Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Why I blog. (And why you should, too.)   2 comments

BloggingI spent more than a year with the avid desire to start a blog, but many things stopped me (raise your hand if you have the same challenges):

  • Not enough time to dedicate to doing it right
  • Not sure of the topic (What new thing could I possibly have to say about my areas of expertise, marketing/communication/social media/business?)
  • Not enough time
  • Fear of being judged
  • Not enough time

Finally, a conversation with the lovely and intelligent Michele Dortch with Write to Incite inspired me to get started with SOMETHING. Essentially she told me that you just have to jump in and make it happen. So I made the commitment to do it no matter what. Now, what to write about?

I started researching topics and seeing what other people had run into the same challenges and concerns. So I Googled. And found this excellent post from Patrick Garmoe at PureDriven. Patrick was kind enough to give me his thoughts on writing about a common topic like marketing and I continue to be grateful for that. The comment that inspired me the most was this: “people buy from certain places because they like and trust the store staff, not because they can’t get the advice or items elsewhere.” It told me that I don’t have to be the first to say something, but if I’m bringing value to my readers (all three of you–hi, Mom!) through a unique perspective, then that’s what’s important. So I jumped in.

I’ve found that this blog is as much a creative outlet for me as anything. It’s also a way for me to take control of my online reputation. So far I’m just writing about whatever topic strikes my fancy in the broad marketing/social media space. I haven’t yet settled on what I hope to achieve with this blog, but I’ll get there. You don’t have to have all the answers when you start.

I’m also not doing this to get paid through ad sponsorships or to support a solo practice so I’m not worried about optimizing it for search engines just to drive traffic. While that kind of thing can be very helpful depending on your goals, like most things it takes time to do properly, especially on a new blog, and with a full-time job, a toddler, and some semblance of a life there’s only so much I can do. SEO is not a priority.

However, I do enjoy connecting with people and hearing their thoughts, which is why I decided on a blog format instead of an online journal or simply typing up a Word doc. I’m human, I have an ego, and I want to talk about things I am passionate about with people who are passionate about those same things. It helps if you enjoy developing relationships.

I am working to stay disciplined enough to post one solid article every Wednesday morning (which is why I have been at a laptop at 11pm each of the last several Tuesdays) because without a routine this blog would quickly lapse into nothingness. Sticking to a schedule is key.

I tell  you all of this because if you’ve been thinking about it and want to do it, now is the time. I don’t care what excuses you have. They are not acceptable. Just dive in and start writing, even a brief one hundred words at a time. You won’t hit a home run every time, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing at all. If you’re doing it just for the attention, there are easier ways to get that. Blog because you want to and will enjoy it regardless of the response.

Image credit: Search Engine People Blog via Flickr

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SEO–With A Human Touch   Leave a comment

Magnifying glass searchSearch engine optimization (SEO) is a tricky thing to say the least. Obviously you want your website/blog/Facebook page/fill-in-the-blank to be found by as many people who are searching for your content as possible. (I say “searching for your content” because just having as many visitors as possible isn’t important if those people weren’t looking for what you’re offering.) And there are many very legitimate and helpful ways of making your content as findable as possible. Putting the main keywords from your content in meta-tags is one way. Linking to your own webpages from your other webpages is another. For the truly technical the list can go on and on. However, it’s important not to lose site of the point of doing all this: you want to connect with the people who are interested in what you have to offer and–let’s be honest here–sell them your wares. And SEO isn’t necessarily a panacea for accomplishing this.

I was reminded of this recently when discussing microsites with a respected colleague trained in SEO. We had the common goal of making this microsite as effective as possible for the office we were building it for. This office is in a location that neither of us knew much about so we were reliant on the associates in the office to provide the details about their customers and what those customers needed. My colleague was very concerned about the title we were giving the site because her SEO statistics were showing that those weren’t the right keywords to use. According to her data the people in that area were using other terms when searching for an office in that area.

After discussing the issue with that office I came to realize something. The main use of their microsite wasn’t to attract new customers–it was to service their existing ones. This is a somewhat rural area and the majority of their web visitors find them because our associates told them about the site and showed them how to conduct business on the site. New customers finding them from an Internet search were rare. That’s not to say we should have ignored the data and we didn’t. But if we had relied solely on the data we would have turned off a number of their existing customers because the focus of the site and the verbiage used would have shifted and the office would have appeared to be ignoring regional concerns in favor of corporate ones.

All of this just provides a cautionary tale. When you’re neck-deep in data, trying to make sense of it all and use the information to create strategies, don’t forget to pick your head up and talk to the people you are trying to service. You always want a complete picture of what you are trying to accomplish and that should include a human side. There is most definitely a proper way to use SEO to reach your target audience, but it is only one more tool in your belt when it comes to building relationships and accomplishing your ultimate goal: making the sale.

Image: Jeffrey Beall via Flickr

Posted June 1, 2011 by Lindsay N. Ball in Business, Internet, Marketing

Want to generate buzz? Get your employees buzzing.   Leave a comment

What’s better than having someone talk about your company online? What about having lots of someones talk about your company online? “Ummm…yeah. Isn’t that the whole point of social media? To get people talking about your company online?” Well, yes. But I’m talking about something else. Something more intrinsic. Imagine if those people knew your company inside and out and were promoting your company just by being them. I’m talking about your EMPLOYEES!

Bee

“But I don’t want all of my people tweeting or giving their views to the world. I don’t always like what they say.” If you think most of your employees aren’t already using social media in some way then I’d like you to pull your head out of the sand. Wouldn’t it be better to corral that activity into productive efforts for the benefit of the company? Not everyone is going to be interested. But for those who are, why not channel that passion and drive into something beneficial.

In my last post I illustrated how important it is to take control of your reputation through participation in social media. While it’s important to have at least one person coordinating those efforts, there’s only so much one person can do. Amplify those efforts by educating your employees and sending them out into the online world on the company’s behalf. There are two aspects to this education: education on the company’s social media policy and education on best practices for using social media.

“What do you mean, ‘social media policy?'” Oh, you don’t have one? Never fear! As you are not the first and certainly not the last company to go through these growing pains there are plenty of resources out there to help you. First, think of it less as a “policy” and more like “guidelines” (think of the pirates’ code in “Pirates of the Caribbean”). You want to direct, not dictate. With that in mind, here is a repository of sample guidelines. IBM, Dell and Intuit are three companies that stand out as leaders in this field. And don’t forget these “10 Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy.” Mariam Cook provides additional excellent resources and examples in this post.

So you have your policy…ahem…GUIDELINES. Think a company memo with the document attached is sufficient training? Not so fast. Hopefully you got input from your team as you were creating these guidelines so they are not news to anyone. Within reason this document should be discussed with managers so that they understand the why (if not the how). The document should be emailed out by you or a superior, possibly even printed (gasp!), and live presentations or webinars should be given so that employees have the opportunity to ask questions. This document deserves a roll-out worthy of any communication plan.

The other side of education is training any newbies on what social media is, how to use the various tools effectively and what corporate presence (if any) your company has that they can get involved in. Many people are probably using social media to check out pics of the grandkids, but if they are interested you can help them take that interest a step further to become a brand ambassador. (If they’re not interested, leave them be. The only thing worse than no voice is a negative voice.) What does that training look like? That will have to be a post for another time!

The more people talking about your company, the better. If those people are upbeat, intelligent and know your company inside and out then your company is better for it. The buzz will come!

Image: Andy Hay via Flickr

Posted May 25, 2011 by Lindsay N. Ball in Branding, Business, Marketing, Social Media

Don’t let other people hijack your reputation   6 comments

In my last post I described a scenario in which unwitting employees, after checking into Foursquare during a weekend of debauchery, taint your company’s reputation by using Foursquare to check into work on Monday morning. This forever  links your company to all of their online activities (since we all know by now that nothing that is said online is ever entirely gone). Conversation

You have a right to be concerned–after all, you don’t want your company’s reputation to suffer. On the other hand you don’t want to have to implement (and enforce) draconian rules that will sap morale and perhaps cause defections. What’s a leader to do? You can relax. There are manageable things you can do to protect your company’s reputation.

Want to know the easiest way to protect your company’s reputation online? I alluded to it in the conclusion of my last post. Need a hint? Here’s the key statement: “In the absence of other social media activity, Foursquare updates can define your company online.” Still not sure? Okay, I’ll tell you:

The number one thing a person or a company can do to protect an online reputation is to PARTICIPATE IN SOCIAL MEDIA.

Other people can dictate your reputation in the absence of your own activity. But if you actively engage in social media and take control of your online reputation you will drown out or otherwise discredit negative publicity. Those random Foursquare updates disappear in a sea of updates if you are actively engaging in social media on any platform.

That’s not to say that you want to bombard people with constant, meaningless drivel (i.e. your latest press release). The idea is to build relationships so that those random tweets, when they are seen, are viewed in a larger context and, we hope, dismissed as the mindless rantings they are. Do you think Zappos worries about employee Foursquare check-ins? Unless it’s from a competitor’s office I daresay not. There  is so much else being said about and by them and they are so busy otherwise engaging customers in meaningful dialogue that a rogue tweet isn’t going to matter much.

If your reputation is not as established as a company’s like Zappos then it is even more important for you to begin the work of establishing your presence online. Whether you start tweeting, creating a Facebook page, writing a blog or joining forums, the point is to get started doing SOMETHING. Google loves fresh content so the more you’re talking the more you’re being found.

In future posts I’ll tackle other ways to help your company (like providing social media education to employees) and provide tips on establishing a social media program at your company (Hint: Don’t just leave it to the interns and part-timers!).

Photo from Search Engine People Blog via Flickr

The three faces of Lindsay   1 comment

Multiple personality disorderI have a secret. When I’m alone or at home, I sometimes…swear. That’s right, when left to my own devices, especially in my car, I let loose with an occasional f-bomb or other vulgar obscenity. Why am I telling you this? Because chances are you will never experience it firsthand. If you are someone I interact with professionally, you will be very hard-pressed to ever hear me utter such a word. I have a professional persona to live up to and that persona does not swear. And I think this is a necessary thing in the business world–and the online world.

Will the real Lindsay Ball please stand up?
Some people believe it is disingenuous to have personas. “You should be your true self all the time,” I’ve been told. But we all have multiple personalities. The “public” you vs. the “private” you. The you that your family sees, the you that your friends see, the you that your other friends see. I don’t think of it as not being “me” though. “Me” constitutes an entire range of emotions, likes, dislikes, and other distinctive personality traits. Different people and situations bring out different aspects of my personality. I listen to country music with some friends and Top 40 with others. I believe this helps me succeed.

Birth of a persona
While I might enjoy letting loose in my car, not all of my colleagues may appreciate this behavior. And so the business persona is born. It’s still me, but the traits that are most suitable for a business setting are highlighted and others are downplayed. I love my jeans and flip flops on the weekend, but that doesn’t mean I wear them to work. Same goes for the online world. Everything that I say online is my own true thought, but they are just snippets of the whole me, just one color out of the Crayon box.

I’ve also taken this concept a step further online. I have decided that, for me, LinkedIn is the online equivalent of office Lindsay. Twitter is happy hour Lindsay–still professional, but a bit more casual. Facebook is weekend Lindsay so I don’t use it for work. The challenge is when people begin to not like their own persona. That’s when it becomes fake and not a true representation of yourself. I am thankful this isn’t a problem for me, but I can sense when other people don’t believe or don’t like the front they’re putting on. It’s important that these other yous are still YOU. Being genuine is key.

The best “me” for the situation
Identifying who I am in different situations allows me to bring out the parts of my personality that are best suited for each of those situations. It means not cursing at the office. It means not pestering my LinkedIn contacts with drivel about my day that my Facebook friends are more willing to suffer through. That way the people who interact with me in each of those places know what to expect from me. In the workplace this helps me be seen as dependable.

So keep your work persona clean, but don’t be afraid to let loose with an F-bomb in the comfort and safety of your car. As long as you’re not carpooling.

Image Credit: Idol via Flickr

Welcome to the Rational Communicator!   3 comments

I was seven the first time I asked Santa for a computer. I know because my mother recently sent me the Christmas list she saved all these years. Not only that, but apparently I had been wanting one for “years” already. I saved up my allowance for months and bought a Nintendo when I was 10. Clearly technology has always been a fascination of mine. Combine that with the thousands of hours I’ve spent with my nose in a book and it now seems inevitable that I would one day have a blog.

Why a blog?
I often find myself with more thoughts rattling around in my head than I know what to do with. In particular, I find there are many things I want to say about marketing, communication, social media and business in general. So this is my outlet, a place to organize my thoughts (and get them out of my head!). If people find it useful, all the better!

Lindsay circa 1984

Lindsay circa 1984

Great, so who are you?
I’m finding that it’s much easier to write about business than it is to write about myself! In addition to being a Michael Jackson fan from an early age  (as evidenced by the photo at right), here are some basics about me that will flavor this blog. I am an in-betweener, a social mutt if you will, a mix of a number of disparate influences. For example:

  • I grew up in the South, went to college on the East Coast and now, thanks to a convoluted series of events, live on the West Coast.
  • Depending on whom you ask I am either a very young member of Generation X or one of the first members of Generation Y. I find that neither label suits me. I like to think I have good qualities from the stereotype of each generation, namely the inherent tech skills of my younger brethren and the pragmatism of my elder kin.
  • Despite having a prestigious business degree I took a non-traditional path after college. No consulting firms or investment banks for me! And yet somehow I’ve survived and then some.

I’m still listening. So why “rational” communicator?
I define a rational communicator not only as someone who thinks before they speak, but also someone who communicates with the recipient in mind. Through all of my experiences, my journeys, and my travels, the number one thing that fascinates me is communication, especially written communication. I love words and I see the power of effective communication. I also see and experience the havoc poor communication can wreak, especially in a business setting. My aim when communicating, particularly in the workplace, is to be understood by my audience.

Communication is a broad topic though so to narrow it down I’m throwing in a couple of my other favorite things: marketing and social media. If you’re up for joining me as I explore these topics from the perspective of an in-betweener striving to advance her career while attempting to maintain her sanity then I am glad to have you along. Please note that a healthy dose of dry humor will often be involved.

As a professional communicator I am always interested to hear other people’s thoughts and look forward to hearing yours.