Social media monitoring has changed my entire outlook on marketing. I approached this with the idea of trying to reach large numbers of people to convince them to buy my product. Now, I have come to realize that it makes far more sense to listen to their needs, wishes and desires and to build a product that will meet those objectives. I am struck by how open, honest and even raw some of the online discussions can be, It is better than having a full time free focus group. Some of these people really express their concerns, fears and needs in a way that moves me to build a product that not only is financially beneficial to me but that will help so many people that need help.
I have been focused on an older demographic that is nearing or at retirement age. They have a strong but narrowly focused online presence and I am struck by how much I can learn just by listening. I know that this has been presented thoroughly throughout the series of courses but it can be much deeper than just listening to see where your market is at. I will never attempt to develop a product on my own again. I will just listen and occasionally participate in online discussions and see what void needs to be filled. I am an entrepreneur with a one person company but with a massive free research and development division: It is called the internet.
Professional networking is critical to many people, including me. I have established a smaller more focused list of people than some others but these professional relationships run deep and in my business, that is more important than sheer numbers. I attend a half dozen in person conferences every year and in some cases I see the same faces at each event and at others I will see people only once or twice. But all of these relationships are now stronger due to social networking. Video conferencing, communicating via Facebook, Twitter or other means helps to keep those relationships fresh and allows us to share information more freely and in a timely fashion. Currently, I would argue that both in person and social networking are very important.
Who knows exactly what the future will bring? However, I think it holds a great deal of promise. I initially thought that those in person face to face contacts could not possibly be replaced but now I am not so sure. Technology is amazing and maybe we will have a very similar look and feel via holograms or some other technology we have not heard of yet. It is clear, however, that once we reach that point we will be able to reach a much larger audience. My own network bothers me at times because we meet only in North America and most participants are older white men with a few women present, as well. In my business there is a very real need to network and share with fellow professionals around the world and to mentor and assist people developing their skills in third world countries. This is my social networking hope for the future. I hope that we can embrace technology and make it so that we can truly “reach out” to others around the globe so that they can participate in our conferences, to learn and experience what we benefit from and once we do that, the world will be a more equitable place.
The first strong organization that I chose to consider was Shoppers Drug Mart. Their more traditional advertising and promotion is well done and the stores have a vibrant feel and I expected the same from their social media platforms. Not surprisingly, I was not disappointed. I found their website, Facebook and Twitter accounts reflected their overall marketing theme and were as bright and colourful as their stores. While it is not uncommon for companies to recycle social media content, I was a bit disappointed in SDM because there was excessive duplication. I did see that they had a number of helpful hints and health advice on subjects such as diabetes and it was not overly pushing on sales. Overall, it was quite well done. While I mentioned that the website, Facebook and Twitter were very similar I did note that they focused almost exclusively on cosmetics on YouTube. Most of their videos were 30 – 40 seconds long and they appear to offer more helpful hints and not overt sales. Facebook noted that they usually responded to comments within a few hours which is not too bad for a company of that size.
The second strong organization comes form one of my favourite restaurant chains, okay, my actual favourite. The Keg does a great job on social media. The sites are rich and colourful and quite interactive. I was pleased that they included their menu and current features but left prominent places for people to provide feedback. I was a little disappointed with their Facebook response to one complaint that was clearly canned. The customer complained about a meal that he had at their Moncton, New Brunswick location and was very specific about his issues with the meal. The response was slightly personalized with the complainant’s first name and said that they regretted that he had a bad experience. They then went on to ask for the specific location and details on the problem which Brad had already laid out in detail. Other than that, everything was good including the pictures. It made me want to head to the Keg for dinner tonight. One thing that really impressed me was their Twitter feed. It was very engaging and one person talked about how the Keg made the best Bloody Caesar’s and they wish they had the recipe. The Keg came right back and offered to give it to them! Nicely done.
So then I had to find an under performer and it didn’t take me long to hit ground zero. The retailer that seems to be knocking on death’s doorstep is Sears Canada. Their stores are in need of upgrades, are poorly lit, not well maintained and largely out of touch. A news article just the other day reported that Sears senior management saw no way for the retailer to survive in the long term. With that I went to the Sears website and I found it to be as dreary as their stores. Even their fonts mashed together to be unreadable in places. See under “From Dawn to Dusk” and “Celebrate Summer” at http://www.sears.ca/en/home?gclid=CNDAlo7CyNQCFQYcaQodsJcMVQ&gclsrc=aw.ds&dclid=CP-eso7CyNQCFUNKXgodYFwBpg.
Next I went to their Facebook page and was shocked to see that they had a location map that only showed three store locations. One was in Thornhill, ON, a second in Brampton and the third was in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. They must be dying faster than I realized! I suspect that they must have one social media person and he/she is likely out on stress leave or has been laid off , already. How sad that a once great Canadian institution has come to this.
For the past eight months or so I have been slowly working my way through this five part Social Media series and it has been a challenge. I am older than most students and can easily see my sixtieth birthday on the horizon. Yes, I know that many people much older than me are far more internet savvy, but that is not me. Nelly is pushing me kicking and screaming into the wild wonderful world of social media, yet I still rebel. I like easy listening and for me that is Facebook. I am interested in retirement subjects and people my age are very comfortable on Facebook. Since I am required to look elsewhere I have used Twitter but it is a distant second. But listening and monitoring on Facebook works very well for me. It tells me, everything that I want to know, I think. I now understand what retirement issues are important to people my age. What worries them, what angers them and what they want to know more about.
Being a creature of habit I use Google Alerts exclusively. It seems to work well for me. I have explored Hootsuite but I don’t think that I need it. I am sure that there are others out there that can give me a multitude of reasons as to why I need to diversify but so far my limited, but effective social media plan seems to be working out. I think that this is due to the fact that I am seeking a particular niche; people of retirement age in Canada. Yes, people use different social media channels but the majority seem happy to be on Facebook. Perhaps by using other services I could get a better handle on my market but I see it as a lot of effort for limited reward. Think about it. If you were looking for people 55 to 70 years of age that wanted to talk about retirement issues where do you think that you might find them?
If I am really missing some great opportunities to learn more about my niche market feel free to tell me. But you may have to take it easy on me. Until recently I thought that Instagram was an online dating service for available women my age. 🙂
Storytelling goes back to the very beginning of the human experience and for much of our history it was how we learned, in many cases we still learn this way. There is an expectation about storytelling in that people sense that what they are about to be told is important or highly entertaining. The point is that storytelling is special and if you tell a story people will listen and give it greater weight than the usual noise that is out there. There is so much information out there now and so many people trying to be heard that it takes special skills to break through and to have your voice clearly heard and to be listened to. Storytelling is a great way to do just that. When you tell your story you can build your personal brand and that leads to another important lesson. Your personal brand should be just that. Personal. By connecting with your digital audience in a very real and personal way, through the medium of storytelling you will reach more people and they will relate to you better.
Your business has its’ own unique story and telling that along with humanizing it by engaging staff that write in a personal manner will make your business feel more real to people and people tend to gravitate to that which is familiar and comfortable. Hopefully, that will be you and your business.
My secret wish for my business is that others will come to understand the importance of planning for retirement as much as I do. I have spent a significant amount of time doing research into this subject and I know that if I pass this information on to others then they will have a much better and happier retirement then they otherwise might. Unfortunately, my motivation came from witnessing a few very bad retirement experiences and I initially wanted to make own upcoming one successful. But it was so difficult to find all of the needed information that I now feel compelled to share these lessons with others.
I try to share my motivation with others so that they will know where I am coming from and how important it is to plan properly. I take great satisfaction from helping others and I think that that shows through. I really do have a story to tell and I think I have done a pretty good job of telling it but there is always room for improvement. The more people that I help, the more my story will become known and that is a very good thing. People can sense sincerity and they know when they are getting the straight story and I take pride in that.
I know that what I have is a business but I have been fortunate in that I have structured it in such a way that it is easy for people to support my work with a very reasonable purchase that helps them plan well. In a way, the dollars take care of themselves and all I have to do is tell my story and my business moves forward. Not a bad deal.
I have chosen a post retirement second career as a retirement lifestyle coach. There are very few people doing this type of much needed coaching but even then I think that I have a distinct advantage in that I am driven to do this, a calling if you will. The others may have good information and advice but I have seen the damage that can be done by not properly planning and preparing for retirement. My own parents had very successful careers and lives until they retired but they simply didn’t know how to transition and the results were not at all good. I promised myself that would not happen to me and my planning and research ultimately took on a life of its own. Yes, there is money to be made doing this but that is not the motivating factor. People talk about my passion for the subject and how well informed I am. I think this is the key to my personal brand. I don’t want anyone to make the mistakes that my parents, and a close friend did, and it shows.
I am most proud of when I offer advice to someone that is lost about what to do with their lives after they leave their careers. I have literally seen relief wash over peoples faces when you tell them how they can plan and make the transition to a new life. I guess the bottom line is that this is not something I do, it is who I am in many ways. I am good with that! 🙂
For this post I decided to check out a company that has a very close relationship to their customers or “members” and that is Costco. I am a member myself but I don’t recall a really robust social media presence. However, when I went on to their main website ( https://www.costco.ca/ ) I was absolutely shocked to find that they didn’t have any social media links! Near the bottom of the main web page is the Customer Service line complete with a Follow header but no links. Not impressive for a company that it is always talking about the benefits of membership.
I had to look up their Facebook account. When I got there I did see that their SM customer care team was responding to comments, particularly negative ones. However, I was not impressed by the content. It was just a bunch of product advertising. There is nothing wrong with that but as the lesson taught us to” focus on how peoples’ lives can be improved with your products and services”. Costco is missing a great opportunity to connect with their members and to build that all important relationship. I also noted that the responses to comments were highly specific to the complaint but never seemed to engage people beyond what was bothering them at the time. The Costco team had just established a direct contact with a member and should have asked if there was anything else they could do for them or to ask them about their other Costco experiences. They seem to treat social media as an online complaint department instead of the great marketing and research tool that it could be. Too bad for them.
I have learned many lessons over the past six months of social media training, but nothing has struck home as much as Gary Vanderchuk’s advice to “understand yourself, very, very well”. http://gary.tumblr.com/post/78887660/the-dna-game-exacute-on-being-you Gary suggests that we really need to get to know exactly who we are in an honest open way so that we can determine the best means to get through to people. There is a lot of noise out there so getting noticed is not easy. More importantly, when you are noticed you have to pass the “sniff test” to determine whether you have credibility or not.
The Real You
Taking the time to analyze your own “DNA” to see how you come across online is critical. You may not be using the best platform or you just not be using it as effectively as you could. Understanding yourself, your strengths and weaknesses can help you to come across as far more genuine and sincere which can translate into success. People are busy and it is difficult to get and keep their attention. Analyzing the best way for you to communicate with these people may be the most important thing you can do. Once you get their attention you really need to convince them that you are the genuine article, the real deal and spending some of their precious time with you would be an investment, not a waste, of time. Imagine yourself around a campfire with these people and that you only have a few minutes to get your message across. More importantly, image that you only have the first 30 seconds to convince them to give the rest of their limited time because that is what often happens in social media.
Light a Fire
Take those precious few seconds to let the real you shine through. Let them know that you have something important to say and that they need to hear it. Light a fire, bring them in and be real. People will listen if you really believe what you have to say. The other points in this course are also important such as grammar and spelling but people want to interact with real people so being real is the single most important thing you can do.
Feel free to disagree. Comments are very welcome indeed.
If you had a chance to read my introduction on the discussion board you would have learned that I am a Coast Guard officer. I have spent many years at sea both in the merchant fleet and the Coast Guard and all of my voyages have been with a specific purpose. In other words, I went where I was told to go and when I was told to go. My wife and I have had an agreement for years now that I would not get my own boat until I retired. I have spent half of my adult life at sea and it wouldn’t be fair to take off on my time at home. However, I am nearing retirement and working ashore now so we have collectively decided to dip our toes into the water. Fresh water. Calm waters (my wife’s demand). The answer for us was the Trent-Severn Waterway, a 386 kilometer series of rivers, lakes and canals from Trenton to Port Severn, Ontario.
This was not new territory for us. We had vacationed ashore on the Kawartha Lakes in the past but spending a week sailing the waterway was a dream come true. We could go when, where and how we wanted, entirely on our own schedule. We initially planned to go by power boat and stay at hotels and B&B’s along the way but they book up fast. Fortunately, we chose to houseboat and that is something that we have never regretted. While “sailing” in a houseboat is a much slower pace than I was used to, it was the perfect way to relax. We could tie up alongside a wall in one of many picturesque towns along the way or simply drop anchor in a lake for the night. We chose both. We spent most of our time in the Buckhorn and Bobcaygeon area (see map above) because you can travel through multiple lakes without having to lock in. “Locking in” is a process where your boat enters a lock and the water level is either raised or lowered to meet the next section of waterway. This picture shows a houseboat entering the lock. I can’t think of a more relaxing or ideal way to spend a week of vacation than sailing, or drifting, around one of the beautiful Kawartha Lakes, dining at fabulous little dockside restaurants or just unwinding. Yes, the fishing was just fine, too. If you are interested in learning more about the Trent-Severn waterway, “Wikipedia has a pretty informative listing for it at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trent%E2%80%93Severn_Waterway. If you are interested in house boating I would recommend Egan’s Houseboats: http://www.houseboat.on.ca/
Have you ever thought about spending some time on the water? This is an easy, fun and really relaxing way to do it. They can teach you everything that you need to know quickly and no license is required to operate a houseboat.