Facebook Fan Pages: Redirect the Spotlight Onto Passions

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Recently, I seem to have had this conversation time and time again with businesses, individuals and consultants who are beginning to take Facebook seriously as a place to peddle their wares, so I thought I’d immortalise it here for future reference.

Facebook started as a way to network students of a single college together, with a firmly teen-to-early-20’s audience. In recent years, my mom (and probably yours too) has joined and the average age of Facebook user is on a steady increase. It can no longer be dismissed as “kids’ stuff” by businesses who have a direct to consumer audience, hence the many discussions about creating fan pages.

The problem with creating a fan page for your business is that, unless your brand is incredibly sexy & fun, nobody wants to be a fan of it. I’m lucky to have a great local baker & cake maker, but would I really want to be a fan of her business on Facebook? And what good would come out of me becoming a passive fan?

Facebook can facilitate something much greater than just the digital equivalent of a bumper sticker promoting someone’s business.

Facebook gives these business owners the opportunity to be an authority on something they’re passionate about. Taking the example of the cake maker, she would no doubt get much more participation from her customers if the fan page was for cake lovers, for example.

Lead the conversation

Encourage fans to talk about the best cakes they’ve eaten, the cutest cupcakes they’ve seen, the failed homebaking attempts (we all have them, don’t we!?) and the healthy alternatives for those weeks where we need to eat a bit lighter.

Share recipes and tips

Realistically, no skilled baker will lose business over this, as we’re all too busy or lacking the skill to make the kind of cakes we’d buy from a real cake artist!

Listen to hardcore cake fans

What do they want? What occasions do they buy cakes for? Even if the fans aren’t local, this is a goldmine of information which can help a perceptive business owner plan future promotions.

Bonus: You’ll have more fun

Best of all, taking this approach will make content creation much easier and enjoyable than trying to keep it solely focused on your business. You’ll be recognised as a cake-baking authority (or whatever your business may be) yet not be known as the navel gazer who only talks about your own products!

By celebrating a shared passion rather than simply asking people to be a fan for the sake of accumulating numbers, you’ll find that your Facebook fan page will have much more interaction and that people far beyond your existing customer base will join. Go out, have fun and talk about things you’re passionate about.

[Photo credit: Super Mario Brothers Nintendo Cupcakes by clevercupcakes on Flickr, Creative Commons license]

"Blogs & Social Media in Business" Workshop: 19th Nov in London

pepsmedia_workshop_artAs I’ve mentioned before here and there, one of the most successful Pepsmedia activities these days is training courses. It also happens to be something I truly love doing.

The next “Blogs & Social Media in Business” introductory workshop day is next week, on Thursday 19th November, at Wallacespace St Pancras in London and due to a change of plans with one company (who have now opted for an in-house training course for their whole team), all of a sudden, I have 8 places available on the course.

In order to fill the course and have enough participants to make the course interesting, I’m offering these places at cost, only £95, instead of the usual £395!

If you secretly wish you understood why people use hashtags on Twitter, how to work social media tools into your existing marketing plan, need to manage online relationships or just wonder how to approach bloggers in your industry, then this one is for you. We tackle all the jargon that flies around the web, and make it make sense.

Complete this form and mention the blog post to get the course at the awesome low-cost of £95 + VAT (I feel like Billy Mays in an infomercial, help!) for a full day of training, as well as tasty breakfast, lunch and snacks throughout the day.  

In the past, we’ve had attendees from a range of industries – solicitors, travel & tourism marketers, luxury fashion retailers and small business owners – all of whom said they thoroughly enjoyed the course and learned a lot.

Grab the workshop brochure here for more details, and join me next Thursday for a fun and insightful day on social media.

Community building means making members feel special | Community Building

Members of your community do a lot. You rely on them to make the community a success. You can influence the direction of your community, you can influence its content and you even have an influence over the type of members you want in the community. However, when it comes down to whether your community is going to be successful, your members are all that matter. You need to not only attract members that will help your community grow and continue to develop, but you need to keep them. You can do this by making sure they feel special.

via communityspark.com

Community Spark has turned out to be a real gem in explaining how community building works and why community management is such an art.

The best thing a company can do to its community management efforts is to put a passionate and dedicated person in charge, and give them the *time* to do their job well.

Corporate Blogging: Why you SHOULD publish press releases on your blog

This morning, I came across the excellent “10 Harsh Truths about Corporate Blogging”, published by Paul Boag on Smashing Magazine. I was nodding emphatically at each point, until I hit the 5th one, which jarred me in the back like a bad pothole in the road when you’re daydreaming on the drive to work.

Funnily enough, a year or two ago, I would have militantly agreed with Paul.

5. Press releases shouldn’t appear on a blog

[…] a press release preforms [sic] a different role to that of corporate blog. As the name implies, a press release is meant for professional journalists. It is designed to encourage journalists to write about your product or service. It is not designed for your customers.

A blog, on the other hand, is meant to be read by prospective and existing customers. It should be engaging, informative and helpful. When writing a blog post, you should always have the end reader in mind. What will they learn? What insight will this give them into who we are? How will it help build our relationship with the reader? You should never simply copy and paste press releases or news stories.

The other problem with press releases is that they are corporate statements. A blog should have a more personal tone.

Here’s why I now disagree; Bloggers are both journalists (in the broad sense of the term at least) and, one can assume, interested customers or prospects. Yet bloggers are journalists who often don’t get paid to deal with PR agencies’ bullshit (eg. embargoes) and don’t necessarily have the research resources that a professional journalist has access to.

Realistically, a corporate blog won’t be read by the vast majority of customers. Even with cool companies like Flickr, 37Signals or Twitter, what percentage of users really care about what’s being said on the corporate blog? [Note: There is a difference between a corporate blog & a blog directed at the end users. On a blog solely directed at end users, press releases are unlikely to have a purpose. This post refers to corporate blogs specifically.]

The beady eyeballs who will find most relevance in a corporate blog will be:

  • Existing and potential investors;
  • Competitors (As Paul says, get over it!);
  • Potential employees;
  • Active developers & geeks who want to use your API;
  • Journalists & Bloggers;
  • The occasional day-to-day user.

Don’t fool yourself, the majority of users will only care when the service goes down. As long as your site/ service/ product is available, they don’t think about what you do as a company an awful lot.*

So why does it still matter so much? The bloggers and the passionate users give a damn. They’re a key player in spreading the word about your business, and when they want to write about you, you should provide all the information you can so that they can feel smart and well informed. Yes, including that nasty old-world press release. Why? Bloggers cannot divinate information. Bloggers find themselves with only a short amount of time to write an entry and will be grateful for the stats you provide or the CEO’s past startup that can be confirmed via the release’s boilerplate.

So go for it, publish that press release. But wait! Don’t publish it alone. Accompany it with a summary in informal tone, some context to help readers understand the relevancy of the PR push, and a bucketload of useful resources (links, images & further information).

If your press release is so officious that you’re embarrassed to publish it on the blog, could it be that you need to rethink your releases altogether? Journalism is changing too, and a fresh, no-bullshit press release will most likely appeal to traditional journalists too. Why not try that for a change?

[* Here’s another tip: If your livelihood is dependent on being available on the web, host your blog elsewhere so that you can still provide status updates when your service goes down.]

Morgan Stanley intern: Why this teen's research paper really matters

Over the past 10 days, Morgan Stanley, an established global financial services provider with offices across the world, saw a 15 year old teen create a lot of noise while interning at the firm’s London office.

Matthew Robson was tasked with the project of writing a report on how teenagers consume media, the kind of job you give the son of a friend who’s asked for a summer internship. “Isn’t the boy sweet? Make sure the office manager offers him a glass of juice, will you?” Anyone who’s worked in an office has had this kind of intern around, kids with an interest in business who’ll gain more insight than you can ever imagine from a few weeks around.

Usually, however, these students leave as quietly as they arrived, having organised a few filing cabinets and tended to a few menial projects.

In this case, Matthew was given the opportunity to write a report on media consumption, which could have very well fallen on deaf ears, but not only have Morgan Stanley paid attention, the Telegraph published the report in full.

If you spend your life bathing in online media as I do, none of the observations in the report are mindblowing. What is remarkable is that, this time, the CEO’s, directors and people in charge of company direction have listened to Matthew’s report.

It’s a chronic problem with management: The higher up you get, the more out of touch you become with the reality of your users, current and future. You think in “audience”, “viewing figures” and other amorphous blobs of numbers, you forget that you’re dealing with people, intelligent and curious and ever-changing people.

This boy’s report highlights some interesting realities.

  • Newspapers: This generation doesn’t want to pay for news. The Sun (20p) will occasionally get picked up but free papers or other means of consumption like the web or TV.
  • Directories: A dying medium, the print directory has never been used. Being Google-savvy means the teens can easily find what they want, again for free.
  • Viral/Outdoor/Guerrilla advertising: Teens welcome these unusual, exciting campaigns, so while they might shun banner ads and conventional TV ads, they enjoy guerrilla marketing, in-game ads and quirky ads that don’t tell the full story.
  • Music: Again, free and digital are preferred. Music that is accessible offline is also preferred, so the streaming model may not be right for them.
  • Mobile: Pay as you go, reasonably priced devices are topping this market. iPhones are nowhere to be seen due to cost and likelihood that the teens will lose them before the contract is up.
  • Games consoles: Surprisingly in this teen’s research, only a third of the teens had games consoles at home, with 50% owning Nintendo’s Wii console, 40% an XBox and a measly 10% with PS3’s, Sony’s prohibitively expensive console.
  • Social networks: Less surprisingly, Facebook is the clear winner in terms of favourite way to spend time online. Twitter doesn’t ring true with these teens, probably due to the time it takes to get to a stage where the service feels gratifying, versus Facebook that excites as soon as a friend or two are added.

For some unknown reason (slow news week?), this report got far beyond the teen’s direct summer manager and was truly acknowledged by City bosses.

While I think many of the observations don’t necessarily reflect the rest of Britain’s teens’ reality, it was a great read: Uninhibited, honest words, without the usual adult filter that causes us to speak in much less absolute terms. I think we should all try to see the world through a 15 year old’s eyes every so often, we’d notice amazing things.

Pepsmedia News: Training Courses on "Blogs & Social Media in Business" in September & October

pepsmedia_workshop_artIn the past year, I’ve been providing in-house training for companies who are approaching blogging and social media with excitement, but need some guidance to ensure they do things right.

I’m now opening up the “Intro to Blogs & Social Media in Business” training course to the public, with a few dates in September and October:

  • Cambridge: 8th September and 20th October
  • London: 22nd September and 21st October

Some details about the training course:

This one-day introductory course will offer insight into the emerging social media channels:

  • Blogs
  • Social Networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr
  • Microblogging: Twitter, Plurk, Tumblr
  • Podcasting, Videocasting
  • Wikis, mashups, community events and more…

We are confident that the above wonʼt sound like a foreign language any longer at the end of the day.

This course aims to explore each channel’s potential in terms of getting brand exposure, building feedback channels and integrating within traditional marketing campaigns. We will look at case studies of the best and worst uses of social media by marketers from businesses ranging from 1-man-shows to multinationals.

It will help you understand how you can join the conversation that is undoubtedly already happening about your company, your product and your brand on the web. You will discover the tools and techniques used for creatively communicating your message, building quality relationships with users & making your social media campaigns a success.

I suppose that coming from a family of teachers, I was bound to end up providing training. Seeing attendees leave the session feeling energised, with bucketloads of ideas for their own campaigns and having shed the fear of this social science is the greatest reward for me.

Interested? Download the course details here or register for the course right away to secure a space in one of the next few sessions!

Torchwood Writer Gets Online Abuse: Where social media stops being fun

A few days ago, I wrote about the Torchwood 5-day mini series which ended on Friday. During that same evening, it’s with great amusement that I also discovered that James Moran, writer for Severance, and episodes of Doctor Who, Torchwood, Primeval, Spooks, and Crusoe, was on Twitter.

In many ways, I enjoy seeing these backstage celebs on Twitter. By backstage celebs, I mean people who aren’t Britney, MC Hammer or Stephen Fry. Those people can be on Twitter all they like, but they’re already in the limelight. Seeing those who usually don’t get the limelight finally interact with the public through more than their scripts, stories or stage direction is more exciting, as we don’t usually get to hear them speak other than through their characters.

However, this evening, I came across a post by James which allowed me to realise just how seriously some people take television. He received many positive and praising messages, but was also highly criticised for a storyline that even upset me. Yes, I did have a tear in my eye when Rhys held the camera for Gwen to record her final words as “the world ended”.

Some have been spewing insults and passive aggressive nonsense. Accusing me of deliberately trying to mislead, lie, and hurt people. Telling me I hate the fans, that I’m laughing at them, that I used them, that I’m slapping people in the face, that I’ve “killed” the show, that I’m a homophobe, that I want to turn the fanbase away and court new, “cooler” viewers, even that I’m hurting depressed people with dark storylines. Asking me to pass on vitriolic, hateful messages to people I love and respect.

Not cool.

As James says, this just isn’t cool.

I love letting a story envelope me and take me away from work, home, the fact that the kitchen’s still not tidy and the stairs need hoovering. I love a story that lets me get a tiny little crush on one of the characters and picture travelling the stars with them. [Hell, I named my cats after Jack Harkness and Rose Tyler!] And yes, sometimes I want to shout at the TV and disagree with their stupid actions. “Don’t go in there alone and DO NOT put your gun down, you idiot!”

But people, all of you people who’ve given James abuse, get. a. fucking. grip.

“Hurting depressed people with dark storylines”? Please, get some real help. And I’m not saying this intending to offend, but with a true concern that if a TV show is enough to make you cross that line, it’s time to look at getting real help.

And if this isn’t your situation, then please go outside and get some perspective. This is television, and for a change, hey, it’s good enough to make people feel strongly about it by choosing a path less travelled. If the writers had taken the usual path, the same people would have clamoured that the ending was cheesy and predictable!

So have some respect for people and their trade. If a writer can’t join Twitter and enjoy it for what it is – a totally open means of communication with the audience – then writers, actors, authors and other backstage celebs will pull back and let their PR agencies do the talking. And that’s not what we want, is it!?

Here’s 50p, go buy yourself an ice cream and some perspective.

Spring brings change to Pepsmedia.com

With many years of moonlighting and now nearly a year under my belt working full time for Pepsmedia, we felt lately that it was time to refresh our site to reflect the shift in what we’ve been doing for our clients.

The new Pepsmedia siteMuch of my time this year has been focused on strategic planning for blog & social media campaigns, in-house coaching and brand monitoring, interspersed with some gorgeous blog and website designs. So far, it’s been both the most enjoyable and the most challenging experience I’ve ever faced.

Many people ask me whether I regret choosing this economic climate to jump into self-employment, and I always answer that I don’t have an ounce of regret. Sure, I’ve had a few sleepless nights and my squeezy stressball is due for some therapy, but it’s been worth it every step of the way.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with great clients to date, and every new meeting excites me because it keeps getting better. Great projects, great experiences and best of all, I didn’t have to eat beans on toast for too long. (Phew, I hate beans on toast…)

So over the past few weeks, we spent some time brewing a new design for pepsmedia.com and finally launched it this week. Let me know what you think of it!

Community managers – This season's must-have accessory

This year’s must-have accessory for any business or marketing team seems to be a community manager.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve had nearly a dozen emails – either direct or via LinkedIn – from companies who were calling upon my network to find Social Networks Managers, Community Relations Executives, etc. [If you’re of the right breed, skip to the bottom for information] I couldn’t help but think about how much things have changed in the past few years.

What’s it like being a Community Gal?

sunflowerI don’t care what fancy title a company makes up, I’ll always boil them down to being the Community Gal/Guy. I was once asked why I “lowered” my job title to Community Gal, when one of my previous employers had hired me with the title “Blog Goddess”. I mean, wow, Goddess? That’s a shiny title, isn’t it?

If you can’t see the issue with the Goddess title, then you’ve failed the first test to becoming a good Community Gal/Guy (CG).

In my opinion, being the community’s main link into an organisation requires a lot of humility. Maybe, just maybe, having a humble and simple title like “Community Gal” was a daily reminder that I wasn’t hired to stand in my ivory tower telling people how GREAT the company/product was. I was there to sit in on conversations and listen. Like a sunflower, I faithfully turned to where I should be every day, no matter what happened.

As Toby Moore said today at Amplified 09 East: “We have 2 ears and one mouth. Let’s use them at that ratio.” Listening actively means there’s a lot of feedback to filter, summarise and turn into actions for the rest of the company, whether from a technical, ethical or business relations management perspective.

Being a CG also requires thick skin. There are some real bastards out there who will absolutely not sugar-coat their views of your business. They’ve always been there, but social media now gives them an easy way to make themselves heard. While it’s important to listen to those users and act upon their feedback wherever possible, anyone taking those comments too personally will lose sleep over it and feel like crap.

I know, I’ve been there. Nearly failed the second test myself.

However, the thick skin can’t be accompanied by a thick skull. If you’re a stubborn mofo who assumes that anyone disagreeing with you is wrong, you’ve failed the third test.

So being a CG is both the best job and worst job in a company.

Why so in demand, suddenly?!

As I mentioned in my introduction above, the influx of CG roles has been unbelievable lately. It’s like everyone woke up two weeks ago and decided they should recruit their own.

For most of these companies, it’ll most likely be the first time they put any thought into how to interact with their community. From cursory glances at the many job descriptions thrown around, many companies seem to allocate very minimal budgets to their new-found passion for social media, hiring junior to mid-level people.

Nothing wrong with that, I’m all for the youff getting to experience great new roles. I got to where I am now because some people were mad smart enough to give me a chance to setup their first blog back in early 2004. It was a complete and utter failure because neither company or market were ready for it. Since then, I’ve setup community outposts everywhere I’ve been and rubbed a lot of people the wrong way in the process. But we’ve also achieved great things through spending time listening to the community’s feedback.

That’s the wonderful thing about young, creative people – they might be a bit green but believe me, they can be passionate!

So it’s a question of balance then; someone youthful* enough to understand what excites and engages your users. There is no maximum age to “getting it” when it comes to community, but younger people often have an affinity with technology – I don’t think anyone could deny that. However, experience can help avoid making a complete cock up of an outreach campaign through having a deeper understanding of the risks involved.

[Note: By youthful, I don’t necessarily mean based on birth date, but rather in mentality. My grandpa was in his 70’s and was still more young at heart than many 25 year olds I know!]

Finding the right balance is key. Every company will experience a crisis at some point and a very junior team member may not have the experience to deal with it best. In the same way, someone with little knowledge of social media may not spot some great opportunities to build new relationships.

This is an area where I believe mentors – whether internal team members or external consultants – can make a world of difference to how successfully a business can be in their first year of active community interaction. A few hours a week with a skilled mentor can help your CG become far more confident and resourceful.

Would you want your PR Manager to be a £20k fresh graduate with no experience of dealing with customers or journalists? Then why opt for that in social media, when your CG probably touches 100 times more people in a day than your PR department does?

So here’s my advice

1. Build your team with a cool head

Find someone who has a passion for your industry, not the first girl who says she knows how to use Facebook.

2. Have someone dedicated to community relations

If the CG is torn between a number of roles, he/she is more likely to drop the ball at an important time. If it’s not possible to have someone doing just that, ensure that community management remains their top priority.

3. Give your CG a support network

If your product is technical, ensure the development team are aware that they’ll occasionally need to provide insight when the CG reports bugs or enquiries. There’s nothing more demotivating than feeling that no one in the company is willing to help.

4. Provide guidance

Whether it’s through the existing marketing team or an external consultant, your CG should have someone with experience to sanity-check ideas with. The book of social media remains largely unwritten so the best way to check something’s a good idea is through a good ol’ natter over coffee.

5. Set realistic (and useful) objectives

Getting 500 Twitter followers is pointless if the followers are spammers or people who’ll never become your users. Social media is much less about numbers than a traditional marketing team might be used to.

It’s more important to have reached out to 10 bloggers who’ll love you and talk about you, than ship your press release to hundreds of people to whom you’re only vaguely relevant.

6. Be open to your CG’s feedback

This is a tough nut to crack, but the feedback coming from the community might not always be rosy. Be open and welcoming of it, and accept that people will occasionally suggest things you think are stupid or useless. Don’t close up or start to ignore those reports – you might just miss some real gems.

Let’s Connect!

As you’ve gathered by now, I’m a strong believer that there’s a big future out there for people who are passionate and interested in being the main point of contact for an active community.

If you think you’re that person, please connect with me on LinkedIn. Use the intro box to tell me what makes you tick and what you’re passionate about. When companies next contacts me looking for a Community Gal/Guy, I’ll introduce you to each other.

I hope that, in doing this, I can help top notch companies find someone who’ll help them nurture the relationship with their community, whether budding or already fully-fledged.

[Image Source: “Yellow sunflower. Blue Sky.” by wabberjocky on Flickr]

Five Years of Blogging: Celebrating with some giveaways

In April, That Canadian Girl celebrated 5 years of bloggy goodness and, yet again, I nearly missed its birthday. Oops!

In reality I’ve been blogging for nearly 10 years – a friend kindly hosted my first diary-style site back in 1999 or 2000. The Wayback Machine can see a site on thatcanadiangirl.co.uk from 2002, which is when the previous iteration of this blog was born.

This makes me feel really old. In Internet terms, that’s an eternity. I mean… ten years ago, Geocities was still popular, Google was moving into its first office, the Melissa worm was working its magic on mail servers across the world, and everyone was still starry-eyed about the Information Superhighway.

Oooff… sorry about that flashback, it was like being the old drunk guy from the Fast Show for a minute.

As my memory is absolutely hopeless, I usually consider my blog’s current archive – which goes back to April 2004 – to be the beginning of Time As We Know It.

Now for the giveaways: To celebrate this milestone birthday, I’m giving away goodies to my readership which match the topics I’ve written about over the years; geeky, funky, practical, food-related and artsy goodies.

To take part, all you need to do is leave a comment and tell me which ones interest you: On Sunday, 10th May, Jack & Rose will pick out winners for each of the prizes!

geeky

A ticket to FUEL conference FOWA Tour, an excellent Carsonified event about online marketing and social media, held in London on June 23rd. Ryan kindly offered me a ticket for one of my readers, so entrepreneurs, marketers, this one is for you.

Anyone can win this ticket, as long as you’re able to make your way to London for the event.

[Update: As there have been some changes to the Carsonified calendar and FUEL has been cancelled, you will win a ticket to the FOWA Tour in a city of your choice: Cambridge, Leeds, Bristol or Edinburgh.]

funky

I love unusual art and beautifully decorate home offices. Stuart from Spin Collective is giving away three sets (up to a value of £30 each) of the superb wall stickers. They’re jaw-droppingly cool and I’m having to resist very hard the urge to keep them all for myself!

Spin Collective will ship anywhere, so everyone is welcome to take part. If you win, you’ll get to choose from the website and they’ll be shipped to you directly.

practical

To satisfy the productivity nerd in me, I had to include a tool I’ve been using for a couple of years that changed the way I use my phone. James from SpinVox is giving away two SpinVox voicemail-to-text accounts.

SV is available in the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany & Spain, so if you live in any of those countries and uhh have a mobile phone, go for it!

foodie

I’m a total foodie, so I thought it was only fair to include something food-related to the list. Of course, I’m not going to ship you a bowl of my awesome homemade chilli as it’d get messy and Royal Mail would give me funny looks (…yet again)

Niall Harbison from Look & Taste (previously ifoods.tv, and yes he’s the guy who braved Dragons’ Den) is offering a few things:

First, if you’re an iPhone user, there are 10 licenses for Twecipe (£2.39) and another 10 for Look & Taste’s own video recipes app.

Secondly, Niall has agreed to create a pro video of a recipe of my readers’ choosing. Want to immortalise your nan’s best pudding or that wild recipe you made up the other day? You’ll get a mention, and Niall will let his viewers know where the recipe comes from.

The apps are (obviously) for iPhone & iPod Touch owners, and the recipe video is open to everyone.

artsy

I love beautiful things, making cards & handmade gifts. I’m pretty much rubbish at it and my projects look like something out of a preschool classroom, but I still love it.

Blurb.com have offered a £35 voucher for a Blurb book, so it’s a chance to create your own full-colour, beautifully professional-looking bound book. Whether it’s to remember your kids’ summer holiday or a special event, it’ll be unique!

Blurb ships to lots of countries, have a look at the list if in doubt. Promise you’ll show me your finished product 🙂

So what are you waiting for? All these awesome goodies are just one comment away!