Posts Tagged: Cell Phones

The Importance Of Flexible Strategy

It’s easy in social media to find people talking about all of their clients who are doing well. It’s a bit more rare to find people talking about their clients when they struggle. To assume that you won’t struggle with implementation of your strategy in a social media campaign is a huge mistake, however.

I’m fortunate in that I won’t take a client who is not enthusiastic about integrating social media into their existing marketing plan. For someone to try and engage halfheartedly is a waste of everyone’s time and effort, and has a negative effect on the measure of both monetary ROI and interest based ROI. Even so, some clients still struggle. There are several factors that may cause this struggle, and it’s important to have a social media strategy that is flexible enough to address potential problems and adjust to fit the client as you go forward.

Problem 1: The Learning Curve

I know – for those of us who live and breath social media, the learning curve problem seems like a moot point. To us, it’s easy. Remember, though, that your client most likely won’t find it as easy as you do. Make sure you address the learning curve thoroughly from day one. In this case, thoroughly researching your client’s habits and the habits of the person or people who will be manning the campaign is essential.

By having a firm grasp of how your client prefers to get and give information outside of social media, and how they interact with customers, staff, friends and family, you can help them pick better tools. When things have a high learning curve or require being added to an already busy day, choosing the right tools will make a huge difference in how happy the client is with the additional time they will be spending incorporating social media into a campaign.

Example: A busy CEO needs mobile tools. A person who spends most of the day at a desk may prefer desktop applications. People who don’t like to write and who might not keep up with a blog might do better with an audio or video tool, or a combination. Someone on the floor at a service business might have a lot of fun with “interview” style tools like Qik for generating content and getting real time comments. Every client will have a different need to match their habits and passions. In some cases, you may need multiple and different tools for multiple people manning a campaign.

Problem 2: The Intimidation Factor

I see this most often. A client, enthusiastic about social media and raring to go, suddenly realizes the reality of having the internet paying attention to their words, photos or other content. This can create instant “writer’s block” as they become frozen like a deer in headlights. They worry they won’t say the right thing, even as you tell them that there is no “right” thing, it isn’t a test. They worry that they’ll talk and talk and talk and no one will answer back. They worry about legal issues, privacy, being liked, and more. The first week of a social media campaign often makes people feel like the first day of school, or getting picked last in gym.

It’s vital that you recognize this and help your client through it. Take a case in point, the client of mine who inspired this post today. Rick’s Restaurants is a NH business run by a nice family. They serve good food, they have loyal staff and loyal customers, but they need to draw in more business since the two restaurants are located in a bedroom community without a large shopping center or other tourist draw that only has about 5000 or so people living there. That number of people in a community can’t sustain a business. It’s vital that Rick’s Restaurants become a destination for more people in neighboring towns and people passing through.

They decided that social media in addition to their existing radio campaign would be helpful. We got them set up on a variety of networks after determining where their existing customers were and where they could reach new customers. The people manning the campaign are enthusiastic, but think they have nothing to say! Keep in mind, people want to see them on social media – their first week out they got a Twitter based reservation for a group of 36 people on a Saturday night at their Grille location on Main St, and since then have gotten several chef’s table bookings from it as well, so this is an intimidation problem they are having in spite of seeing measurable financial results, quickly.

We’ve been trying a variety of solutions behind the scenes for them, and I think that today we may have found a keeper. Going with the family feeling of Rick’s Pond View and Rick’s Cafe and Grille, we’re bringing Rick’s actual family on board to help. They have NO trouble talking about their son and brother and his restaurant and all of their friends who are regulars there. They want the Rick’s family to grow, because to them the customers are all part their family too. So after bringing them up to speed later today, you’ll see that Rick’s accounts are being manned by Rick (chef/owner) himself periodically, with help from Kim Boetti (his manager), Katie Hayes (bartender) and his parents, George and Joyce. I’m excited, and they are so happy to be involved. You’ll see them posting to the FaceBook Fan Page and Twitter to start, then we’ll bring them into the other social networks gradually once they get used to the extra time commitment (they have a company of their own that they run, after all).

Problem 3: Time, Time Time

Did you give your client an accurate picture of the time required to maintain a presence and listen and engage in social media? Did you take the time to go above and beyond simple training to help them make a schedule and learn to fit it into their day? Have you helped them create a good system so that they don’t feel like they are drowning in notifications, updates and reports? If the answer is no to any of those questions you did your client a disservice. If the answer is yes, and your client still struggles with time management, take your mentoring up a notch and help them review and revise their interaction so they don’t feel so overwhelmed by it all, so chained to their social tools. Maybe they need to implement a system like GTD. Maybe they need to delegate some tasks. Make it a point to find a way to help them be more efficient.

Problem 4: Changing Tools

Sometimes, a client finds a tool they like and use well, and the tool changes (or, as is often the case in social media, disappears altogether). This is out of their control, of course, but is something you can plan for in advance as their strategist. Always have a back up plan! If your client embraces a service like Utterli or Qik as a tool for content generation, for example, make sure you set them up on a similar tool from the beginning. Explain why.

A good company owner is going to embrace the idea of having a back up plan or insurance against problems out of their control. If the service lets your client back up the content they generate, do it! If not, perhaps reevaluate it until it does. An example here is Disqus. I didn’t recommend it to my clients as a comment tool for a long time – I was waiting for it to offer better options for backing up comments in the event of down time. Now that it offers better import and export tools for insurance, I can recommend this powerful comment service with confidence, AND teach my clients ho to back up their system regularly as part of their social media and online maintenance.

•••

What have your clients struggled with? I’m fortunate to have had many successes and happy clients since I started doing this, but I embrace the few that struggle also. Those are the ones that teach me the most about being ever better at this job I love so much. Never stop learning.

CEO On The Go: Mobile Office Toolbox

It’s time to open the tool box again, and talk about tools for solopreneurs, entrepreneurs and business owners or CEOs who are always on the go. We discussed before that a good tool kit for managing social media is essential, but your business is about more than just engaging online. If you are like me, you find yourself needing to work or manage the office on the go.

Some of the tools I use to manage my business are tools I also use to manage and monitor my social media and online life as well. You’ll see those on both the “social media toolbox” list and the “CEO on the go toolbox” list. Also, it’s notable that several of the tools on both lists have had significant upgrades in recent months that make them even more integrated, collaborative with other tools, and useful.

As a refresher, my social media toolbox post highlighted: Evernote, Shareaholic (FireFox, Safari), Ping.fm, Ubiquity/FireFox, TweetDeck, TextExpander, Quicksilver, Google stuff, my HTC Mogul PDA and my MacBook. Expect an updated post on my social media tools to drop here or elsewhere soon, as some of those have been adjusted with passing time. You’ll notice that Evernote makes an appearance on both lists, and with good reason – the company introduced some nice on-the-go integrations recently.

So how do I run my business on the fly? It’s important for me to have as much data as possible accessible from anywhere. This means that I use a lot of web based solutions. Until they make a 1TB USB Flash thumb drive (and consider this an official “would someone PLEASE make one?” request), I can’t fit all of my data into any lightweight portable form to take with me. If you are a CEO with a MacBook Air or a netbook, this is doubly true for you – you have even less storage and need computing from the cloud solutions even more.

Equipment

My most essential tools are my MacBook and my HTC Mogul PDA. All of the tools I use for my business are accessible at least in basic form from both (some of the mobile sites leave something to be desired, but I find this true of many mobile sites). Along with that, I carry the chargers with me, which takes up valuable space in my League of Awesomeness laptop bag. Since power is key and cords are bulky, I am researching adding one of these to my arsenal. I also keep my iPod on me with a backup of my presentations, in case something horrible happens to the laptop – color me paranoid, but you never know.

Services

Evernote

Yes, Evernote is on both lists. It is a powerful, flexible way to annotate and track your life and business. I talked about the desktop and web plug in features in the last post. What makes it even more effective are the way it integrates these features into your mobile life. Evernote on my phone lets me keep track of anything I’m doing. I can handwrite a note using Ink Note; I can record a meeting, sing a song I’m writing, speak a poem or story idea I have or give myself a quick voice reminder using Audio Note; I can take a picture of anything and record it with the Photo Note feature; I can even send myself files and text notes. Evernote upped the game recently for this heavy Twitter user by allowing me to link my Twitter account to my Evernote account. By then following @myEV on Twitter, I can DM myself notes and reminders and links to add to my Evernote storage as well. With tagged search and other features, all of my notes are easy to find and ready for me to come back to the next time I load up the desktop app or go to the web site. I can even share the notes with people working on a project with me.

Freshbooks

I can not say enough nice things about FreshBooks. They recently won a Webware 100 award, and with good reason. This accounting solution is lightweight, easy to learn, easy to use and flexible enough to incorporate several other on-the-go tools to make it easier to track time, expenses, calls and more. I love that I can create estimates and invoices for my clients that include action items, allowing them to link to the live estimate or invoice and make change requests, accept the terms, pay online and more. It’s very convenient on both sides. Not only that, the customer who has an ongoing project can log in and track time spent on their project, see progress reports and more. It handles staff that work for you as well as clients, and now it is going social – allowing freelancers and subcontractors to link to projects as well, creating a network of people I work and collaborate with. I use this every day, either via the web client, the time tracking widget for my MacBook, my phone (using other services to text in time tracked, expense, or calls made) and more. An ideal accounting solution for the small to medium business that integrates with applications like Xpenser, SkyDeck, etc and exports compatible file types to other accounting software as well.

Xpenser

This little tool let’s me send a tweet, an email, an IM or an SMS from my phone to track expenses. It tracks mileage, meals, time on a project, and more. All you have to do is link it to FreshBooks using the FreshBooks API and it sends all of these expenses to FreshBooks to be associated with a client and project. It also offers a full slate of reports and other features to make it a good stand alone solution for export to desktop accounting programs.

SkyDeck

Another tool that integrates with FreshBooks, allowing me to sync my calls from my cell phone into my FreshBooks account and associate them with a client or project for billing time. It also has some pretty nifty other features, like being able to make a text or call right from the application, see who you call most, get reports to your email on your cell phone usage and even get nudged if you used to talk to someone and don’t call them as much anymore. There is a social aspect to SkyDeck, as it lets you connect with your friends who also use it, a nice touch.

Kall8

The Magnitude Media 800 number is run through a company called Kall8. It costs very little money to run the line, and comes with some nice features. A favorite is call block per number – you can log into the web site and block a number if you get put on a fax machine auto dial list or a telemarketer gets around the National DNC list somehow. This is very handy. Since it is web based, you can forward your calls anywhere you are, receive web based faxes (and send them), get voicemail and more.

YouMail

You may be thinking I spend a lot of time using call management solutions. I do. The less time I spend on the phone, the more work I get done, so I have several options for filtering calls. In addition to Kall8, I use YouMail. YouMail gives me the Caller ID of every caller, shows me when a friend is calling, but most importantly for this woman who hates to waste time checking voice mail, it transcribes my voice mail to text messages for me. Fantastic feature, and a total time saver.

PockeTwit

This Twitter client from Google Code is wonderful. It gives you an attractive, iPhone-like Twitter experience complete with avatars and a full feature set (as well as interacting with other services, like identi.ca, etc) for your WinMo Touch phone. The fact that I can use features like favorite, retweet and more while on the go is invaluable for me, as a heavy Twitter user.

QIK

This live streaming video solution for my phone lets me grab events and interviews on the fly and share them immediately without needing a ton of expensive equipment.

Contxts

Contxts give you Paperless Business Cards. Text geechee_girl to short code 50500 and you’ll see what I mean and why these are so handy.

Google Docs

I use Google Docs instead of Microsoft Office when traveling, as it lets me access my work from anywhere. At the home office I use iWork instead of Office, which imports and exports Google and Microsoft compatible formats.

Small Notepad and a Pen

Trust me, even with a phone and laptop on you, there will always be an occasion to use the old fashioned pen and paper when you are traveling. Your IMAP Gmail may hang up or fail, you may need to write notes larger than a business card back, your battery may run out of juice – stuff happens. Be prepared.

And there you have it, the tools that let me run two businesses, plan events like SMBNH and PodCamp NH, advise companies and write for my freelance writing clients while I’m on the go. What’s in your toolbox for business or for social media?


Disclosure: some links in this blog will be affiliate links

Why Limit Yourself to a Computer?

Often times, we think that being socially connected means fingers on a full keyboard, seated at a chair, staring into a display.  That assumes, of course, we’re talking about socially connected in the internet sense.  The fact of the matter is that being socially connected doesn’t mean you’re locked into a chair at home.  You can very easily mix your in-person social life with your web social presence at the movies, the pub, your favorite restaurant, or the ball park.

Of course, you’re now curious what I’m referring to.  Social media is starting to find a home on mobile devices so you don’t have to stress about staying connected at your home machine 24/7.  If you’re the kind of person who loves taking pictures with a mobile phone, many mobile social networks will allow you to upload photos to an entire mobile social community dedicated to sharing different media content.  If staying connected to a plethora of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and others is more your flavor, there are quite a few newly-emerging platforms that aggregate all of your most important social activity right on your cell phone.

That, friends, means freedom — freedom from the confines of your home office, freedom to live your life as you want and still stay in contact with your social communities.  With smartphones, touchscreen handsets and very affordable standard handsets being compatible with these mobile social platforms, answer me this:  why are you still sitting at your computer toiling over each and every update your friends send you on all your different platforms when you could be out?  Instead of answering me, go out and go mobile!