Posts Tagged ‘facebook’

The Social Media Evolution – Part 1: Understanding Social Media

July 8, 2010

Social media has shifted how businesses interact with their customers as well as each other.  The number of people on social networking websites are staggering: Twitter, for example, boasts nearly 200 million users while the number of users on Facebook totals half a billion.  Despite the large numbers of users on these two social networking websites alone (the thousands of other such websites notwithstanding), many owners and managers of small businesses do not know how social media can help their business, and precious few have anything resembling an effective and well-thought out social media plan (the subsequent blog, The Social Media Evolution – Part 2: The Social Media Plan, covers this).  The blog focuses on how business owners, managers, and employees can gain a better understanding of social media, and how it can help expand existing business practices.

Social media has shifted how businesses interact with their customers as well as each other.  The blog focuses on how business owners, managers, and employees can gain a better understanding of social media, how it can help expand existing business practices, and the marketing activities that social media allows businesses to carry out.Why should business owners and managers even bother to look into social media for their business?  For starters, if they do not create a social media presence in the networks where their existing customers are located, they miss out not only on positive feedback that those customers may provide unsolicited and publicly, but they also miss out on gaining potential customers who observe the interactions and feel as though they can trust the business even before the first transaction.  In Facebook or Twitter, where the interactions between business owners or managers and their customers are posted or Tweeted for the world to see, brand-building, brand marketing and great customer service are some of the many social media building blocks for businesses to build a lasting foundation with customers or other businesses.

Given the vast number of social media tools and social networking websites to choose from, making the jump into social media may seem overwhelming for some business owners.  However, if they have a Facebook or Twitter account for personal reasons, they have already taken the first step.  Therefore, business owners who have unwittingly taken this first step just need to apply what they already know from personal experience to their business.

Social media has shifted how businesses interact with their customers as well as each other.  The blog focuses on how business owners, managers, and employees can gain a better understanding of social media, how it can help expand existing business practices, and the marketing activities that social media allows businesses to carry out.However, what if business owners have never used social media, even for themselves?  Of course, the move towards social media would be more intimidating at any level.  In order to help business owners understand what social media can do for their business, we must put aside any technical discussion and, instead, highlight how social media extends existing business practicesHector Jarquin notes five of these extensions.

Extended business relationship

Traditional customer service involves interaction between store employees and the customer, where the customer makes inquiries about special offers or has questions or comments about the good or services.  Social media allows business owners and managers to join the conversation, building relationships with new or existing patrons.

Extended way of communication

The two-way nature of social media helps people create a better understanding about the business.

Extended way of referrals

Even if business owners have not created an online presence for their company, business referrals on websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp have probably created the online presence of the business but to a smaller degree.  These websites help people share their opinions about the business with friends and strangers, with tools available to business owners who wish to manage comments and opinions about the business.

Extended brand awareness

Social media offers business owners more control over their brand, giving customers greater insight into their business over the competition.

Extended way of sharing an opinion

Hector summed it up best: interact, participate, share, discover.  Engage with the people in your industry.

Social media has shifted how businesses interact with their customers as well as each other.  The blog focuses on how business owners, managers, and employees can gain a better understanding of social media, how it can help expand existing business practices, and the marketing activities that social media allows businesses to carry out.While business owners and managers slowly warm up to the idea of social media for the business, their diverse employees have probably used social media in equally varying degrees.  Not surprisingly, older employees may have limited exposure to social media while younger employees are probably glued to Facebook and Twitter on their cell phones during break or lunch time.  Business owners and managers who become aware of their younger employees’ social media savviness may turn to them to introduce social media to the rest of their, otherwise, social media-mute colleagues.  Jessica Stillman lists seven creative suggestions to get employees involved in social media without being technical.

Start an education campaign

Knowledge is power, especially if trade publications the business subscribes to feature articles about social media and how it is used in business or for entertainment.  Print these articles and leave them for the employees to read with a note saying, “Thought you would find this interesting.”  Follow up personally a day or two later and field any questions or comments the employees may have.

Team up with internal and external social media users

Starting a dialogue with other social media-savvy employees allows the like-minded group to engage in thoughtful conversation about how the use of social media tools could impact the business, making it easier to have similar conversations with the rest of the not-so-savvy employees.

Suggest social media solutions

Look for opportunities to add a social media component when discussing solutions to meet training needs.

Help stretch the budget by using a “free” option

Most social media tools available today are free.  Yes, free!  Nothing sounds sweeter to budget-conscious business owners and managers than the sound of that word.  Zero or near-zero cost of any new program implemented by a business is almost unheard of, but social media is a rare exception.

Take a look at the market relationship of your competitors

The public nature of social media allows business owners and managers to take a glimpse at the competition and see what people are saying about them, thereby extending their business relationship with their customers.  Business owners and managers must realize that introducing a social media plan for their own business will yield similar benefits.

Invite your co-workers to your social networks

Are you on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn but your employees or co-workers are not?  Invite them!  You will be one of their first contacts.  Once they sign up, give them a personal tour of the social networking sites.

Give the gift of social media

If your company has strict rules limiting the number of photocopies you’re allowed to make (see “Start an education campaign”), giving books about social media to your boss, co-workers, or employees, especially during Christmas and the Holiday season, may help nudge them towards optimizing the business with social media.

Finally, after months of internal campaigns about social media with the business owners, managers, and employees, the business can move forward and apply social media marketing tools, confident that those within the organization are more or less on the same page.  The social media-savvy in the company have made everybody else social media-conscious at the very least.  Business owners and managers can now begin to create an effective social media plan.

Social media has shifted how businesses interact with their customers as well as each other.  The blog focuses on how business owners, managers, and employees can gain a better understanding of social media, how it can help expand existing business practices, and the marketing activities that social media allows businesses to carry out.Before business owners and managers join a social networking site, let’s explore the three most viable options available to them from a business standpoint.  Facebook, by and large, is the most popular social networking website with over 500 million users worldwide.  A potential customer base of half a billion people can really help a business take off if business owners and managers put together a successful social media campaign.  Twitter comes in second with nearly 200 million users worldwide.  Used properly, the microblobbing site can generate buzz about upcoming events, limited time offers, and special deals, often available only to customers who follow the company’s Twitter account.  LinkedIn, with over 70 million users, helps users hunt for jobs and recruit new employees, as well as carry out tasks such as researching companies and prospecting for deals.  The social networking website provides a place where white-collar professionals can communicate with one another.

Meanwhile, the wide range of marketing activities that social media allows businesses to carry out include but are not limited to:

  • Reaching customers and prospects online
  • Raising the company profile and enhancing the business’ brand reputation
  • Strengthening customer relationships
  • Demonstrating the business owner’s expertise, commitment, and passion
  • Improving business owner’s understanding of industry issues and trends
  • Meeting people who can help develop the business
  • Enhancing customer service
  • Boosting traffic to the website
  • Testing new ideas and finding out what people think about the business
  • Seeing what competitors are up to
  • Improving sales

Social media is a dynamic field.  While the tools change over time and the social media plan of one company should not be followed, verbatim, by another company, the basic understanding of social media in regards to how it extends existing business practices remains the same.  Given the varying degrees of familiarity that employees, management, or business owners may have with social media, non-technical campaigns maybe necessary at first to get the company on the same page.  Once everyone in the company is sufficiently versed in social media, business owners and management can team up with their employees and set out to create a social media plan tailor-made for and by the company itself.

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Francis M. Unson

Tax Day Nintendo Wii Giveaway contest ending soon!

April 12, 2010

Please retweetWith just a few more days before the end of our first contest, co-founders Rick and I created a video to let others know that they still have time to send their entries.

Admittedly, I haven’t edited a video in a few years, so please bear with me.

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Francis M. Unson

Money Challenge: Can you take control of your assets in seven days?

March 10, 2010

"Your Money", an occasional blog about money and financeHow do you achieve financial security?

If you said, “Winning the lottery”, there is a gain of financial security that will cost you your privacy, but the latter is beyond the scope of this blog.  Furthermore, waiting for that “inheritance from my [still alive] grandfather” does not solve your financial troubles now.  In order to gain financial security, you must live beneath your means so that you can pay off debts and start saving.  Easier said than done?  If you follow the steps in the seven-day plan I describe towards taking control of your money, you will be surprised, and all it takes is 20 minutes a day for one week.  If you have arrived at your child’s school half an hour early so you can get a parking spot, you’ve waited at least 20 minutes, so instead of Tweeting, updating your Facebook status, or checking into foursquare and ousting the mom parked behind you as mayor of your child’s school for the umpteenth time, let’s get started already!

Day 1 – Organize Your Financial Records
Just how did you get yourself in a financial hole?  The personal reasons do not matter, but a number of other factors do, particularly how much you earn and where it goes.  Gather the following records so you can make the first calculations:

  • Recent pay stub – Shows how much you bring in from work
  • Latest tax return – How much you receive from investments and other sources of income
  • Checkbook and most recent printed or online bank statements – Tells you where you are spending most of your money
  • Current credit card bills – Explains how much additional money you spend that your paycheck does not cover

Day 2 – Figure Out Where Your Money Goes
With your financial statements in hand, you can now prepare a summary of your monthly expenses.  List all of your expenses, even down to your daily lattes from Starbucks, and map out where your cash goes.  Use a journal or download a budget tracking app for your iPhone and keep track of your purchases.  You may find that you waste money, and lots of it, but we are here to fix that.

Day 3 – Categorize Your Expenses
Split your expenses into one of three categories:

  • Regular payments such as mortgage, utilities, car payments, car/homeowners/life insurance, etc.
  • Occasional expenses with some room for reduction such as food, clothing, or transportation.
  • Expenses you can do away with entirely such as eating out at restaurants, going to concerts, buying lottery tickets, etc.

The last two categories provide you with the most opportunities for cutting back.

Day 4 – Devise a Plan for Living Beneath Your Means
Reduce your monthly expenses so that you spend less than you take in.  For example, if you decide to add $500 a month towards paying off your credit card balance, you must cut $500 a month in expenses at the bare minimum.  Make a list of the expenses you are eliminating and how much you hope to save.

Day 5 – Develop a Debt-Reduction Strategy
With the extra money you are saving, begin paying off your debts, starting with your high-interest credit card bills.  Work out a realistic target date for when you want each debt to be paid off completely.  Setting lofty or ambitious dates will set yourself up for failure.

Day 6 – Establish a Savings Plan
Start saving while reducing your debts.  While this move is financially counter-intuitive, especially when paying off credit card debt at 20% interest while saving money at 4% or 5%, it is a psychological boost for yourself to be saving any money.  Furthermore, any savings put away now will come in handy if an illness or job loss occurs unexpectedly.

Day 7 – Start an Automatic Investment Plan
Saving now and investing in the future are two activities that people wish they had done only when it is too late.  Working from that perspective, doing the following is a crucial step towards learning from experience.
Call your bank, credit union, or mutual fund company and arrange an automatic investment plan, committing $50 to $100 (or more) from your paycheck each month towards an investment account.  The money invested can become the basis of your retirement portfolio or your child’s college fund.

Whether the economy is in decline or rising, being in control of your assets will help you achieve financial security, and it all begins with a plan.

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Francis M. Unson

Tax Day Nintendo Wii Giveaway!

March 2, 2010

Nintendo Wii GiveawayWe at Flower Blossoms would like to thank the bloggers, Facebook fans, and Twitterers who have supported us on our endeavor to provide social media marketing services to the local businesses in our community since January 15, 2010.  To show our gratitude, we are having a “Tax Day Nintendo Wii Giveaway!”  We will pick one winner at the end of the contest run and announce it on our blog, Facebook, and Twitter!

How to enter the “Tax Day Nintendo Wii Giveaway!” contest on Facebook:

  1. Become a Fan of Flower Blossoms by going to the Flower Blossoms’ Facebook Page.  Log in first if necessary.
  2. Click on the Wall tab, then click on the “Become a Fan” button.
  3. Once you are a Fan, write “Nintendo Wii Giveaway!” on the Wall.  This is your entry for the contest.  You may enter the contest once every 24 hours.

How to enter the “Tax Day Nintendo Wii Giveaway!” contest on Twitter:

  1. Follow us on Twitter.  We will follow you back as soon as possible.
  2. Send the following as your Tweet so we can track your entry:
    __@FlowerBlossoms >> Nintendo #WiiGiveaway Contest << Please RT to enter to win a Wii! http://bit.ly/bvqOSm

One more thing: If you write an entry in your own blog or website about our “Nintendo Wii Giveaway!” and post a link to that entry below as a reply, the total number of your contest entries from Facebook and Twitter will count for double!

Contest notes

  • We will use the services of RANDOM.ORG to determine a winner.
  • Only one Wall post and/or one Tweet contest entry per day.
  • If you have an account on Facebook AND Twitter, you may submit one contest entry each on BOTH sites per day.  This is the only daily multiple entry allowed.
  • We will contact the winner on Friday, April 9, via PM on Facebook or DM on Twitter.
  • Contest ends on Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 11:59PM PDT!
  • Due to popular demand, and the upcoming April 15 deadline on which tax returns are due here in the United States, we are extending the contest an extra week! That’s right, we’re ending the contest at exactly the same time as your tax returns are due!
  • The contest now has a slightly longer name, too: Tax Day Nintendo Wii Giveaway!
  • You now have until Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 11:59PM PDT to submit your contest entries to Facebook and Twitter!
  • We will contact the winner on Friday, April 16, via PM on Facebook or DM on Twitter.  Good luck!

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Francis M. Unson

Facebook.com/FlowerBlossoms is online!

January 27, 2010

Please retweetWe’d like to thank everybody for their support in helping us to acquire Facebook.com/FlowerBlossoms, the official URL of Flower Blossoms’ Facebook Page! It took all day, but with your help and at least 25 of you becoming a Fan of Flower Blossoms, we were able to add the link!  We look forward to promoting small and medium businesses (SMB’s) in Santa Clarita, CA, in the coming year.  Thank you very much!

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Francis M. Unson

Local Business Promotion Through Foursquare

January 21, 2010

Please retweetI have seen an increasing number of Tweets from people advertising the address of where they are as well as the badges earned for frequenting a place.  It turns out that many of these people are using Foursquare, a mobile application that combines elements from Facebook and Twitter into a social networking tool that lets users find each other via mobile posts and join up at popular places.  The application encourages people to explore the cities in which they live and promote local businesses such as restaurants and movie theaters.  Read more

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Francis M. Unson

The Latest News: From the Internet or a Trusted Friend?

January 8, 2010

Please retweetI have a personal Facebook account, I have thousands of friends, but they are not my source of information about the world.  As they are my friends, I try not to make myself susceptible to the phenomenon prevalent in urban legends known as “Friend of a Friend” (FOAF).  It is not my friends’ fault by any means when information they pass on through their notes or Status Update cannot be substantiated or independently confirmed.  Rather, the information they pass could be, at best, incomplete or, at worst, inaccurate.  When an event takes place that may interest the world (e.g., the death of Michael Jackson), for my peace of mind, I go to Associated Press, Reuters, and UPI in order acquire a “best average” of the news coverage.  On the other hand, when information I receive fits the structure of an urban legend, I immediately go to Snopes to confirm or debunk the information.  I’d rather turn to news sources to find out for myself what to know, and turn to my friends to discuss what they think.

Do you immediately take information from your friends at face value or do you verify what you hear?

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Francis M. Unson

A Better Social Networking Support System in 2010?

January 5, 2010

Please retweetSometimes, I wonder what kind of support system people had before the rise of the Internet and telecommunications.  It was certainly much easier for people who lived in urban or suburban areas to gain access to support groups such as those that dealt with terminal illness, weight-loss, or quitting smoking, among many others.  However, many people who lived in rural areas were often left without such a support system, often turning to the people of their community, if they offered any help at all.

The Internet as we know it exploded in popularity since it became commercially available in 1993.  From 1993 to 2003, we made use of Web 1.0 technology, generally defined by the following characteristics:

  • Static pages instead of dynamic user-generated content.
  • The use of framesets.
  • Proprietary HTML extensions such as the <blink> and <marquee> tags introduced during the first browser war.
  • Online guestbooks.
  • GIF buttons, typically 88×31 pixels in size promoting web browsers and other products.
  • HTML forms sent via email. A user would fill in a form, and upon clicking submit their email client would attempt to send an email containing the form’s details.

From 2004 to the present, our usage of the Internet and the way we interact on it changed considerably and is duly defined within the parameters of Web 2.0 which include:

  • Search: Finding information through keyword search.
  • Links: Connects information together into a meaningful information ecosystem using the model of the Web, and provides low-barrier social tools.
  • Authoring: The ability to create and update content leads to the collaborative work of many rather than just a few web authors.  In wikis, users may extend, undo and redo each other’s work.  In blogs, posts and the comments of individuals build up over time.
  • Tags: Categorization of content by users adding one-word descriptions to facilitate searching, without dependence on pre-made categories.  This is referred to as “folksonomy”.
  • Extensions: Software that makes the Web an application platform as well as a document server.
  • Signals: The use of syndication technology such as RSS to notify users of content changes.

The technology by Web 2.0 includes “Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (Ajax), Adobe Flash, and JavaScript/Ajax frameworks such as Yahoo! UI Library, Dojo Toolkit, MooTools, and jQuery.  Ajax programming uses JavaScript to upload and download new data from the web server without undergoing a full page reload”.

People were certainly impressed with each others’ websites to varying degrees when Web 1.0 technology was here.  Alas, the technology became passé and people transitioned to newer technology.  Even before the transition, however, people have become more social as a result of the Internet.  Casual Web designers created their websites on places such as GeoCities and Angelfire (remember those websites?) with static content and waited for people to visit their websites and post a guestbook entry, perhaps fellow website designers with their own sites to promote.  Vincent Flanders archived the techniques that worked and didn’t work here.

MySpace was literally on the cusp of the transition between Web 1.0 and 2.0 as the first few million users designed and created their profiles in a similar manner as described above.  However, Facebook embraced Web 2.0 technology from the start, forcing MySpace to play catch up.  The use of an application and chat bar on the bottom of the browser window is evidence that both websites use Web 2.0 technology.

Has Web technology improved, allowing us to communicate with people in different states, provinces and countries, seemingly without borders?  While it has in many ways, the improvement has made communicating with people wherever they are from more convenient.  In other words, people have already found ways to communicate with those far and wide even when technology was, well, primitive at first.  People who feel isolated from their own communities for one reason or another have turned to the Internet to find people with whom they can communicate.  Ostensibly, the first people to use the Internet to communicate relied solely on words in bulletin board systems, or BBS, and later on, chatrooms.  Nowadays, we have YouTube, Skype, and webcam applications built into instant messenger applications to serve the same purpose although we still use chatrooms.  Meanwhile, the rise of social networking websites such as MySpace and Facebook have allowed people to find each other online more easily than ever.  If the Internet is the Wild West and we are the sheep, scattered about across vast swaths of grassy plains, social networking websites using Web 2.0 technology is the cowboy that herds us together and helps us to find each other.

What does the future hold?  I try my best to keep up with the latest technology, but even I cannot predict what is to come.  If the current use of 3-D projectors in movie theaters is a progenitor of things to come, the technology presented in the movie, “Avatar” may be the next step.  Who knows how close we already are?

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Francis M. Unson

Connectivity: The Most Important Element

December 31, 2009

Please retweetTowards the end of 2009, millions of people and thousands of businesses, large and small, have tapped into the power of social media.  Bloggers have leveraged the power of the written word, writing about a myriad of topics: The weather outside; product or service reviews; entertainment reviews; or their point of view about local and world events, among countless other topics.  Businesses, on the other hand, have leveraged social media to promote their existing website and provide customer service and feedback.  Tech-savvy bloggers and businesses owners have leveraged social media technology in order to promote themselves across a wide array of social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube.  Does so much connectivity mean that people and businesses can succeed in promotions and marketing using just these tools?

Yes and no.

Bloggers with strong followings need only continue to write.  No, we do not have to write every single day, but as long as we provide output every few days and remain responsive to the people who read and comment on our entries, we won’t disappear from the blogosphere.

Business owners, on the other hand, focus first and foremost on their business.  The use of signage, printed ads in the newspaper and Yellow Pages, and even local television or radio coverage may be more commonplace in regards to marketing for most businesses, but the use of social media is, indeed, foreign territory.  Some business owners make an attempt to enter the realm of social media, setting up an account with Facebook or Twitter and updating their profiles or making Tweets in the beginning.  Sooner or later, however, business owners fall back on their business, retreating from the use of social media and returning to their accounts, but usually only if an occasional user decides to add them.

Does all seem lost for business owners that have seemingly failed to embrace social media?  Not in the slightest.  The hundreds of millions of users on social networking sites are seemingly a great source of potential customers.  Some business owners, however, may still see social media as a novelty that does not fit the needs of their business.  While they are not yet ready to embrace this new form of marketing and promotion, what they do fall back on is possibly the most important element in business: the human element.

Why do businesses have repeat customers?  A large part of the answer concerns the business’ ability to create a customer-centered experience.  Businesses must focus on the customer experience at all levels of the business, without relegating the role to marketing or operations alone.  The impression left on the customers by a business intent on winning their loyalty is much more favorable and positive than the impression left by businesses whose intent is to sell, and nothing else.

Business owners may choose to go forward into 2010 without any changes to their exiting marketing plans including the use of social media.  Even if they do decide to embrace social media, it can not be used to separate the human element that endears customers to the businesses.  Technology or otherwise, people come first.

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Francis M. Unson


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