Boomer SMB Owners Tell Me S/He Can’t Do Social Media…

MS-DOS Command line
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS-DOS

Nothing, and I mean nothing, including social media, is as hard to master as MS-DOS was. . .

Since my business demographic is primarily boomers, I know better. I’m a boomer, too. And I know full well that we boomers had to conquer and endure the pioneering stages of modern technology. Nothing, and I mean nothing, today is as hard to master as MS-DOS was. Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials don’t have a clue what a nightmare it was to work on a black screen with green letters and no graphics, no mouse. They never had to learn commands or have ever seen “A:” , or had to save content on multiple floppy disks, and most never sat in front of a v e r y  s l o w CRT that emitted unhealthy rays!

So, Back to the Boomers

So when these boomers who cut their computer teeth on difficult, dinosaur technology are telling me that social media is just too hard to take the time to learn  – –  sorry, but I’m not biting!

What I think happened to these otherwise savvy entrepreneurs, is when they began their businesses, technology was in an ever-changing mode. Obsolescence was the norm, and many were hesitant to invest in expensive technology that would most likely be outdated before it collected dust. Starting a new business means watching every nickel; technology avoidance and frugality became almost a badge of honor.

Culture Shock

Then, before these entrepreneurs knew what hit them, all of a sudden they were far, far behind others who had the time to keep up. In addition, any technology to be learned had to center around POS and bookkeeping. The learning curve on those was a bit time-consuming for owners, not to mention the time required to train staff. Who had time to jump into the social media craze while trying to run a business?

But now – da-da-DUM – there is no escaping social media for small business marketing. While it, too, experienced its versions of continuous obsolescence, social media has settled in as the most viable and affordable marketing vehicle for SMBs.

What I am finding is the biggest obstacle to success in social media, is that most successful entrepreneurs are classic introverts, even hermits. They live, eat, drink, and breathe their business to the point of no social life, but they like that! So of course they feel awkward trying to enter a SOCIAL medium that expects casual interaction.

So, yes, it is good to hire help, but it is also good to use that help to learn social media. WHY? Because social media is not successful unless the fans get to see what goes on behind the front doors. And if you don’t provide behind the scenes material (content, images, customer testimonials, etc.), then you are simply keeping a social media account alive with memes, quotes, product images – yawn……..

My best social media analogy?

Think of how many times you have driven by a small business and felt a tinge of apprehension about pulling in and checking it out. Why?

Because we don’t like to explore the unknown, especially when it has potential to waste our valuable time or money. Your social media fans are no different. They want some behind the scenes peeks at who you are, what you do, why you sell what you sell, what makes you different, and how will it FEEL to shop or do business with you!

Damn, you don’t have to marry these fans! Just like your customers, people just need to get to know each other! And that’s why social media works for those who do make the effort to put themselves out there for fans! Does that make sense?!

You’re Not from Around Here, Are You? Social Etiquette or Regional Bias?

Meme - Don't take offense if I call you Ma'am

There is a trend in Social Media that kind of pisses me off. I’m wondering if it pisses you off, too.

Lots of memes are dictating REGIONAL social etiquette (see image). WHY is that? Social Media lives online – a.k.a. WORLDWIDE!

The uppity tone is giving me agida. It is as if you are “less than” if you don’t use their regional vernacular. So here’s my rant.

What’s disrespectful in one region may be normal in another.

I grew up in Tampa, Florida and was taught to use Mr., Mrs., and Miss as respectful titles, and not ma’am or sir. My dad was Air Force and the only sirs and ma’ams I knew were in uniform. If you were close to a friend of the family or neighbors, you respectfully added an Aunt or Uncle to their first name. It wasn’t until I moved to Atlanta when I was in my late 20s that I learned of the ma’am and sir protocol. Yes, I had heard this practice on TV, like on the Andy Griffith Show, but I had never experienced it in my places of residence – until I moved to Atlanta.

Yes, it made me feel old to be called Ma’am.

I was only 27 when I moved to Atlanta.  And after decades here, it is still hard to hear someone call me ma’am. I didn’t raise my son with that practice because it is still foreign in its feeling to me. I am sure that is my military family history at fault for my discomfort, but to hear a little child say, “Yes, Sir” to an elder just seems strict and unnatural to me.  But, that’s me and my upbringing. But you won’t see me making a meme about that!

In business, too?

Another difficult adjustment in Atlanta was the custom of holding the first 2-5 minutes of business conversation focused on social exchange. How’s your spouse, is Johnny enjoying his new school, heard you went to Hilton Head… etc… So, I had to learn this practice or run the risk of alienating southern business associates. Big adjustment for me as, in Florida, we practiced simple greetings, then on to business as, in that region, it was considered rude to waste another business person’s valuable time with what we considered time-wasting chatter. Again, regional differences…

Yes, I understand the desire to maintain one’s cultural differences. BUT, in today’s mobile society, let’s consider that perhaps it is disrespectful to expect a newcomer to assimilate so quickly and additionally, chastise them for it. The average home sale frequency is every 4-7 years as opposed to the old days when one lived most of one’s life in one place, so life is not the same as the slow, old days.

SOCIAL MEDIA lives everywhere – and behavior can’t be observed as mutually exclusive to your cultural region.

The only cultural differences in Social Media are in the different platforms – LinkedIn, Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. and that difference is a matter of tone, not language. Social Media has brought the world closer together in a shorter time than any time in history. Why would you try to enforce a cultural divide online?

So . . . Don’t take offense if I DON’T call you Ma’am or Sir, and I won’t take offense when you DO.

Thanks for listening!

Note: I just got a tweet from @supplies3D recommending I include N. Florida in the “Southern” way. He’s right. From Central Florida to South Florida you have mostly Northern U.S. transplants and their influence is deeply set. North Florida is very much like the old south.

 

I’m Over Facebook – They Just Don’t Give a Damn About Our UX

The ONLY reason I haven’t deleted Facebook gets a thumbs downmy Facebook accounts – personal and biz – is to stay in touch with the many friends and followers I value who simply aren’t anywhere else on Social Media. (Secretly I wish they’d leave Facebook so I could, too.)

But, I am no longer wasting my time there trying to cultivate more followers.

I have been on Social Media since 2008 and have spent as much time analyzing its use as I have using it.

It all boils down to the WHY of using a social media platform. I think I speak for many in this simple breakdown . . .

For Personal UX, we want:

  • accessibility
  • social experience
  • and the ability to consistently view who and what we choose to follow

For Small Business UX, we want:

  • Visibility
  • Visibility
  • Visibility.

Shall we all agree we are no longer experiencing the above on Facebook? All together now, say YES.

Where can we honestly have the Social UX promised? Facebook is becoming like Network TV – monetization is their sole driver. Foolishly, they are forgetting they need loyal fans to keep that s— up.

And Instagram is just an ego extension of Facebook. Foursquare is a chore and results shy. Tumblr and StumbleUpon and other discovery engines will soon funnel down to those that provide the best SmartPhone UX whoever that will be… Maybe FlipBoard?

The tide in Social Media is turning into a SmartPhone technology tsunami which is the catalyst for the change in texture of Social Media.

Where am I going?

Google+ and all associated Google products (YouTube, Drive, Photos,….)

The word is Google+ will oust Facebook in usage by May 2016, i.e., Spring-Summer 2016. No one believes this (that is, of those who haven’t tried G+ yet), but I would bet on it. Amazing freaking platform. I feel like I have just scratched the surface.

And where else am I staying?

LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest

While I am a little worried about LI and Twitter (they are experiencing some growing pains), I believe they will sustain powerfully and successfully. And Pinterest? Still far more powerful than it is given credit. I like to see the forest for the trees and look to the future in making these assessments. Yes, these are my professional and personal opinions – take ’em or leave ’em, but pay attention.

Notice I am not recommending you go or stay anywhere. If any platform is producing results for you, it would be folly to leave. But, if you are a small business, pay close attention to your future insights.

  • are you new likes producing engagement?
  • are you having to boost and promote more frequently due to poor reach that is becoming poorer…?
  • are you noticing you have to be more mainstream in your posts to keep/gain visibility? (in other words, George Takei style posting?)

I’d love to see what you are up to on Google+. Leave your G+ URL in the comments and I’ll follow. My personal profile is https://plus.google.com/+HaniaWhitfield/ and my page is https://plus.google.com/+Smbsmartmarketing2010/

I have also just started a Google+ community for small business owners to post questions and comments on small business marketing. No commitments, no fees, just helping and sharing as peers.

Ask to join http://bit.ly/SMBSmartMarketingTalk .

See ya there!

A Comedy of Customer Service Errors – a Marketing vs Sales story

Ruby Tuesday on North Carolina Highway 54 in D...
Image via Wikipedia

It is so important for Marketing and Sales to communicate. Ruby Tuesday and other chains must spend a fortune on their marketing; from print to broadcast, decor, menus, layout, everything. But if the on-the-floor experience doesn’t match the marketing, whose fault is it? Marketing or Operations – or both?

A true story. The little things really DO matter.

I was telling colleagues this story of a customer experience I had, and they all said I positively must blog about it. It’s true and not exaggerated, so I hope you enjoy this crazy little adventure of mine… To me, it is a great example of how operations and marketing must work together or both sides suffer.

Turn on the Wayback Machine

Waaaay back in 2004, I was a troubleshooting store manager at a (then) new outlet mall in a (then) fairly unsophisticated and remote location in North Georgia. Thankfully, the area has come a long way since then.

It was a tough adjustment for me, spoiled from working in major metropolitan areas with a wealth of hiring potential… “Dueling Banjos” from the movie “Deliverance” was playing in the back of my mind…

We just wanted to eat

It was time for the annual inventory, so, in anticipation of a long worknight, I planned to treat my staff to dinner and some great coffee. Simple enough – or so I thought. I forgot that this area was satisfied withcoffee that came in jars of brown powder. But I held hope for dinner… a new Ruby Tuesday had opened in the far end of the mall’s parking lot. Hooray – we can avoid Food Court heartburn!

An actual coffee bar had opened in the food court, too! I was so happy we had the option of real food and real coffee to ease the dreaded task of counting every item in the store – accurately.

Even better, Ruby’s had curb side pickup. I called ahead and ordered for everyone. They gave me my total, asked for the description of my car, and told me the order would be ready to pick up in 20 minutes. Perfect! I thought to myself, I’ll head on over while the staff closes the day’s business. How much easier could it get?

Wanted: Revolving Doors

I headed over to the Ruby Tuesday restaurant and parked in the pick-up spot in front of the curbside door near the backside of the restaurant. While watching every other waiting car get orders filled, I noticed something odd… The server did not go back in to the restaurant through the same door he exited. Instead, he walked to the front entrance… huh? He did this 4 more times, each time moving a little faster to get to that front door. Not surprisingly, my curiosity was peaking. Why didn’t he go back in the way he came out?

I was kept waiting and waiting for my order. The next time the server popped out, I waved him over and he assured me my order was on the way. Hmmmmm….  I waited a little longer and still no order. I decided I had to investigate. I left my car and now I’m annoyed for keeping my staff waiting. I walked to the curb side pick-up door and surprise! Locked. Now we all know why the server kept returning by way of the front door, but still don’t know why he couldn’t do anything about it.

We can’t make that item for ya – or anything else either

I walked to the front door and the hostess directed me to the service bar which handled curbside orders. I walked over and inquired. Someone went to check and returned apologetic. They were out of lettuce!!! They said they were waiting to know what I wanted to substitute. And they were going to ask me when?!? And what restaurant runs out of lettuce? Seriously? (only back then we weren’t saying “Seriously” so I probably said, “Really?”).

I asked about 3 other items – nope, nada, don’t have the items to make it. Finally I settled for something I hoped the staff would like and they went back into the kitchen after some more mumblings of apologies.

I didn’t trust them anymore

I decided to wait at the bar since it was hot outside, not to mention I also now had a trust issue emerging. Boy, good thing Twitter was still 2 years away… what a stream of bad customer service tweets were waiting here.

I’m still sitting there waiting… I was the only customer in the area, so I became privy to some staff chatter I probably wasn’t supposed to hear:

Why aren’t you using the curb door to come back in?

It’s locked.

Well, go get the key! 

Steve has it.

Well where’s Steve?

Nobody’s seen him for the last 20 minutes.

Ba-dum-tss….

If there had been Twitter, my feed would have been smoking! You couldn’t have scripted this better.

Then, finally, my order came out. Whew! But I was running out of time and still had to go to the “gourmet” coffee shop in the food court…

Again, what was I thinking?

So I get to the coffee place in the food court. They were still open for a few hours, so I should have no trouble here.  hahahahahahahahahaha :D

We only have regular?

I ordered a few flavored coffees. The young lady said, “We’re out of the flavored coffees, we just have regular.” I stepped back to look at the sign to make sure I was actually standing at the “Coffee bar.” Yup.  I was at the right place – at least according to the sign…

I asked her when some flavored coffee might be ready.

She said they weren’t going to make anymore.

I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt by asking if she were closing early or some such story that would make some kind of sense of her statement. She said no, that they just only make so much flavored coffee per day and so she wasn’t going to make anymore.

Wait, there’s more.

No stir sticks?

I was running out of time, so I just gave up and ordered regular coffee all around. Then I asked for cream and sugar. She wanted a specific number of creams and sugars before she would give me any.

And lastly – she was out of spoons and stir sticks! Unbelievably, I had to walk down to each of the next 3 food court stores before I could find spoons. The first one actually had some, but told me I couldn’t have any of his because I didn’t buy anything from him.

I was beginning to feel like this was some kind of customer service Twilight Zone and that surely I would wake up soon! First the food fiasco and now the food court and coffee stand fail.

Nope. It was real.

As I was walking out with my coffee and spoons, I spotted a familiar face at the courtesy desk and recounted my horrors of customer service. We agreed the hiring pool was just too dry. We wrapped up our conversation on the trials of hiring in an arena of folks that thought getting a Wal-Mart was their route to becoming akin to a big city.

Then, up walks an unshaven young guy in overalls and flip-flops asking for an application for a job. The courtesy desk host asked for which store was he applying? He said he didn’t know – what stores did they have? We all laughed and told him to turn around as he was in the middle of over 40 different stores in the food court alone.

He shrugged, we wanted to laugh.

I walked back to my store to share our regular coffee and non-lettuce bearing adjusted menu items… and went to work on our inventory.

So, corporate, listen up. What happens on the floor is what determines your ROI in marketing. You can spend all you want on marketing, but if operations aren’t up to par, your money is wasted.

SMBs: Stop Ignoring Google Plus!

Google Plus Logo CollageGoogle+ is DEFINITELY gaining ground.

If you haven’t taken the time to explore the beauty, versatility, and content quality of Google+, you simply don’t know what you are missing and you are paying too much attention to old information.

IMHO, G+ is the perfect blend of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram rolled into one.

That’s not to say they will fade away, but much of what is missing in those singular platforms is all rolled into one at G+. Add the bonus of increased rankings with usage and you have a win-win.
Start playing with it… there are plenty of YouTube Videos that can get you acquainted. (Hello- YouTube is a Google product…!)

Google Plus Just as Popular as Twitter in U.S., Study Says  And has more visitors than Instagram, Pinterest 

Update: You are invited to our brand new Google+ Community for small business owners and managers: http://bit.ly/SMBSmartMarketingTalk

Is Twitter’s Decline a Sign Social Media is Dying?

Is Twitter’s Decline a Sign Social Media is Dying?

Is Twitter really dying?

. . . and is its decline a harbinger of social media fate?

I’m sad to say it, but I agree with a recent article:  A Eulogy for Twitter – Adrienne LaFrance and Robinson Meyer – The Atlantic  The title mostly says it all (you should still read it), but the writer correctly lays no definitive fault on Twitter itself.

Why isn’t Twitter at fault?

I opened my Twitter account in 2010 when it became evident it would stay for the long haul. At that time, new social media platforms appeared regularly, and just as regularly dropped away. No one knew what anyone really wanted from a social media platform – creators or users. No one yet grasped the potential functionality nor could define a real purpose.

Twitter’s success has always been from its immediacy. If a celebrity died, a natural disaster wreaked havoc, or a government takeover was in progress, Twitter was “Da Man!” But, as followers grew exponentially, tweets quickly became buried in a stream of fresher posts and news could be lost.

#Whatsthesubject

Hashtags evolved as a remedy – an immediate and comprehensive sourcer for any topic of interest. Twitter later coached searching along by not requiring a hashtag to search. Trending Topics entered and quickly became a font for sourcing streams to increase user visibility and encourage new followers.  Soon Twitter decided trending should be local, too, and small businesses learned how to utilize trending for increased visibility.

After a myriad of tweaks over the years, in retrospect, perhaps Twitter should have left itself alone. After all, the demand for change was rarely from the Peeps. As usual, change occurred for the purposes of monetization, a necessary evil for users to endure for the reward of free access. But no platform can run for free. Monetization is a must.

Content for the sake of content?

But, in this recent year, content has suffered. Twitter is laden with over-processed content and spam. Popular threads and Tweetchats do still thrive, but for how long? Perhaps Twitter acceptance by multimedia news and entertainment produced a shallower environment. Perhaps users grew tired of having to compress thoughts into 140 characters (or less if we wanted an RT). Perhaps the spontaneity gave way to scheduling apps like Hootsuite. It’s hard to peg the current problems on any one cause.

Perhaps the same principles apply to any FREE medium?

Free access network television dominated the airwaves for decades. Paid Cable came along and turned it upside down. People were/are willing to pay for better quality content, and the ability to view without frequent and loud interruptions.  Sponsored network television were forced to recognize viewers with a choice were leaving the pedestrian network fodder for quality viewing on cable. It became apparent the show content and quality had to improve to compete. In the meantime, cable channels multiplied exponentially, and many had to embrace some form of advertising to survive as the pallet of choice broadened and exclusivity no longer generated the necessary funds per channel. After all, how much would a consumer be willing to pay for more and more channels – especially since all channels were not a universal fit to every demographic.

So, the network broadcasts (still free to consumers) had to compete with better content and coverage to increase advertising and viewers. Add new rivals, Tivo and the DVR enabling viewers to skip ads. The networks were losing $$ to technology.  Solution? Create entertaining advertising for viewers to enjoy the ads as much as the shows they supported. Compete with the quality content of premium cable networks by attracting strong feature film directors and producers for high quality programming such as “Good Wife.” And, entice viewers with On Demand viewing convenience, but with no option to speed past ads.  Here we go again. For the viewer, 1 step forward, 2 steps back as Free options fight to survive.

So is Social Media facing same?

My Free TV example was an attempt at an analogy to illustrate that FREE is always a problem. It is never FREE to those producing the tools and content. Offering free products and services as an introduction is effective for enlisting subscriber business, but maintaining free is always a problem.

While Facebook is often recognized to have an inferior user interface, it still reigns king.  Timing is everything, and they began at the right place and time to produce many and loyal users. Facebook has also been more effective with monetizing their platform. Why? Because Facebook is easy. Facebook is ubiquitous. Facebook requires little from us except tolerance for ads. And content is more accessible and even lingers.

Interestingly, it appears Facebook’s cagey methods and well documented inaccessibility has lent users to acquiesce to their monetizing tactics. Users post complaints at every tweak of their pages and profiles, unendingly threatening to leave, but never actually doing so.

What about Google+?

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Google+. Yes, the CEO has given up (?) after 8 years, but G+ is not going away. It’s far too valuable for generating better SEO. After all, Google is genius in its integration of Google tools and apps. Even if we don’t understand how to use them all, we do understand that ANYTHING we use from Google will generate better search rankings on Google – the premier search engine. There are crawlers and bots aplenty Google utilizes to maximize their effectiveness. Perhaps despite the lack of public receptivity of G+, it is gaining ground in another area Twitter used to dominate – the Tweetchat may eventually give way to the Google Group Hangout. Again, ease of use is tantamount to popularity in any platform gaining ground.

Bottom line?

ironically enough, it will not be the users who will dictate the demise or growth of any platform. Technology will. And at the rate these technological changes are occurring, everything could change. Maybe texting could be transformed into social? Maybe software will evolve to pre-sort and pre-qualify content for best use. Impossible to imagine every possibility.

The growing demand and technology’s advances in ease of use for Visual content has eased the proliferation of text (which overwhelmed users). A visual truly is worth a thousand words, and everyone’s time is valuable. But users still have something to say.

Social Media platforms may die, or simply evolve for the better via improved technology.  At any rate, as technology advances,  any prediction of social media fate really is folly.

Social Media 12 days of Christmas

SMB Smart Marketing Christmas

Now that Social Media has virtually become part of our genetic code, I thought it only appropriate to appreciate it for the unexpected gifts (ahem) it brings us every day.

So, for the Holiday Season, I ask forgiveness from those who truly enjoy this popular holiday carol, and am offering my own social media version…

Social Media 12 days of Christmas

Dedicated to Mark, Jack, Reid, Ben and Larry

For the twelve days of Christmas, Social Media gave to me:

12 Tools for Sharing
11 Spammers Following
10 Celebrity Tweeters
9 YouTube Pet Videos 
8 Inappropriate Ads
7 Cat Memes
6 Google+ Crapehangers

5  Y O U  D O N ‘ T  S A Y s

4 LinkedIn Endorsements
3 Marketing Infographics
2 (or more) Hours on Pinterest
And an Edge-Ranked Facebook Top Story!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!