Personal Blog: http://www.saharconsulting.wordpress.com
Bio: Sahar Andrade is a Marketing and Business Development expert, experienced with Fortune 500 companies, Sahar directs international campaigns. As a Social Media Certified Specialist, Sahar offers real world business experience with a straight-talk approach to solving problems covering: Cultural diversity management and awareness, and its effect on the Corporations, ROI and their marketing planning Leadership, business skills, and self development Motivation. Sahar collaborates with cultures in domestic international markets. Born in Alexandria, Egypt, and raised in Algeria and the Gulf Region, Sahar Andrade grew up appreciating and learning diverse cultures and traditions. She arrived in the US in September of 1986, with just one suitcase in hand. While in college, Sahar began to climb the “corporate ladder” as a Reservations agent. Today, Sahar is the founder of “Sahar Consulting”, Sr. VP Projects' Management and member of the Board of Directors for the International Green Summit, as well as being the Co-Founder of “Children’s Choice” a charity nonprofit organization. Living and working with different people & cultures as well as years working for International Airlines traveling all over the world left a great impact on Sahar, and help her deliver quality information on "international business etiquette" worldwide, hoping to give a few insights into how culture impacts on international business, and how is business communication impacted on by culture and how should employees and businesses interact globally to achieve success. Sahar has delivered presentations and speeches in the Middle East, Europe and the United States to corporations and educational institutions on topics such as “Effect of Cultural diversity on Business Etiquettes”, “Social Marketing”, “Cultural Awareness in the workplace”, and “Effect of Cross-Cultures on Marketing. She is also a featured columnist at "Eco-Chamber" website, as well as being a contributor at "the bloggers Bulletin: Blog Zone". http://www.ecochamber.com/category/columnists/sahar-andrade-columnists/ http://www.thebloggersbulletin.org/saharandrade Sahar gave presentations at the City of West Hollywood 3rd Annual Women Leadership Conference March of 2009, where she presented a "Motivational Workshop": MotivateU. Additionally she spoke at the "Entrepreneurs' Seminar" on the benefits of Inbound Marketing, presented a seminar about self branding to NOW Hollywood and NCJW, as well as presenting 2 other seminars to LAAMA about social media & Twitter. She was also a guest on BlogTalkRadio presenting “How Cultural Diversity affects Marketing” http://www.blogtalkradio.com/LaunchNotes/2009/08/26/Sahar-Andrade-Sahar-Consulting Sahar’s credentials include BS in Psychiatry from the Cairo University of Medicine, Certification from Cema as a certified E-marketeer, an IM certificate as an Inbound Marketing certified specialist, and is a certified Diversity trainer. Email: email@example.com www.saharconsulting.com
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Linkedin like all social media networks has been competing to roll out new changes to attract more users, and provide extra widgets to there users to help them increase their network and client base! Lately LinkedIn has become heavily involved in this race by launching new integrations like the:
- Twitter integration: Lets you take advantage of all the significant traffic you already have on twitter
- Microsoft Outlook: Offers you a better way to connect with your current LI contact and also help grow your network.
Back in December LinkedIn rolled out new look to the members’ homepage, added the capability of adding tags to the contacts, launched the LinkedIn iPhone application, and few weeks ago launched the Blackberries LinkedIn application:
And only yesterday, LinkedIn rolled out the following major link-sharing features that will revolutionize the way members use LinkedIn:
1- Image and article excerpt as seen on Facebook sharing feature, that will help with increasing traffic through clickthroughs
2- You are in control of your posts where you can edit, change or delete them for status updates as many complained about the inability to spell check their updates before posting them
3- You have total control on who can see or can’t see what you are sharing which was another major concern for members before, where you either hide all updates to everyone or showed them to everyone
4- Re-share the links/ blogs/ posts/ updates similar to the Re-tweet on twitter which will help your posts go viral at the click of a button, creating new traffic and building links. You can also give credit to the person that shared any article with you by attributing it to them
5- Shared items will further optimize the profiles by increasing SEO as it will create fresh content for the search engines, especially with the re-sharing feature that also improves the off-site sharing experience
6- A link shortening application within LinkedIn: Inkd.in to help with its Twitter interaction, still to see if traffic can be tracked on that application and sources of traffic can be detected like on bit.ly
Additionally, LinkedIn is also repositioning itself as a leader in the professional social networking world by offering another hub for sharing articles, news and informations with whoever you choose from your business contacts and it is well deserved.
Furthermore, LinkedIn is expected to add new features that will bring more clarity to the new members on how to import their contacts instead of sending an invite to all their address book contacts by default. This feature will also clarify how to avoid creating duplicate profiles which both remain the biggest challenges facing new members.
I am an avid user of LinkedIn, I use it daily and I am very excited about the new improvements added and looking for more exciting news to share with you.
Many business people have come to recognize the value of blogs as a means to share expertise, and establish credibility with an audience of the buying public.
Those business people who are more technically-minded have also come to recognize that a well-maintained business blog will tend to out-perform a traditional, static business web site in search engines. In more direct terms, this means that a well-maintained blog can provide a smart business person and his/her business with a competitive advantage online!
From a marketing stand-point, business blogs, in general, have demonstrated that they can:
- Generate ways for consumers to discover old and new businesses and their respective products/ services.
- Act as a communication medium that offers marketing visibility opportunities for businesses well beyond the search engines. Business blogs have, in some instances, been know to generate buzz and word of mouth marketing for their businesses (let’s see a static, business web page do that).
Benefits of Blogging for Small Business:
- It tends to be cheaper for a small business to keep up a blog than to keep up a website. For small business owners without the time to learn web HTML or the money to hire a web designer/developer, blogging offers an inexpensive method to get their company’s name out on the Internet.
- Having a well-maintained blog may provide a small businesses with a powerful edge vs. larger, “blog-silent” businesses pursuing the same customers in the market-place.
- Blogging has shown time and again that it can be a great marketing tool that boost sales, provides a perfect opportunity for product promotion and helps brand a small business and its products.
- It tends to improve the customer experience since it allows for public, two-way business/customer conversations (value: customers who feel like a company is listening to them and responding to their needs have been found more likely to develop an emotional connection with that company — something important for a small business seeking to build customer loyalty and generate repeat buyers).
Some Words of Warning about Blogging for Businesses Large and Small:
A well-maintained business blog does involve a significant investment of a time. Also, it tends to communicate best when its writing is humanized and personal-sounding rather than cold and robotic (avoid using corporate jargon that can turn your audience away).
And although a business person may find it challenging, s(he) must take the time to respond to all non-spam comments left on his/her company’s blog — particularly negative comments. Keep in mind, however, that if these comment responses satisfy an angry customer, that same customer can potentially turn in to an evangelist for the same business down the road.
Happy Business Blogging!
Executing your Social Media Strategy is ideally an everyday activity, but one that needs to be managed in the following targeted and focused manner:
- Choose the social media platforms or channels that will reach your audience and add value to your products or services; you don’t have to engage in all the social media platforms — it is not a contest, it is about what will bring bottom line revenues to your business.
- Consider who will be handling your social media interactions and how they will be channeled and to whom/ which department.
- Time-manage your social media efforts: schedule days for blogging, scan your forums daily for mention and answer inquiries, take 20 minutes a day to review others blogs and comment (great for back-links), try to be on Twitter 2 to 3 times/day for 10 minutes each time to divide your tweets throughout the day and check what is said about you as well.
- Integrate your social media strategy with the overall branding, communication and marketing planning of your business; add your social media URLs at the bottom of your Email signatures, on the back of your business cards, on your website.
It is then incumbent on you to use social media to:
Monitoring conversation and reputation management are some of the crucial and most important aspects of social media as they allow you as a business to respond in real-time to what is said about you, it puts you closer to your audience as you learn what is their impression, conceptions, how they feel and think about the business.
It is also puts you in a position to respond with rapid damage control in cases of defamation, derogatory information or angry customers. Not only that but on the positive side, it potentially encourages strong customer relationships, the customers who may become evangelists and sing about your business;
By locating customers, following what they say, thanking them and show them your appreciation whenever due, this lets your audience know that you care, listen and respond to their needs. A great recent case study is the “Domino’s Pizza” campaign about revamping themselves showing their clientele that they listen and are not afraid of admitting their mistake and correcting their course.
There are different tools to manage monitoring and listening: Some are free and some cost some money, the Free ones are organic searches on Google, setting Google Alerts, Google Analytics (to monitor the effectiveness of specific marketing efforts), search in Facebook since its real-time search engine has been implemented with Bing, Twitter through its search box or the #button search or even search.twitter.com. Mashable had a great post about the top monitoring tools worth paying for by Dan Schawbel.
2. Promote & Publish
Half of the battle is won once you have identified your audience and know where they hang online. The next step is to start promoting yourself, increasing awareness about your business, and establishing your credibility as an expert without pushing your business or your products on your audience. in this guise, you may promote credible, helpful content to your target audience within their communities.
- On LinkedIn join the group discussions, Q&A forum, start your own group and manage it well.
- On Facebook create a Fanpage, engage in the groups of interest discussions
- Combine your social media networks like link your LinkedIn profile to your Twitter account, link facebook to Twitter, link your blogs to your LinkedIn profile and add a LinkedIn widget to your blog,
- Use RSS syndication, use tools like ping.fm, Hootsuite and Hellotxt to update your news across multiple channels as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn at the same time, saving you time.
- Publish your blogs on WordPress, Blogger (Both Free) or buy your own domain like on WordPress.org, publish your videos on Youtube and Vimeo, publish your presentations on Slideshare and Google presentations, publish your pictures on Flickr. You can create your own channels or profiles on many of these platforms.
You have planned, set, and defined your strategy. Now it is time to decide on how you will set metrics to measure your success and find out if your efforts paid off. You might utilize free analytics tools — Google Analytics, Social Mention and TweetReach — or paid ones like Hubspot, Trackur and Radian6. Another method of measuring your efforts is monitoring the increase in the number of followers, commentators, or members joining your mailing list through a specific landing page for an event or a marketing effort, website traffic, blog traffic.
Measuring social media results is still a challenge and is not a firm science — you can’t really measure conversations but you can analyze the tone of the conversation.
Measuring your results has to be done regularly and you need to be flexible as to change or redesign. You may need to tweak what is not working for you and, if necessary, add the use of new tools as they emerge.
Businesses, especially small businesses, need to develop a successful social media strategy that takes in to account the different social media platform technologies and how each fits into the business-branding process and the goals and mission of the businesses.
Said strategy has to factor in what a business wants to accomplish and what role the strategy itself will play in the overall marketing plan of a business.
If you are skeptical about investing the time it will take to develop a well-planned social media strategy, remember: if a business doesn’t plan, it plans to fail — jumping into social media just because it is hip will not do a business any favors.
Here is what I would suggest as a strategy:
a. Brand Identity: Make sure that whoever is engaging the social media must understand the business goals and messaging.
b. Brand transparency: Social media dictates the authenticity and transparency of any business presence online, if not they will be found out real fast and will lose consumers’ trust may be forever, as most information can be quickly validated via online fact-checking. A brand should add value and relevance to its prospects as well as a commitment to deliver.
c. Maintain brand consistency: A Business should use one username for all their online profiles instead of scattering their brand across the different social networks, these profiles are showing in search results specially the LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. Having a consistent username is important but not enough, a brand has to keep the same image, theme, and voice across the different social networks even if more than one person speaks on behalf of the business
d. Brand campaign integration: Where the outbound and inbound marketing can feed off each other in the overall business marketing plan
2. Listen & Identify the needs of your audience (businesses need to identify who their audience is, what are their interests, needs and issues, where they hang online, what is said about their brand to interact properly with them)
a. Decide which tools to use for listening: Free tools versus paid tools – some great free tools are: Google alerts, blogPulse, Technorati, RSS feeds, search.twitter.com, Trendrr – some paid tools: Radian6, Trackur, Cymphony
b. Decide where your audience is: Groups, Communities, forums, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or locally as in Yelp, MerchantCircle
c. Identify the influencers of the authority figures writing about the business or its products, services or the industry as a whole
d. Identify what is the audience passionate about, what are their needs, what solutions can the business offer them
3. Engage and build relationships (after properly listening, the next step will be joining the conversation, develop trust and build relationships by providing something of value to the audience)
a. Create remarkable content: The business message has to be consistent across the board; the content must be understandable, useful, relevant and valuable. The content has to be optimized and targeted to the business’ audience
b. Decide which platform to use reaching out to the audience once identified: LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs, Flickr, Youtube, Twitter etc…
c. Decide who will be formulating the content and delivering it
d. Integrate with the overall marketing plan: Offline and online(Search Engines optimization)
e. Build relationships with influencer bloggers by interacting with them, responding or commenting to their blogs/ posts
f. Engage the audience in: groups(LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter), Forums (Yahoo Q&A, LinkedIn, Twitter) or communities(Ning, merchantcircle and Yelp)
g. Use tools that help time management and improve the profiles management as: Hootsuite/ Tweetdeck that allow to update the status across different platforms at the same time, Ping.fm is another great tool
In the next post, I will discuss the last steps in a social media strategy:
• Promoting and publishing
• Measuring results
Till we meet next time, stay well
In my previous posts, I introduced social media, its networks and channels, how it changed the face of marketing as we know it. In this post I will entertain the idea on why and how businesses should use social media as part of their marketing planning. There are still a lot of businesses fighting social media being skeptical about its application and try to find any excuses to why not to use it.
The most common excuses (please let me know if you hear anymore so I can add them to the list) we “social media strategists” may hear:
- “It is a waste of time.”
- “It is a fad and it will go away.”
- “My clients are not online.”
- “Only people with too much time on their hand use social media.”
- “We will lose control of our brand.”
- “Our confidentiality will be jeopardized.”
- “Only my children are on MySpace and Facebook.”
- “Our employees will have a license to play online.”
* I will start with the following figures and statistics about social media usage by the audience to show why should businesses care about social media:
- 45% visit social networks to find out about product sales or discounts
- 47% will go to social networks to download a free gift or coupons
- 73% of active online users read a blog, 120,000 new blogs are launched daily
- 22% would read or write a product review online or in a blog, 1.5 million posts per day, 45% have started their own blogs
- 39% subscribe to an RSS feed
- 57% joined social networks- Facebook for example has over a billion users increasing by the minute, Twitter exploded to a 1382% growth rate within 2009.
- 10% of all internet traffic is generated by Youtube, which ranks with Wikipedia among top brands.
- The 5 top 10 websites ever are social
- The Internet users’ ages of 70+ jumped as follow: 70-74 Years: 26% (‘05)- 45% (‘08), 75+ Years: 17% (‘05)- 28% (‘08)
(* Sources are Compete, Alexa, MSNBC, Nielsen &Technorati)
To engage in marketing planning for any business it is important to set goals, define a strategy, then execute. Social media is no different and it should be a part of any business’s overall marketing plan.
The first step in setting goals is for a business to ask itself the following basic questions before tackling the business profiles on the different social media networks/ platforms or channels:
- Who is the audience and what is its persona’s characteristics?
- Where do they hang out online?
- Are they a part of any online communities that the business should join?
- What do they expect from a business like yours: solution providing, a unique product, customer service?
- How do we engage the audience emotionally and appeal to their sensitivity and senses?
- How do we approach the audience, in what format, and with what content? Also, most importantly what are the keywords used by the audience its members discuss your industry or business?
- Who will be assigned to engage in the online discussions with the audience and how will they channel the leads, inquiries, comments and to who?
- How do we to measure the results?
How might a business then proceed?
- Your audience and key influencers and know where they hang online.
- Protect against brand hijacking.
- Use Google alerts, RSS feeds, Twitter, email analytics, social buzz, Backtype, Trenderr, Board Reader, then learn the proper keywords they use
- Comment on blogs and articles
- Add to groups on Facebook/Yahoo/LinkedIn
- Offer specials/promos on FB/Twitter
- After establishing relationships, PULL your audience to your services by constantly adding new, relevant and fresh content.
Social media is interactive; it is built on communications and two way dialogs. Using social media, your business audience may be exchanging notes about your products, companies and services at this very second — knowing of and participating in this exchange, an exchange which may impact the bottom line, is why a business needs a social media facet as part of its overall goals and strategies.
My next post will be about how to develop the basics for a business strategy to tackle social media.
Social media has totally changed our lives and our way of communication with our prospects, our clients and even with each other, as shown in my previous posts.
Day after day, email is used less as we communicate increasingly through social media networks, blogs or even through our beloved blackberries.The face of marketing as we know it has probably changed forever.
Nowadays we live in a permission-based marketing culture — this means that the buyers are:
- More than ever in control of any information disseminated to them
- More in charge of the buying process than ever before — they want to control what information they consume, when and how they do it, and which companies/ products or services they choose to engage.
Currently to build successful marketing strategies sellers have to include the different stages of the selling cycles in order to engage the majority of the potential early-stage buyers and to nurture the prospective buyers/ clients.
In fact, we are moving away from traditional marketing — as practiced for decades known as “Outbound marketing” — to a new era of marketing we call “Inbound marketing.
Outbound vs. Inbound?
Outbound Marketing or traditional marketing depended on interruption modes that were not authorized, so customers found a way to revolt against the intrusion of these modes, even finding ways to stop it with means such as TIVOs and DVRs, Cable radios, using online news sources and RSS feeds that avoid interruptive ads. Customers also procure services such as caller ID to block unsolicited phone calls, throw away junk mail and delete spam Emails without even reading them
Inbound Marketing is the new Social Media marketing — it requires the customer’s permission and allows ONLY what that customer wants to hear/read/learn about.
Inbound Marketing is achieved through 3 channels:
- SEO: Using keywords to get ranked on Search Engines as Google, Bing, and Yahoo etc…
- Blogs: Using RSS feeds, TechCrunch, Technorati, Youtube (Vblogs)
- Social media: Networks or platforms as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Delicious etc…
So now we have to rethink Marketing versus how we always knew it and start changing our perception on how we should do marketing. In summary, these are the fundamental differences:
|Outbound Marketing||Inbound Marketing|
|TV/ Radio ads||Viral campaigns: PPC & Online ads|
|Email Blasts/ Print ads||Opt in Mailing/ RSS feeds and alerts|
|Cold calling||Social calling 2.0|
|Direct Mail||Opt-in social mail 2.0|
|Telemarketing||Online Search Engine Marketing & Optimization|
|Companies in control of their brand||Customers in control of the brands|
|Push Sales method- One way delivery||Pull method – 2 way communication|
|Sales department in charge/ Company creates content||Peer to peer consulting/ User creates content|
|Repeat the message to educate||Adapt the message to influence audience|
Why should you care?
People with the same interests are finding each other online, conducting conversations and creating groups that form communities that can become very influential with on their respective members.
And conversations regarding companies are taking place right now online — these companies may like it or not, they may contribute to them or not. But the reality is that these conversations are not going away, so whichever companies fail to jump on the social media bandwagon will be left in the cold.
And companies that are not getting involved can potentially cause irreparable damage to brands! A very recent example on the effect of Social media is the YouTube video posted by a couple of employees of Domino’s Pizza doing indescribable things to the Pizza they take to their clients and it went viral, millions of people saw it, Domino’s Pizza CEO had to counteract that to salvage their reputation by posting a video on YouTube to control damages and reassure customers that Domino’s cares and is not about that, needless to add that the employees got fired and for a good reason