Ramblings and Such

 

“I don’t think people know we’re open.”

Photo credit: sadiya

Last week, I made dinner plans for Monday. And then I had a hand-slap-forehead-moment when I realised that Monday can be a tricky night in a small town because a lot of places are closed.

I Googled the restaurant and found… nothing. I tried to locate them on Facebook, with no luck. I entered “restaurant name + hours” and came up empty-handed, although I did see results for other restaurants in the area who were closed on Monday. Then I found the restaurant’s phone number and decided to give them a call. The phone rang and rang and rang… and no one answered, not even an answering machine.

Finally, I decided to just go to the restaurant. After all, we could always figure out something else if it was closed.

I got there and the restaurant was open – pretty empty, but definitely serving food. I commented to our server that I was happy they were open and asked if it was always so quiet on a Monday. She said yes, always quiet, although she wondered why, as most other places were closed. And then she said, “I don’t think people know we’re open.”

So if your company is open for business, why don’t you make it easy for your clients and customers to actually do business with you? I’ll even give you my beginner’s 4-step plan:

1. Answer your phone. If you can’t, make sure you have some sort of voice mail system set up.

2. Have a website. Even if it just has your hours of operation, location address and contact information, that will be enough for people to find you online.

3. Set up a Google Places for Business profile (click here to get started). Add the same information as in number 2. After all, it’s Google, one of the most-used search-engines out there.

4. Start a Facebook page. Add the same information as on your website, and post an update once a month. The page will be accessible to Facebook users and will also show up in search results. Bonus points for setting up a vanity URL for your page.

Need help with these steps or know someone who could benefit from some coaching? You can always reach me at jen@jenuinemarketing.com or facebook.com/jenuinemarketing

And yes, Jenuine Marketing is open for business!


Chile wall

Be AMAZING. Give people something to talk about. And then help them to share your story.

Names are important. As parents, we agonize about this first crucial decision-making event – after all, you’re shaping the foundation of another human’s life. You pour over baby books, looking for hidden meanings, wondering if you should bestow courage or wisdom or gentleness…

So we all start life with a name that others have chosen for us. But then we age and grow and mature. And we realise that we have the power to shape our own destiny. Many of us grab hold of our name, moulding and shaping it to fit both our perception of ourselves, and also the perception that we would like to project to others. We use an abbreviated version, go by just initials, abandon out first names in favour of middle names or nicknames. And a few of us even go so far as to select a brand new name, legally embracing a new identity.

The same is true for our businesses. Some of us agonize over the initial name selection, polling our friends, family and clients. We look for hidden meaning in certain words and initials. Or perhaps we inherit the name, as part of a bigger organization.

And at a certain point, we all have a business name. And businesses go through an identity phase, just like people. We add taglines, drop words, change ‘and’ to an ampersand sign. A few of us will even change the name altogether.

But if we’re lucky, we will realise that we have the power to move past a name. If we work hard enough at being amazing, if we give others the opportunity to experience our amazingness and to share our story, then we stop letting names define us and start letting them represent all that is great about our business.

After all, what’s more important? That people remember that your business is called Bob and Son’s Hardware Store? Or that people remember that your store is the place where they can go for any product they could ever need, and also receive friendly, helpful customer service?

We spend lots of time and energy branding our business, choosing a stand-out logo, anything that will help keep our company’s name top-of-mind for our consumers and clients. But make sure you don’t let the name distract you from what is really important: Be amazing. Give people something to talk about. And then help them to share your story.

So the big move has happened; I have officially relocated from the West Coast to the East Coast. I’ve been fortunate enough to retain some of my Western clients, through the wonders of email and Skype. I’m loving being four hours ahead of my Western clients, since when I send them deliverables at 10 a.m., it’s only 6 a.m. for them!

There’s lots different here, including a lack of mountains, short trees, and the smell of the sea in the air. But there’s also friendly people and lots of small businesses. I’m looking forward to figuring out how to connect with people and how I can help them tell their wonderful stories!

Nova Scotia landscape

 

Twitter iconI usually advise about social media practices for companies. But the same advice can also be taken by individuals, especially if you would like to become more acquainted with the vast array of online networks before your own company embarks down the twisty, colourful world of social media.

My first recommendation is to start small. There are a mind-boggling number of social networks out there, from the common-place such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, to the lesser-known such as Athlinks, Elixio and LibraryThing. But don’t go out there and sign up for every network possible. Instead, start small with one or two. My recommendations for the top five to choose from are: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest. And when selecting a network to explore, put some thought into your choice. Does your company have a great Facebook page and you’d like to be able to contribute some content ideas? Are all of your friends more up-to-date with what’s going on in the world because of their great Twitter network? Then all the more reason to get involved yourself.

The next step is to create your profile. Most social networks have a great FAQ section about how to get started, and when in doubt, there is a plethora of information to be found by a quick search engine query. A quick note: when entering your information, please use your real name and photo. A lot of people take issue with privacy these days. However, a quick Google search will probably result in more information about yourself than you thought existed online, especially if you are a director or C-level individual at a company, or if you are involved in non-for-profits. Your social media profile is an opportunity to display accurate information about yourself, and adjusting the social network’s privacy settings will ensure that only that information you wish to be public will actually be shared. As well, most social networks are indexed by the major search engines, so this is an opportunity to expand the content displayed in your own search results.

Believe it or not, most people get serious writer’s block when it comes to their first posting. Best to just get it over with and save the agony for something more important. How about, “This is my first post on [insert network name]”? Then, get to “listening” – use the network’s features to follow existing users and see what they post. It will give you ideas about what to share in the future. You can even group the users you follow based on particular topics, such as “Lists” in Twitter and “Interests” in Facebook, so that the content you are presented with is in-line with your own interests.

One of the biggest tools that I recommend to companies is a posting schedule. These can be quite involved, depending on the number of networks involved and the overall objectives. But on an individual basis, this can be as simple as slotting in time a few days a week to engage in social media. Put it in the calendar on your computer and on your phone, and spend a little time each week contributing and listening. Perhaps on Monday and Wednesday morning, you write a short post or share an interesting link or event. And on Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, you take ten minutes to review what has been happening online and respond to one or two people’s posts. And that is enough. Unless you find yourself wanting to interact more often, which can happen. Social media can be a surprisingly entertaining way to fill the time when waiting in line at the store, and can help keep you up-to-date with the latest happenings in your industry or city.

Finally, relax, give it time, and avoid social media burnout. Don’t post every day to LinkedIn for a week, get frustrated because no one is responding and then delete your profile. The key word in social media is “social” – and you need to allow time to develop online relationships, just like you do in real life. At the end of the day, having a grasp of the nuances of the social media world will enable you to contribute to your company’s online presence in a meaningful way. And before you know it, you will be starting sentences with, “This morning I read on Twitter…”

[Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of the Corporate Recruiters newsletter].

Brand

Your company probably has a great logo that took a lot of time and effort to come up with. But branding is so much more than just an amazing logo. It is the way that clients and customers perceive your company, each and every time an interaction occurs. It is the who, what, when, where, why and how as it pertains to your company’s internal and external communications.

Take a look at all of the interactions that potential clients and customers have with your company. Are they receiving a consistent image across all touch points?

 

 

Here are some common marketing pieces to assess in your brand consistency analysis:

  • Website
  • Company letterhead
  • Email signatures
  • Business cards
  • Social media profiles
  • Online and print ads
  • E-newsletter templates

Questions to ask yourself as you look at each piece of your marketing puzzle:

  • Is the correct logo being used? Is the size consistent?
  • Are the company colours being used? Are they overshadowed by any non-company colours?
  • Is the font type and size consistent?
  • If images are used, do they convey a similar look and feel?
  • Does marketing copy use the same “voice” throughout?

Once you have completed an analysis of the branding across your marketing pieces, the next step will be to create a branding document so that all future collateral is consistent.

LinkedIn iconToo often, as I am browsing through LinkedIn to find new connections, I see people I know but I hesitate when it comes to adding them as contacts. Why? Because their LinkedIn profile is so lacking that I feel like adding them would be a waste of time.

If you have a LinkedIn profile, you should at least complete the following info:

  • A profile picture. I mean, does this picture actually make you want to connect with someone?LinkedIn profile default picture
  • Your full first and last name. I understand the desire for privacy but chances are there is already lots of information about you out there on the internet (related: have you done a Google search of your full name lately?). LinkedIn is a professional social media site, and if you are going to be on it, you should use your full name so that people know who they are connecting with.
  • A list of your work experience. Seeing a profile that just lists one current occupation looks empty and incomplete. Take some time to list other positions you have held over the years.
  • Check in occasionally to accept invitations to connect, and to browse and add other people who you may know. If you only have 10 connections, it doesn’t look like you’ve made much of an effort.

For bonus points, consider adding these extras to your LinkedIn profile:

  • Your city and province / state. There are some instances where you may want your profile to say only the province or state (such as a real estate agent who wants to serve a broad area) but the majority of the time, it will help you connect with others if you are specific with your geographic area.
  • Descriptions of past jobs. Add some information about positions you’ve held and, if applicable, add a link to the companies’ LinkedIn profiles.
  • A summary. This section is the first major portion of your LinkedIn profile that people see, and it gives you a chance to express yourself however you like. You can talk about your accomplishments, skills, clarify your business offerings – it’s up to you. And if you’re stuck, look up other people’s profiles on LinkedIn for some inspiration.

Are you on LinkedIn? I invite you to connect with me at http://www.linkedin.com/in/jenhames

Don't misuse Twitter

Photo by JadeGordon

I love Twitter. I started using it back 2008 and in my opinion, Twitter is a great source of information about topics that interest me. It also keeps me entertained and up-to-date with what’s going on in my community, country and the world.

However, there are some Twitter pet peeves out there that annoy me and they come mostly from other users rather than Twitter itself.

The egg-head profile pic – when you first sign up for Twitter, you have the option to upload a profile picture from your computer. If you’re shy or have internet privacy issues, use a picture of your dog. Or a sunset. Or a tree. Just pick something; because when I see that I have a new follower who looks like an egg-head, I almost always choose to not follow them back. And if you don’t know how to upload an image, just Google it. There are oodles of how-to websites out there that will give you step-by-step instructions.

No bio information – similar to the egg-head profile pic, not filling out these sections is just plain annoying. Why am I going to follow you if I have no idea what you Tweet about? Sure, I can click and view your most recent Tweets. But that doesn’t always fill me in. So just take a minute out of your day to write something.

Polluting the Twitter feed – it drives me crazy when people or businesses post nothing all day long and then all of a sudden post twenty Tweets in a row. If you only have an hour a day to Tweet, then use a scheduling tool such as HootSuite or TweetDeck to spread your Tweets out over an extended period of time so that your Tweets can be enjoyed by others in moderation.

Continuing to use image tools like Instagram – I know Instagram has awesome image filters that make your photos look funky. I like it too – but I limit my sharing to Facebook. Why? Because when your Instagram Tweets show up in my Twitter feed, I can’t view the images anymore by clicking on the easy little “View photo” button. Instead, I have to click a link that takes me to another website and that’s just plain annoying because, let’s face it, I’m lazy. Yes, your photos still show up in my TweetDeck feed, so I’m not as angry about this one. But when I’m standing in line at the post office browsing through my Twitter feed, I would really like to be able to easily view your wonderful pictures.

Auto-posting your Facebook status updates – when you auto-post your Facebook updates, they are usually way over the 140 Twitter character limit. So they ended up being displayed as a truncated post with a link to the status update on your Facebook page. Firstly, similar to my beef with Instagram, using auto Facebook posts requires me to click a link and go to another website. I’m lazy, remember? Secondly, I’m using Twitter for a reason. So don’t send me to a different social media network – I’ll head over to Facebook when I’m good and ready, thank-you-very-much. And thirdly, why should I bother to follow you on both Twitter and Facebook if you’re just saying the exact same thing on both networks?

Saying the exact same thing over and over – if you post the same message in duplicate, especially if it has a link, you just look spammy. And who actually likes spam? So switch it up: think of different ways to describe your link and sandwich it in between other non-link posts.

So there you have it, my top Twitter pet-peeves.
Do you agree? Have any of your own to share? Let me know in the comments.

Webinars – photo courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/profile/arinas74

I don’t know about you, but lately my email inbox has been filling up with lots of messages telling me about upcoming webinars. I used to just click delete because I would much rather scroll quickly through a written post than listen to someone drone on. But then I actually watched one. And the funny thing was, I actually liked it. I could sit and learn while being entertained, browse through emails when I got bored, and take notes – something I almost never do when speed-reading through blog posts and news articles.

While I try to watch webinars live, sometimes life just gets in the way. So I appreciate the individuals and companies who send emails after the webinar is finished with a link to watch the replay.

Three favourite email lists that I belong to that put on good webinars are:

What about you? Any favourite sites for webinars?
Or do you host webinars yourself? I’d love to follow some more great content.

When I first started on Twitter back in 2008, I viewed all Tweets within the Twitter interface. Then, I got hooked on HootSuite, especially when I started managing multiple Twitter accounts. I’m still a paying subscriber to HootSuite and love using the cute little Hootlet add-on to easily share interesting URL’s on Twitter. But something just seemed to be missing.

Enter TweetDeck. This slick desktop application (I prefer the downloaded version, although you can access it online as well) is always running in the background and has become my favourite way to interact with users on Twitter.

Here’s 5 reasons why I like TweetDeck so much:

1. Visually attractive – let’s face it, looks matter. And TweetDeck just plain looks good. I love the black background, the well-sized Twitter profile pics, and the fact that you can always view thumbnail images of pics that people post on Twitter.

2. It still displays Instagram images – as you may have heard, Twitter and Instagram went through a big breakup at the end of 2012. Basically, the end result was that Instagram pictures no longer display within the Twitter interface; instead, you need to click on a link and be taken to another page to view the image. Not so with TweetDeck! You can still view thumbnail images of kids, half-eaten restaurant dishes and scenery shots and also view the full-sized images within TweetDeck.

3. Easily view different streams – using TweetDeck’s columns feature, you can add a new column for whichever Twitter account, list, or search result you want. And then you can quickly flip back and forth between them, making it quick and simple to keep up-to-date on what’s going on in your version of the Twittersphere.

4. It makes noise – you can turn on or off sound alerts for each of your columns, so that you hear a ding every time someone messages you, mentions you, writes a Tweet that matches your search criteria, etc. (If you want to make my computer ding, just mention @jenhames on Twitter!)

5. It’s free – I already pay for lots of social media tools and services, so it’s great to find such a great tool that is free.

Do you use TweetDeck? Love it or hate it?
Then leave a comment and let me know what you think.

TS Eliot quote

Happy New Year everyone! Isn’t it exciting to realize that there is an entire calendar full of days waiting for you to put your own unique stamp on them! Even though it’s only been one day since 2012, there’s just something refreshing about starting a new year.

It’s a time to reflect back on what went well in the previous year, and what you could improve on going forward. One of the best things that I did at the end of 2012 was to attend a session called, “Setting Your Intentions“, put on by Cathy Goddard of Lighthouse Visionary Solutions. A lot of my focus was on setting personal intentions, but I also came up with some business intentions for Jenuine Marketing:

  • Post daily updates on my Twitter & Facebook page accounts, and utilize HootSuite and TweetDeck to help in scheduling those posts
  • Spend 15 minutes on LinkedIn every other day
  • Publish a blog post once a week
  • By the end of January, perform my own social media audit and determine whether I should continue spending time on Google+ and Pinterest for business purposes
  • Schedule time into each work day to promote Jenuine Marketing and to connect with other like-minded business owners
  • Spend at least 30 minutes every work day viewing business-related articles, blog posts and video seminars
  • Put aside time to finish the business analysis work that I started in 2012 with Melanie of BrandHer.com
  • Remember to take at least one day off a week from work

Those are my business intentions. Hopefully I can keep them! And the words of Oprah Winfrey, “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.”

What do you hope to get right this year?