Personal Branding 2.0 – My Discussion with Kean University Students

Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting with Kean University students and delivered a presentation on personal branding and reputation management.  Surprisingly, less than five percent of the students in the class had a LinkedIn profile. Even more shocking, less than three percent have had an internship to prepare them for their career.

I enjoyed providing my insight on both topics and I’m happy to report, I received some new invitations on LinkedIn.  Here’s a peek at my presentation that can be downloaded easily from SlideShare:

Do you have any other tips on personal branding in the digital space?  Please share them in the comments!

5 Must-Have Features For Your Company’s Social Media Engagement Platform

If you’ve ever conducted research on social media engagement platforms, I’m sure it didn’t take you long to realize there are several options available.  But with so many options, how do you know which platform is the best for your business?

I too was in that exact situation and found there is really no perfect catchall solution out there.  Rather than give up in the name of frustration, I decided to take a step back and gather and prioritize my requirements so I could use them as talking points when interviewing potential vendors.  Below is my must-have feature list and explanations for each.

1. View Unlimited Conversation History

This is especially important for businesses who use Twitter as a channel for customer service.  Not only is viewing unlimited conversation history important for regular customer interactions but also for legal reasons just in case you ever need to reference past conversations.

The tool SocialEngage by ExactTarget (formerly CoTweet) does a great job logging all Twitter mentions and direct messages for each person’s Twitter profile.  What I like most about it is the user interface.  It resembles a email inbox so it’s very easy to follow conversations.  Also, all messages are distinctively labeled, timestamped and located in one place.

Tip: Some engagement platforms say they provide “unlimited conversation history” but be wary of that statement.  For some vendors, this can also mean unlimited conversation history for all conversations started within the platform itself. You ultimately want to be able to see all conversation history regardless of where they originate from.

The best way to confirm how the social engagement platform handles conversations is to not only ask the sales person you’re dealing with, but also take the platform for a test drive.  Start conversations within the platform but also try using the web based versions of the channels you want to use.  For Twitter especially, make sure all DMs, RTs and mentions appear in the customer’s profile of the solution you are testing.  (ExactTarget’s solution does support this functionality.)

2. Schedule Content

This feature is very common for almost all platforms now, but it is still important to mention *just* in case.  If you’re a lone wolf trying to navigate the social media terrain like me, you will want to schedule content ahead of time.  The “Marketing Hub” by Awareness supports multiple platforms for scheduling content including, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare, Flickr and even a WordPress blog.

3. Post Assignment Workflow Functionality

This function is essential for collaboration with other members of your organization.  Having a workflow function allows you to “assign” or forward mentions to other members on your team. This is obviously a no-brainer for customer service activities, but don’t forget about other departments such as product development, corporate communications and market research teams. The second half of this feature is probably the most valuable, the post notification.

4. Email Notification Capabilities

Let’s face it, you’re an important person.  You have meetings, content to write, strategies to build, family to spend time with, lunch to eat and Draw Something to play. The point is, you don’t need to be Siamese twins with your engagement platform to be “available.”  There are platforms out there that provide email notifications for each post made on your social media properties.  SocialEngage and Awareness both notify you of activity on Twitter and Facebook.

5. Content Measurement

Believe it or not, this feature is fairly new to social engagement platforms and is found mostly in paid tools. Some have more bells and whistles than others but they all provide at least one important metric, they help you measure the effectiveness of your content.

Assessing your needs for analytics is really important in itself here.  For instance, Hootsuite recently came out with an update to their platform that integrates with Adobe Omniture through the Genesis platform.  It’s more robust than the average tool but it is extremely useful especially if you use Adobe Omniture as your company’s website analytics solution. If you’re not running a huge ecommerce website, you won’t have to worry about integrating with that part of the product and it might save your organization some money.

So what do you care about when you’re measuring your brand’s content, you ask?  Well, I could do another whole post on social media measurement, but that I will come at a later time.  The short answer is how much engagement your content receives.  This will help you identify what’s working and what’s not for your community.

Now I turn the microphone to you…Does your organization have a social media engagement platform?  How did you select your vendor?  Are there any other requirements you wanted when you did your search?  Leave a comment below!

Four Tips for Creating a Successful Facebook Fan Gating Welcome Video With Your Brand’s Celebrity Spokesperson

If you have a famous spokesperson/endorser for your brand, it can be a little difficult to pin down some unique and fun ideas for your Facebook fan page. Recently, I was faced with the same scenario and I decided video was my weapon of choice.   Here are some tips for using video content to fan gate your Facebook page.

Tip 1: Exclusive should really mean exclusive.

Becoming a fan of your brand should really mean something.  Sharing exclusive content is all part of that effort to gain new and retain your fan base.  By providing exclusive content, you’re making your fans feel special and privileged, like they get to see something before any of  their friends do.  Tech tip: Use a closed YouTube link of your video and embed it on your Facebook page.  From there, your Facebook fans will be the only people able to see the video.

Tip 2: Keep it simple.

The opportunity to make your Facebook fan page video a  large production is tempting, but I say skip it!  Instead, focus on your message while maintaining a more realistic and inviting video concept. For example, depending on your marketing spend, you may shoot regular commercials for your product or service.  You could easily grab some footage of your celebrity spokesperson while on-site of your most recent commercial shoot. 

Tip 3: Give your audience something to do afterwards.

So, you’ve created this great video and believe your Facebook visitor’s journey is over, right? Wrong! Think about what’s next for the viewer.  Most likely, you want them to take a deeper look into your cool product or service.  Why not point them to visit your website for a free sample, or a free trial? Or how about asking them to sign up for your email mailing list?  Whatever you decide, don’t let the journey stop with the video. Make sure you plan your content ahead of time.

Tip 4: Prepare and plan your content early.

Knowing your overall idea is important before shooting your welcome video.  Create story boards and scripts early and clear it with your spokesperson prior to going on-site.  It is essential you do this just in case your subject has some issues with the content.   Also, if necessary, review the spokesperson’s contract prior to even sending your video idea over.  Your company may or may not have electronic distribution rights to video content.

Have you ever created a Facebook Page welcome video with your company’s celebrity spokesperson?  Do you have any additional tips? Please add them in the comments.

Gain More Opportunities With Twitter – A Personal Story

In doing some research recently, I’ve noticed all other industries are successfully covered on Twitter including, retail, health care and technology. But unlike those, construction is probably one of the least covered. My personal feeling is many don’t understand how it applies to a marketing strategy and don’t see the value in it.

Networking On Twitter – Yes It Really Does Work!

In construction, many times it can be “who you know” that gains you the opportunity to work on a job.  If we’re talking repeat business, this is BIG.  But how do prospective clients find you?  How do you get on the bid list?  Using Twitter in your construction marketing strategy leaves you open to meeting new people from all over.  For example, I had the opportunity to work with the ACE Mentor program last September and assist with a gathering to celebrate another successful year.  I tweeted about it via @TurnerNJ on Twitter that morning.  A publisher of McGraw Hill saw my tweet and actually replied to me and said he would be attending.  As soon as he arrived at the gathering, he wanted to meet me!  Needless to say, we had a great conversation and he is now a very useful PR contact of mine.  How incredible is that?!

This is simple for you to do as well.  Find individuals or companies in your industries.  Engage in conversation.  Ask for advice from your peers, or contact someone just to say hello and introduce yourself.  Research companies that interest you and follow them.  They will surely appreciate any comments you have.

Do you have any similar stories you can share?  Tell me about it in the comments.

How To Create A Perfectly Square Twitter Icon – No Design Programs Required!

I have a quirky Twitter pet-peeve when it comes to profile pictures/avatar. If you upload a photo that is not a perfect square, then you will have a cropped photo that does not look very flattering for your logo. For example, @VaughanBuilders is a great resource to their followers for trending construction industry topics and has a decent number of followers. This is what their page looks like:

Nice job on the page, but the icon isn’t readable. Also, since Twitter clients such as TweetDeck, Hootsuite, or Seesmic are growing in popularity to manage accounts, you wouldn’t know who they were by the icon.

How can we remedy this? Well, let me show you a quick and easy way using Microsoft Powerpoint 2007, no graphic design programs required!

How To Create A Perfect Twitter Profile Picture/Avatar Using Microsoft Word 2007

Step 1

Open Microsoft PowerPoint and select the “Insert Tab.”

Step 2

Click the “Picture” icon and locate your logo. Once you find it, click “Insert” on the bottom right hand corner.

Step 3

Your logo is now on your PowerPoint Slide. *Note, it doesn’t matter what size your page is…mine just happens to be the standard size. Next, create a perfectly square box on the page somewhere. You can do this by holding the “Shift” key on your keyboard when you make the box. (It doesn’t matter what size box you make, you can adjust that later) Make the box white.

Step 4

Now, right-click on your box and select the “Send To Back” option. After that, move the box so it’s right on top of the logo. Be sure to center the box right over your logo. In addition, you want the box edges to be as close as possible to your logo so resize by holding the “Shift” key while you correct the parameters. See my example below.

Step 5

We’re in the final stretch now – select both your logo and the white box by clicking on each and holding down the “Shift” button. When both are selected, right-click and select “Group” from the “Group” menu.

Step 6

Now you’re ready to create your picture file. Select your grouped object and right-click. Go down to where it says “Save As Picture” and select it. A dialogue box will come up and you now have the option of saving your new Twitter icon. You want to save your icon in JPEG format, so first find the location of where you want to save your Twitter icon on your computer. Then from the bottom, center drop-down menu select “JPEG File Interchange Format.” Click “Save” and you’re done!

Now go upload your perfectly shaped, uncropped Twitter icon. I hope you found this tutorial useful. If you need more clarification or have any questions feel free to leave me a comment or ask me on Twitter.

Why Having A Blog Is More Important Than Having A Twitter Account

I’ve recently been doing a lot of research on various industries and their social media presences. In my research, I’ve noticed that those who have a Twitter account have less followers than those who have a blog AND have a Twitter account. There are a couple of reasons why I think this makes sense:

More Interesting/Helpful Content, More Followers

Part of blogging is actually helping or solving a problem, especially when you’re first starting out. Think about the first thing you do when you have a problem to solve. I’m just taking a guess here, but most likely you “Google it” first. On Twitter, you can only share so much in 140 characters. With a blog, you’re able to write keyword-rich articles with no character limit, which ultimately results in someone finding your article useful.

The second half to this benefit is that the more interesting your content is, the more people will want to read it once you blast out to your twitter followers. You gain a reputation for putting great stuff out there! If people find it useful, more times than not, they will RT that Tweet right out to their community. That’s the best part of Twitter!

The Value Of Great Content Is Unmeasurable

After you write a fabulous blog article, you’re going to want to share it with your friends, co-workers, and probably just about anyone who will read it. My blog is supported by WordPress and they have some great measurement tools for me to use. Pay attention to these. You want to know which blog articles are most successful, and you can measure this in a variety of ways. If one topic seems to really stir up some interesting commentary, maybe see if you can write another post on the same topic but from a different perspective or a sub topic. (TIP: I don’t just measure this through analytics, I also pay attention to comments and RTs on Twitter) I would also recommend adding an RSS feed to your blog, that way those who love your content can just enter their email address or add you to their Google Reader.

Keep in mind, most blogs are FREE. You can virtually start one anywhere.  As I said earlier, my platform of choice is WordPress, but there are tons of others out there. Just search for “blogging platforms” and you’ll be on your way to a great blog (and more followers) in no time!

Five Foolproof Tips For Creating QR Codes

There’s no doubt Quick Response (QR) codes are the new “shiny object” for marketers who are looking to serve customers with relevant mobile content quickly and effectively.  If you’re new to using these codes, here are five quick tips to help you get started.

Tip 1: Know Your Purpose

This seems like the biggest “duh,” but you would be surprised how many marketers start creating codes but don’t think about their true intent.  So, what’s your goal?  More mobile application downloads? More followers or fans on Twitter and Facebook?  Increase email sign ups? Whatever it is, make sure you know this beforehand and really think it through.

Tip 2: Clue In Your Users

Even though QR codes are rapidly gaining widespread adoption, many people don’t know their purpose.  Giving a teaser is the best way to remedy that.  Instead of just putting the code out there, make sure to include some verbiage such as “Scan here for a special surprise” or “Use your QR reader to see more great offers from Company X.”  That way, if the user doesn’t know what the code does, they can go to their mobile app store and search for “scanner” or “QR reader.”

Tip 3: Measure Your Success

There are a ton of free tools out there that help you not only create but measure how your QRs are doing.  My favorite at the moment is the QR Generator by Good Survey.  It’s free to make as many QR codes as you want, but it limits you to three codes you can obtain analytics for at a time.

Bit.ly also has a new QR code feature to their link shortening service.  Now, they create a QR code automatically for any hyperlink that’s shortened with their service and provide free analytics as well.

Tip 4: Be Aware Of Print Material Types

One of the best ways I’ve seen QR codes used is on signage and print materials throughout retail stores.  However, I recently had a disappointing experience with this.  I was in the grocery store a couple of weeks ago and saw a QR code on a refrigerator for a new coffee creamer.  I tried to scan the code three times but each time I tried, it wouldn’t work.  After the third try, I gave up and noticed that the material the sign was made out of had a glossy finish and created a glare that prevented me from scanning the code in the well-lit grocery store.  For your QR codes, I would recommend using a matte finish on any print materials especially since many larger companies cannot control their placement of their signage throughout their stores.

Tip 5: Test, Test and Re-Test Your Codes

The worst thing that can happen with a QR code is they do not work. It can be very embarrassing and damage your company’s credibility in an instant. The best way to prevent this from happening is to test your codes with different phone operating systems (OS, Android, Blackberry etc.)  and different QR reader applications.  Make sure you test right after you create each code and after the printing phase if you’re creating signage. (Action idea: Get your employees involved by sending the code out to them so they can test for themselves. Be sure to ask for feedback too.  This is a really quick (and not to mention cheap) way to test your newly created QR codes.)

Are there any other tips you can think of?  I would love to hear your thoughts. Please share them in the comments below!

Construction Industry Public Relations – Reach Prospective Clients With Press Releases

David Meerman Scott is one of my favorite authors for web and social media marketing books mostly because he gives it to you straight.  I would like to begin this post with one of his quotes from his blog, www.webinknow.com that describes the old rules of marketing and public relations,

“You can buy attention (advertising)

You can beg for attention from the media (PR)

You can bug people one at a time to get attention (sales)”

Today we’ll focus on the “begging.”  I remember sitting in my PR 101 class in college and listening to my professor speak of press releases and how useful they were for getting information out quickly to prospective journalists and authors.   She gave many examples of how to send them out, email, USPS, hand delivery, etc.  However, I think she forgot to mention one thing…

…the World Wide Web.   Press releases in email inboxes are deleted.  Those that actually get opened from the postman eventually make it to the trash bin, if even read it at all.  In addition, the days of  press releases being just for journalists are long over.  Now, press releases are used to communicate straight to consumers.

If you put something on the web, it gets indexed, and then becomes a living, breathing marketing tool for your company.  This should be no different for the implementation of your press release strategy.

Your Action List For Construction Press Releases

  1. Put them on your website.  You should have a newsroom link that lives right on your homepage.
  2. Consider using a press release distribution service such as Marketwire (www.marketwire.com) or PR Web (www.prweb.com).  These examples are paid, but there are some free ones out there.
  3. Broadcast via your Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook Page.
  4. Look up A/E/C industry publications and send your releases to them. (ex. Costar, NJBIZ, NY Construction.  All of these have specific requests for news and a specialized email to send your release to.)

Begging is for dogs, not for your business. Focus on communicating with your clients with good, up-to-date content in the form of press releases and see great results.

Dealing With The Unexpected

Three weeks ago I dislocated my right knee while kickboxing.  As you can imagine, I was absolutely devastated especially since our wedding was just over four months away at that time. I think the emotional pain hurt more than the physical.  It’s tough going from running around bride-to-be to a couch potato.  Hello depression…

After a few days of emotional episodes and moving through my personal stages of grief, I began to accept the situation instead of fighting it.  I was so touched by a number of people who expressed their concern and offered to help if I needed anything.  Even one of my closest work friends and wellness mentor sent me a box of yummy organic veggies for me to enjoy.  And then my best friend sent me a new health book.  Both were so incredibly thoughtful.  Even my company has allowed me to work from home until I am cleared to drive.  (Thank goodness, I think I would go crazy if I didn’t have something to keep my mind busy.)  My hubby-to-be really deserves the most of my appreciation though.  He’s been taking very good care of me by making me healthy meals, cleaning, doing the shopping and even bathing me since I can’t take this massive brace off.  He won’t let me lift a finger.  This unfortunate situation has really brought us much closer together.

Fast forward to today.  It’s been three weeks since my accident and I’m actually feeling OK.  The swelling has gone down a bit and I’m in little to no pain.  I visited my orthopedic, Dr. Lager and he said my MRI looks fine and surgery isn’t necessary right now.  He told me I could “take a few steps” with the assistance from my crutches and loosen the brace on my leg to bend ever so slightly starting on Monday.  July 11 is the next time I will see him and hopefully he’ll clear me for physical therapy.  Until then, it’s ice, ice baby and limited mobility.  Will post again soon!

Our Precana Experience

Let me preface this post with saying that I am a born and raised Catholic.  I have never truly had any issues with my religion, but as I have become older and decided to marry, my opinion of the church has changed significantly.  This post is not meant to offend anyone and these opinions are strictly my own.

Yesterday, we had to attend our first session of precana.  That’s right I said first, as in there will be more than one session.  I was actually hoping the experience would be more positive, but I have to say, I was completely unimpressed.

The first exercise had to do with perceptions of our spouse-to-be.  Sadly, this was probably the best exercise of the day.  Mike and I worked as a team to fill out our sheets and then compare them to one another.  We learned that in some instances our opinions of ourselves differ than the ones of our spouse.

Afterward, we spent the rest of the day hearing speakers who were married couples for 20+ years on topics such as finance, sexuality (ugh) and God.  Although important, these topics were not as informative as I hoped.  Either the information was too general, in which we knew everything that was presented, or we simply didn’t agree with what they were saying.  Either way, the day made for a good topic of conversation at dinner that night.

The truth of the matter is, we paid $90 for a marriage requirement that was really of no use to us.  As mentioned earlier in the post, we have more than one session.  The second session is next weekend and that will cost us an additional $125.  That’s on top of the $750 “donation” to the church for the ceremony.

There’s no doubt celebrating a marriage is expensive.  But establishing requirements where people are being gouged to do so is beyond ridiculous.  I’m just hoping next week’s session is better.  I’ll be sure to update.  Have a great week!