miles away when they have an outlet in my town. An example of competing branches of the same business. That’s postal junk but worse than that these days is the over abundance of junk e-mail. Bad enough when spammers pepper your in-box with unwanted, unfocussed annoyances but it’s somehow ten times worse when a company you have a connection with abuse that relationship by overdoing the selling and ignore your unsubscribe requests.

Even if you’ve blocked unsolicited calls to your home companies believe they have the right to call you up at weekends and sell you anything from insurance to charitable donations and don’t act upon your requests for them to stop.

Turning back to the process and our responsibility – our job as marketers is to think about the customer experience, appreciate the multiude of messages they receive each day and not try and battle for airtime, eyeballs or ears in a clumsy manner more likely to turn them off rather than on to our offering.

We do need to work at a communication strategy that resonates with our customers, understands their position and speaks directly to them. This strategy and its implementation will take time, consideration and no little effort on our part but is absolutely worth it.

An oft touted stat says that it costs six times more to win a new customer than to sell on to a past or existing customer. That may have some truth, specifics will depend on the sector you’re in but it is an over simplification that can overlook damage that may be done just lumping out messages without a plan.

Certainly the opportunity exists but is dependent on a series of very important factors:

1. For the best possible chance to have a successful customer campaign you need to have in place a carefully thought through communication strategy and plan with specific objectives.
2. A detailed database of customers who’ve granted permission for you to continue to communicate.
3. An ability to create tailored communications to each customer. Nothing worse than a “Dear Sir or Madam” letter, you’re supposed to know them.
4. Systems that track the effectiveness of communications, email, social media post or in person to ensure action can be taken when you receive positive or potentially negative responses.
5. The creation of content which is ideally suited to the needs of the target customer i.e. newsletter sharing tips on entertaining and educating children for families where there are young children or an offer of a discount at your restaurant for those celebrating a special occasion having a note of customers date of birth or anniversary and referring to it in the communication.
6. Keep up to date i.e. systems to capture and improve data on customers to include their social media account details.

Having been successful in acquiring a customer we shouldn’t assume that they will buy everything we have to offer or even come back as a repeat purchaser of the same product or service.

The most important tip is to be original and focussed on the customer. If offering a discount make it meaningful, if giving advice make it relevant to their circumstances.

If you would like to discuss how to create an effective communication strategy for your customers drop me a line at david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk or Click Here

David Laud – i2i Business Solutions LLP