Category Archives: business

Sex, Lies and Tweets. Arrogance or Ignorance?

Today’s Wall Street Journal was riddled with examples of “smart” people in high places making age-old mistakes.  And it’s the oldest stuff in the book.

Yahoo’s CEO misstated his college degree on his online biography. This would have been no big deal until Mr. Thompson decided to lie about how it got there by blaming a search firm. That is when the cover up got him fired. Does this remind anyone of the Martha Stewart lie that put her in jail?

Best Buy’s new CEO was caught having an affair with a subordinate and resigned, but the Founder and Chairman didn’t tell the ethics committee and is off the board.

Francesca’s Holdings Corp., a public company, fired their CFO because he “improperly communicated company information through social media.”   One example, Gene Morphis (@theoldcfo) tweeted on March 6th: “Dinner w/Board tonight. Used to be fun. Now one use be on guard every second.” Does this guy think he is talking to someone privately or is he unclear on appropriate behavior for a CFO?

Is this arrogance or ignorance? Do they believe they are too valuable to get fired or do they believe they won’t get caught?  Maybe it is simply lack of common sense. In the case of the CFO tweets, the comments were blatantly unprofessional.

We can spend our time wondering how this stuff still happens, or see the writing on your Facebook wall: it’s hard to get away with bad behavior if you plan to publish it on line.

Good behavior is not just required of the ordinary employee. Executives are under closer scrutiny than ever, given that companies are judged by the hiring decisions they make.  These executives put their boards in a difficult position, their brand in a bad light, and can put the company’s stock price in peril. Best Buy is already struggling to compete with Amazon and Apple, Yahoo with Google. A blaring WSJ headline is certainly not going to help.

Ethics and social media policies are not just for the lowly, and they could be intertwined with an overall media policy. If these companys have them, did they share them with the executives who made these mistakes? I’d love to know how your company handles your code of conduct. Let us know. We won’t tell. :)

Financial Industry Is Slow To Get Social, Restrained by Regulation

Series 1 on Social Media in Highly Regulated Industrieslocked keyboard

Some in the financial industry think it simpler to abandon social media, but for most, they are stuck in a difficult juxtaposition as they are expected to grow their book of business, but then told they cannot use all the tools available to do so. My Edwards Jones money manager is forbidden to use Facebook for business, and the company won’t allow her to have access to the site from her office.  Merrill Lynch just recently began allowing their employees to use LinkedIn, but under strict guidelines.

With social media in full swing these days, what is it that keeps the highly regulated industries from swimming with the rest?  The difference might be in the government regulations rather than in the social medium.  Banks are regulated by the OCC, investment firms are regulated by the SEC and other industries like legal and real estate are heavily regulated at the State level.   The biggest challenge is that companies would need to monitor online activity for all of their employees and make sure no laws are broken, or invest in social media training as a matter of prevention. This costs money, but does the cost outweigh the benefit? Facebook and Linkedin have already been shown to be rich oil fields of prospects and clients, so how can these companies maneuver safely and confidently within those realms?

For several years, I worked with a large family owned real estate company headquartered in Connecticut, where we immersed more than 2000 agents in social media training. This occupation is about relationships, yet agents were fearful of the platform, mainly because they could not grasp how to use it. I heard more than once, “I don’t want people to know my phone number, my address” To which I replied “isn’t it the same as posting a sign with your face and phone number in front of your customers’ houses?”

On a similar level, companies are fearful of employee missteps online where everything published can be tracked.  Every highly regulated industry has guidelines for conduct, but now these guidelines must be extended to social media channels.  Training on acceptable use of social media, and monitoring, must be implemented to ensure those guidelines are followed.

Social media has already knocked on the door of each and every company and will not go away. Time will tell who manages to work within strict regulations to take advantage of the growth opportunities of social media, and who gets left behind.

Thanks to contributing writer Lori Vintilescu.

The SOPA Debate

On the surface, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP (PIPA) sounds like a good idea – to punish those who pirate intellectual property. As an writer and artist, I am all too aware of the dangers of posting your work and then finding it elsewhere, without your permission. Imagine the cost implications for movie studios, record labels, and of course the individual who has few resources to go after the culprit.

The idea behind this bill, according to those who have followed the debate, was sound. The result, however, has been described as a threat to free speech, web-related businesses, users who upload content, internal networks, open source software, and internet security and could lead to a global collapse of the internet.

These accusations are based in the assertion that the bill only broadly defines what is a violation, puts any consumer who hosts a website at risk of violation, and holds internet services such as YouTube responsible for the content their users upload. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology criticize the bill’s wording as vague enough that “a single complaint about even a major website could be enough to cause the site to be blocked, with the burden of proof then resting on the website to get itself un-blocked.”

EFF has indicated that companies like Etsy, Flickr and Vimeo would have little choice but to shut down if the bill becomes law.

Defenders of the bill say that it will protect revenues of content creators and protect against counterfeit drugs. Companies that rely on copyright, including the Motion Picture Association of American, Pfizer, Nike, and L’Oreal support the bill, as does the AFL-CIO and the U. S. Chamber of Commerce.

On Wednesday, January 18th, Reddit plans a 12-hour knowledge blackout in protest of the bill. As this bill evolves and the House Judiciary Committee continues to debate it, you can keep apprised of it’s progress through our legal system by visiting the Wikipedia article, which is updated daily.

As someone who was around for the very beginning of the wild wild web, we have certainly come a long way. I am not surprised that there are those who try to profit from the content of others. Now, let’s see what we do about it.

 

The Pluses and Minuses of Google+ Pages

Google+ business pages went public on November 7, and they are already making an impact on the social media landscape. The number of visitors to Google’s latest social media venture is up 25% this month, compared to October. Much of this traffic is a result of organizations looking to stake their claim in this new social sphere, even if they are not quite sure how this newest channel will fit into their existing social media plan.

We here at Weber Media Partners excitedly dove into Google+ two weeks ago. The hard work came in the days after. This month, we are working on our plan to integrate this new service into our existing social media marketing program and develop exclusive content for this new site.

Today, I will share with you some of our Google+ insights. If you’re debating whether or not to join, struggling with your content creation or curious about what other brands are already up to, here’s a “Pluses and Minus” list to get you started.

If you’ve already set up a Facebook business page, then setting up your Google+ page will be a breeze. This easy set-up is definitely a PLUS. If it only takes a few minutes, why not claim your place in the network. Bank of America learned the hard way about the errors of slow adoption – a parody site launched on Google Plus before the official brand page, confusing visitors and embarrassing the company.

Need help setting up your Google+ business page? This blog post and slide show from Mashable offers you a great step-by-step guide, along with examples of some top Google+ brand pages.

Hangouts are another PLUS. This tool, unique to Google+, allows users to video chat directly with their followers within the online network. Brands are already using this functionality in exciting ways: sharing exclusive content, announcing new initiatives, and even hosting video customer service sessions.

One beloved entertainment brand that has used Google Hangouts to reach out to fans is The Muppets. Kermit and Miss Piggy, along with actor-director Jason Segel, sat in front of a webcam and answered questions about their new movie, Disney’s The Muppets. (Sample quote: Miss Piggy summarizes the movie by saying, “It’s all about moi!”) Watch the Muppet Google+ Hangout highlight reel, embedded below:

While its launch and optimization has attracted a lot of press, Google+ is still more of a niche social network when compared to a behemoth like Facebook. This smaller, less diverse user base both has both positive and negative consequences for marketers.

Google+ currently has 40 million users, a MINUS when compared to Facebook’s 800 million. Yet Google+ is growing in popularity among young, tech-savvy American males, a PLUS for business seeking to attract the attention of this market in particular.

Additionally, as Crispin Sheridan of Clickz points out, the nascent Google+ is a “less noisy” atmosphere than Facebook, an even more crowded place thanks to the partnership with music sharing site Spotify and the increasing prevalence of social gaming. A less cluttered network, Google+ gives brands the opportunity to avoid the clutter and achieve “a much more direct and personal relationship with their audiences.”

Finally, the lack of shortened URLs for Google+ pages is a clear MINUS, in our opinion. Unlike Twitter and Facebook, Google+ page URLs are made up of a long string of numbers, as opposed to a short alias (for example, facebook.com/webermedia). Some third party sites have shared work-arounds via URL shortening, but they are not ideal. No word yet on if or when Google will introduce these user-friendly “vanity URL.”

Overall, we think the “pluses” of Google+ outweigh the “minuses.” We are excited to experiment with and learn more about Google’s new tool, and we hope you’ll join us there. As always, if you need any assistance with Google+ or any aspect of your social media marketing, we are eager to help guide you. Contact us at info@webermediapartners.com for more information, and share your questions and insights in the comments or via Facebook, Twitter and, of course, Google+.

An Explanation of Recent Facebook Enhancements

Whether you use Facebook for personal reasons or as a business tool, you have probably noticed a lot of changes on the site since last Thursday, when founder Mark Zuckerberg unveiled them. (NOTES and WARNING: This is 1 hour and 40 minutes long. Fast forward to minute 7.5 if you want to avoid the stand up comedian pretending to be Zuckerberg).

There has been an uproar from some users, but there always is. Change is hard for some, but it is inevitable, especially if Facebook wants to remain in the top spot as a social networking destination.

User complaints abound.

“Too cluttered and overwhelming”
“Stop trying to keep up with/be like Twitter and Google+”
“Don’t try to tell me what I like”
“I liked it the way it was, stop changing.”

Facebook tells us that the changes to personal pages are so you don’t miss recent news that is important to you and that you may have missed since you last logged in as well as flexibility to hide news you don’t want to see using filters.

Upates include:
Real Time News Ticker (think Twitter) at the top right of the page
Bigger photos on your wall
Friend filters
Subscribe Button
(Mashable’s article gives all of the details and video)

THE IMPACT ON YOUR BRAND
So, What does that mean for your brand on Facebook?

SUBSCRIBE is like FOLLOWING on Twitter: Individuals can now follow other individuals (Facebook says “subscribe”) so any public content on a personal Facebook  can be in your news feed. This means that your CEO or other thought leaders within your company can share their ideas (blog posts, links to articles) with their subscribers. Getting subscribers is like getting followers on Twitter- the more of your friends that follow someone, the more of their friends might. Building a following on Facebook can reach a more mainstream audience in a more consumer/personal forum.

FILTERS make it easier for users to qualify the content they receive, making it easier to unsubscribe (while still being a friend), moving their content to more visible or hiding it all together. This means that organizations must be ever more conscious what they are posting to their subscribers so they don’t lose them. Use a litmus of 1) is it helpful? 2) is it informative? or is it 3) sales?  If you or your thought leaders provide subscribers with helpful industry information, you will gain more.  If you sell to them, you will lose your audience.

More updates are coming in a few weeks including:

  • A completely redesigned Profile page
  • A Timeline (think: this is your life flashing before your eyes)
  • Integration with Music and other Media (rumors about about a partnership with Netflix, for instance) using Open Graph

Last words
While many of the new changes are making your experience more custom and allow users to hide what they don’t want to see,  we know that these updates are motivated by the compelling  functionality that Twitter and Google+ provide.  While they currently have smaller audiences, they had the luxury of learning from Facebook before they launched their networks.  Google has launched a fully open Google+, which provides flexibility and simplicity and, having learned what Facebook did not offer, at least initially, it offers much, much more. Read this for the details. Therefore, many things have been bolted on to the Facebook experience that weren’t even a glimmer in Mr. Zuckerberg’s eye when he created the original Harvard-centric tool.

Businesses Benefit from Strategic Social Media Programs

Bridge to CustomersWhile social networking began as a consumer activity, it has become a crucial component of most business marketing strategies as it allows companies to reach highly targeted audiences with custom messaging to build brand awareness and establish a relationship with the customer who now expect companies to be reachable and accountable.

Business Benefits
Businesses are now regularly using tools such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn for hiring, customer support, product development, brand recognition, and, of course, client acquisition and retention. Social media has another benefit: the cost of acquiring customers is significantly lower than placing ads, and creates a lasting relationship.

The benefits of a quality social media marketing program include:

  • Transparent, authentic feedback from your audience
  • Integrates well with conventional marketing programs
  • Reach highly-targeted audiences
  • Improves search engines positioning
  • Lower cost than advertising
  • More long term and wider impact than conventional public relations

Listen first, Act second
Buyers look to objective internet sources to compare business products and services including existing customers who are more than willing to share their experience with these products. Companies can’t control the chatter, but they can learn what customers want.

Brands such as Comcast have made major strides in customer service by listening on Twitter. When their brand is mentioned, they know. When someone has a problem, they help them within minutes. They follow the first rule of social media: listen first, act second. Maintaining a regular monitoring program helps to understand customer sentiment and how it changes as you implement online programs.

Defining Success
Measuring the success of a social media campaign is possible only if you define your targets in advance. Whether they include increased traffic, website conversions or leads, you must have clear targets for successful campaigns, at short-term and long-term time intervals. A few examples of what success might look like include:

  • Gaining a better understanding of your customers
  • Increase brand exposure in ways which were not possible before
  • Reducing costs for achieving the same targets using other marketing tactics
  • Increase sales and conversions

Some great resources to compliment this blog post:

Social Commerce, Social Media Today, November 2, 2010

Content for People, Not Robots, Impressions Through Media, September 18, 2010