2 things every company must do before using social media

Companies are looking increasingly at social media as the answer to their declining marketing dollars. Just as the recession has exacerbated the decline of traditional media, so it has given meteoric rise to social media. The reason? It’s cheap. But unfortunately, many companies don’t know enough about social media – and she is a fickle one, because she’s controlled entirely by your customers. Some love you, some hate you – and they all have an equal voice.

Any company that is thinking about getting into social media should, but not in the way many think. Forget launching a Facebook page or holding a contest where people can make their own commercials about you. Instead, just monitor what people are saying about you.

1. Go to Google Alerts and enter your company’s name in the Blog Search area. Google with then monitor all mentions of your company and send you an email. There are a couple of other search engines for this, but Google does a pretty good job.

2. Visit Twitter Search on a regular basis. Enter your company’s name and you’ll see, in real time, what people are saying about you.

Anyone not doing this and thinking about social media is insane. These two tools can provide any company with basic means of monitoring their customers’ feedback. And here’s the best part – you can respond. Here are a few examples of what’s being said about a company in our area. Ask yourself what you would do if you saw these comments:

1. Jan: Is glad to be home after nearly being stranded. First experience with XXXXXX and the flight was cancelled!

2. wineb: Just got ‘free’ tickets on XXXXXX! NEVER been on a plane before– I AM SO EXCITED!!!

A quick note back to Jan could make her realize that the company cares about her cancelled flight (and provide incentive for a future flight). Another note to wineb could share in her excitement about a first time experience. By reaching out to these people at the right time, not only will they become more bonded to the company, but they’re well on their way to sharing that goodwill with their friends through these social media tools.

And you wondered why no one was joining your Facebook page.

Do you have any positive social media stories worth sharing?

3 ways Twitter can be more useful

You can’t argue with the explosive growth of Twitter over the last few months. I think the #1 update in March was “Not sure how this thing works, but here we go.” I’ve been messing around with it, but other than brand building (nods to you, Mr. Kawasaki), I don’t think Twitter is being used to its full potential. Here are 3 things I’d like to see Twitter do that would make it more useful to me:

1. Get my broker on it. Whenever that hot tip comes along or some imminent news, I’d love it if my broker would broadcast it out to me and the rest of his followers. What about other instant updates? How about tweets from airline flights to see if they’re on time?

2. Have a local broadcast option. There’s really no point in asking my followers where the best place to buy scotch in Victoria is, because the majority of them live elsewhere. If Twitter set up a local area broadcast, you could get all sorts of valuable local information from the people who live there – not just your current local followers.

3. Optimize tweets for my interests. Some of the links that get shared are terrific, but they have nothing to do with my passion, and they come from people who are in my industry. I’d love to see Twitter optimize updates to my interests only.

What would you like Twitter to do for you?

The key to a great brand? Turn some people off.

ryanair_logoIt sounds ridiculous, but great brands should say to a segment of the population “you’re not for me”. Recently Ryanair was in the news for telling off a blogger who thought he had tricked Ryanair’s website into giving him free flights. Whether you agree or disagree with Ryanair’s reaction, one thing stands out – they took a brand position (cheeky and ruthlessly cheap) and stuck with it – and you have to admire that. Now I am told that Ryanair is famous for less-than-stellar customer service, but can you argue with their growth? British Airways’ traffic was down 8% in February, yet Ryanair’s was up 7%. It doesn’t sound like their controversial stance is deterring many prospective passengers.

How to start your own business in 4 hours

business-schoolI work for a fairly entrepreneurial agency, where we are consistently coming up with new ways for our clients to do things with respect to their operations, sales, marketing or business processes. However, we rarely redefine ourselves, or if we do, it seems the redefinition moves at a pace that would make government agencies blush. Now I know this isn’t actually the case with us (I’m just impatient by nature), but while I am feeling like we’re moving at glacial speed I daydream about what it would be like to have my own business. I envision how the employees would be compensated, or what the culture would be like. Trouble is that often, like many people, I don’t have the foggiest what I’d actually sell or produce, or how to get this product or service properly funded.

Worry no more. I just came across a few great blog posts that are here to help.

The 6 month MBA blog has a new list of 999 business ideas. Some are a bit far fetched, but some are downright brilliant. And as they say, success is in the execution.

Once you’ve browsed through this site (I was inspired by many, but #31, the Santa Delivery Service, #51, Google for video and audio and #129, a themed restaurant where you sing Karaoke in front of a live band, were particularly inspiring), start writing your business plan. Doesn’t have to be lengthy – for tips visit Guy Kawasaki’s site. Then submit it to Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, who has recently put out an offer for open source funding for business plans. If he likes your plan, he’ll fund it for a piece of equity.

Happy brainstorming.

I just took down Apple’s stock in one post.

apple-logoTech blog Gizmodo has just released a report citing that the health of Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple is declining rapidly, which prompted a 4% decline in Apple’s share price. In October, an iReport on CNN.com claimed Jobs had had a heart attack, which caused a temporary stock plunge of 10%. In September, Google News incorrectly picked up an old story on the Florida Sun-Sentinel website about United Airlines filing for bankruptcy. As a result, United Airlines stock fell over 11%.

I don’t think anyone can argue that access to information, on-demand, is a wonderful thing, but what we need to consider is how we take in this information, and more importantly, how we act on it. One individual had the power to cause Apple’s market cap to drop $10 billion in one day (can you say “put option?”). So if your company actively blogs, you might want to designate an editor to make sure everything is genuine. Online trust is going to be one of the paramount issues over the next decade. And if you’re an investor, it’s probably best to check if news reports are backed up by other sources before you sell those Apple or United shares.