Social Media: is there a purpose?


How should social media be used? What is the purpose of social media sites? Feedback. For brands and organizations social media sites are a learning platform where customers should feel comfortable and should be encouraged to share their experience with any given product, service, brand, organization, event etc. Businesses, organizations and the like can now listen and learn from their customers. I don’t see why this is something to be afraid of. I guess if you’re running an unethical business or purposely scamming customers you should be very afraid. That’s fine with me.

Some brands have openly embraced social media. BMW, Rolls Royce, Mercedes, Audi, Southwest, JetBlue, Bergdorf Goodman, Ford, Dell, the American Red Cross, Starbucks and Pepsi are a few that come to mind. Now, not all of the brands that I mentioned are doing a fantastic job, but they have a HUGE head start and will thrive and prosper during the next 12-18months as brands and consumers embrace f-commerce (Facebook commerce).

Brands to learn from on Facebook; BMW, Audi, Dell, Ford and Southwest (feel fee to add your opinion in the comments below!)

Twitter: Bergdorfs, Dell, OscarPRgirl, JetBlue and… (I’m missing several).

You don’t even need to like any of the brands I mentioned. Actually I’d prefer if you didn’t because my point will resonate more. Check out BMW’s and Audi’s Facebook page and scroll through the tweets of @Bergdorfs or @jetblue how do you feel when you read their tweets? Does it sound like a brand or business?

There will be several follow up posts. I wrote this on my iPhone because I want to know what you think. How are you using social media? Why is your brand or business using social media? Please stay tuned for my next post. Feel free to keep in touch on twitter: @aftranch


Connecticut Beer & Wine Trail: A HUGE Social and Mobile Opportunity.

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For those not familiar Connecticut State Senator Andy Maynard and Representative Diana Urban introduced a bill in January 2011 to establish a “Connecticut Beer Trail” modeled after the success of the Connecticut Wine Trail. Personally I think this is a fantastic decision. What could be better than supporting local breweries?! However, after the bill passes the CT House, breweries must be prepared to launch a collaborative social media and mobile marketing effort, one that doesn’t request any state funding. The CT Beer or Brewery Trail has a lot to learn from the CT Wine Trail (the CT Wine Trail still has yet to capitalize on social media).

Smartphone usage is growing rapidly and so is the use of apps and mobile sites. Breweries should encourage patrons to “check-in” using Foursquare, Gowalla, Shizzlr, or Facebook Places, which offers a group check-in feature that breweries will find extremely appealing. When a person or better yet multiple people check-in to a local brewery their friends will know about it. If I head down the road to Cottrell Brewing in Pawcatuck, CT with a few friends and I check-in on my iPhone I will share with my 500+ Facebook friends and 400+ Twitter followers that I am about to taste a few quality local brews! Let consumers help you in your marketing efforts. It’s local word of mouth amplified. If you’re really worried about negative reviews… STOP. They’re not the end of the world. In fact, when you respond correctly to negative reviews, they are a wonderful opportunity for you to prove to everyone how much you truly care about your customers. I’ll go into detail about responding to negative reviews in another post.

Not everyone is going to ‘feel’ like checking in. So offer incentives! 15% off a  6 pack or for a group check-in you might reward the entire group with a case of beer for FREE. I’m pretty sure they’ll love you for that and they’re more likely to tell their friends too. Require people to check-in a certain number of times to unlock a deal too!

Connecticut Breweries (and Wineries) should team together (or not?) to create a CT Brewery & Wine App or mobile website. If they go the app route it better not mirror any website created by either organization. The purpose of creating a CT brewery or wine trail app is to further educate customers. The app should add to their experience while they’re on location, on the go, or sitting at home planning their weekend adventure.  Some ideas for an app might be to include and encourage taking pictures or video during the tour, local brewery and winery trivia, suggestions for pairing beers or wines with meals, and a review section for each brewery and winery.

How do you think the CT brewery trail and wine trail can better use social media? Please share your thoughts and ideas below!

Social Media will SAVE your business! Not on it’s own.

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Below is my response to a friends email, “One of my buddies (and he is also a client) went to a meeting in California last week.   They had a session about social media, where someone went on-and-on about how the insurance industry was changing, and how only the local agencies that embrace social media would survive.  That seems like a bit of a stretch to me, but that’s what they were saying.  I don’t doubt that many local insurance agencies will be drying up soon – the same way that most of the local travel agencies fizzled – but that is because it is becoming so easy to buy insurance on-line.  I have a feeling that social media will not be enough to save some of those smaller agencies.”

I agree with you that social media alone isn’t going to save local insurance agencies. That’s a no-brainer. Some people are convinced (early adopters) that social media are the holy grail and they’ll save your business blah blah blah BULLSHIT. It’s only one aspect that will HELP increase business and connect with those in your community. Social media will be a game changer for some insurance agencies, but it’s not going to save them all that’s for sure! I think social media has the potential to positively impact local businesses, but over time. Locally, especially here in Stonington, CT and Westerly, RI where the majority of people are over and hate when “kids” are always texting or using their phones to communicate. Once this breed of “resistors” fades away, or embraces the concept we are going to see every small business utilizing social media and adopting the technology such as creating a mobile website (or app, but that might be a little farfetched) that is accessible via your smartphone or tablet. If nothing else business owners can use these new media devices to streamline their business, connect with their audience – in real-time, and ultimately increase sales, brand awareness, or loyalty.

Social Networks Will Become More Local and Personal

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With the launch of Facebook’s new ‘send’ website plugin (button) Facebook is recognizing that even people who have greater than 500 friends aren’t actually close friends with all of them. The majority of whom you barely recognize their picture. The move is going to increase the race to develop a more personalized social network OR people will begin to migrate slowly to, or spend more time on another more personally friendly social network. It’s certainly not going to kill Facebook. Zuckerberg most likely has a plan in place and could also begin to act similar to Google under the new leadership of  Larry Page, and buy up competitors as new more personalized startups launch. Now this isn’t always a sound idea. Remember the small, rapidly successful daily deals startup Groupon declined Google’s “miniscule” offer of $5.3 billion in December 2010.

More importantly this is only the very beginning of social network personalization. The Facebook ‘send’ website plugin will reminds me of AIM. It was text messaging on the internet. Today that’s all people do. Think about it, how often do you actually talk on the phone? Depending on your age the question will vary, but for myself and my closest friends texting is our way of communicating 75% of the time. Social networks will begin to embrace the idea of a more personalized social network. Sharing is important, however, who you share your information with is significantly more important. Text messaging is private and personal communication and if you have an iPhone or any smartphone all of your texts are saved. This information acts as a personal friendship timeline. Facebook introduced public ‘Friendship Pages‘, during October 2010 which attempts to embrace the idea of personalization, but fails because it’s public. As much as I support Facebook, this is too much. It’s time to for another startup to challenge Facebook’s personalization and privacy concerns… Do you think Facebook will privatize Friendship Pages? Would you like to see a private, personalized social network that embraces the basic idea of privacy among friends? Would you like to build your own platform within the network? A timeline of your relationship with your entourage, protecting daily memories, exclusively for your eyes only.

Who’s Blogging What

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Who’s Blogging What has the answer for small business owners overwhelmed with social media.  Who’s Blogging What is a free newsletter for online media and marketing professionals or for anyone interested in digital media for business. The free newsletter is distributed every Thursday and “special issues and offers on Tuesdays”. In this age of information overload the blogging newsletter has a strategic advantage. Keep in mind I have yet to read the content. However, my Gmail inbox is overloaded daily. Priority mail with Gmail helps significantly – no I don’t work for Google, but I’m a huge fan especially with Page leading. Regardless I have to read enough emails daily to keep me occupied, so the thought of only receiving one email a week is refreshing. It’s a sustainable strategy. For recognizing this Who’s Blogging What  now needs to focus on it’s content strategy for the next ten years. However, I do think they could step up their Twitter presence. Again it’s only updated weekly and with Twitter it’s more productive (in my opinion) to post at twice daily. Post once in the morning and once in the evening. Preferably between the hours of 630AM-830AM; 1130AM-230PM; 7PM-10PM. Remember posting times vary from market to market.

A Friendlier, Private, Social Network

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The battle for privacy seems to be never ending. However, for an issue that has been such an enormous issue, it doesn’t seem to be worthy of the mainstream media’s attention. People are looking for privacy. Sure  everyone wants to look at their friends pages, but it gets kind of weird when you have 100, 200, or 500+ friends and you’re browsing through all their pictures. Too many people friend people they’ve seen once or because they look hot and people agree to that friend request… For some people Facebook shares too much of our lives. With the launch of GroupMe (and others?), the ongoing privacy issue, and rising concerns of spam links across the social web people will naturally be looking for a safer online environment.

Take the design of Facebook, the pictures, wall, info etc. but make it exclusive. For you and your closest friends, your entourage. Not only will you be able to keep in touch privately, your friendship with this person is now documented, privately. Yes, this sounds very similar to the Facebook Friendship pages that are out there, but it’s not a shared conversation anymore, it’s personal and private. Think about the number of Facebook friends you have, how many of your Facebook friends do you trust enough to let them borrow your car, watch your dog for an afternoon, or shop for you when you’re sick?

A personal network could include feature a news feed, but it wouldn’t show wall posts for example. Using a Facebook wall-like design to communicate is easier than sending individual messages, and it allows for a conversation to develop, similar to texting. I think there’s real potential here. Do you? Would you be interested in joining a private  (personal) social network? Or is this idea the “anti” social network?

What is Twitter’s purpose?

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Being on Twitter constantly and following it’s activity since it’s inception has me curious about it’s future. Currently a minority, .05% to be exact, of Twitter users produce and feed content to the remaining 99.5% of users. Is this sustainable? Yes, but only if we continue to see further fragmentation. Most people follow others based on a subject or common interest. The more fragmentation Twitter experiences the more localized (ideally) followers become. Pushing out information becomes easier because you are focusing solely on one specific sport, political party, or brand. Over time users aren’t going to just follow you because you have a lot of followers, they’re going to consider their choices before they agree.  The fact of the matter is Twitter is used by a small percentage of accounts. I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of accounts weren’t active. Twitter is something people are still getting used to and I think it’s going to be this way for at least another 2 years. Smartphones will save Twitter. I rarely check Twitter while using my laptop, only if TweetDeck is open. All of the updates I receive are through my Twitter Feed. If I’m interested I’ll read it, if not, next!


What are your thoughts on the future of Twitter?

Don’t forget about text messaging

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At The Bridge Restaurant tonight a local guitarist, James Harris, was playing. Before I dive in James is a damn good guitarist and the bartenders know what they’re doing. So, back to James Harris and his great acoustic covers. On the back of his music stand he taped/tied an 8×10 piece of paper that reads “James Harris Request Hotline Text! (860) 235-xxxx send your song requests or just happy comments!”. My marketing professor at Plymouth State, Peter Yunich, said that, “Marketing is an in depth study of the obvious”. Don’t over think your social media strategy too much. Go back to basics. Now is the time to embrace social media and for the small business owner this means utilizing text messaging. While enjoying my beverages James received several texts requesting a variety of music. I’ve seen James play at the Daniel Packer Inn (DPI) in Mystic, CT and he hasn’t displayed the sign. Maybe it’s a new idea, or he has recognized his audience varies from place to place. The crowd at DPI is definitely younger, ranging between the ages of 21 and 30. The Bridge is certainly a more upscale restaurant catering to an older crowd. At DPI the setting (a colonial NE Inn w/ pub in the basement) and crowd are more apt to shout requests, however, I would assume texting to be rampant too. At The Bridge 99% of the crowd has a phone and 75-85% probably owns a smartphone. James is doing a wonderful job using social media (text messaging) to connect with current and attract new fans.

Ski Shop Social: Social Media @ Avie’s Ski/Sports (part 1?)…

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It’s almost been a month since my past last post. I am holding strong to my 1 post per-month minimum…  Social media at the entrepreneurial or small business level isn’t easy. It requires mass amounts of time and should be (if possible) delegated to a single employee. I have been juggling social media and sales at Avie’s Ski/Sports for over 6months now and it has been quite a learning experience. It’s always nice to hear in the shop when someone says, “Hey I saw a picture of product x or y on Facebook and here I am”. However, as I see organic likes growing on the “Avie’s Ski & Sport” Facebook Fan Page briefly I thought to myself, “cool, but where are these people coming from? How are the finding us on FB?”

It all comes full circle when a customer is about to leave. Add on to the end of your conversation, “Oh, and by the way we’re (or insert business name) on Facebook, check us out for x,y, and z reasons.”  To confirm that people are following up I constantly monitor the page several times a day. If I miss a day, then it’s back to digging through my memory bank! Remember, social media existed before Facebook. All you have to do now is incorporate tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogging and the like into your daily business operations. While it does require time, it is very possible for every small business to be utilize these tools successfully. Be yourself, but  don’t talk about yourself, change the conversation to a topic or tip that will help people, a short cut you have learned over the years. Most importantly, demonstrate your expertise in an empathetic manor that people will want to read, watch, or interact with AND then share.

Shareable content must always be incorporated and emphasized in any social media strategy. My boss Ted Avedesian has been working in the ski industry since 1978 when he started at Alpine Ski/Sport. Teddy knows a lot of short cuts and insider knowledge that very few people do. He is definitely a ski industry expert not to mention the fact that he’s been sailing and diving for nearly three decades too! It doesn’t matter if you just opened up shop or you’ve been in business for since the industrial revolution you have a story to tell and there are people out there who can relate to it. Consumers or readers are not going to flock to your blog or YouTube channel instantly, and if you choose not to advertise (or if you don’t advertise correctly) it’s possible you won’t see any activity for a few months. However, over time you will learn to be an effective communicator in the conversation prism.

Gowalla integrates with Foursquare

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Location based social network Gowalla recently (Nov. 2010) made it possible for users to share their check-in status with their Foursquare friends, in addition to Facebook and Twitter followers. By integrating with Foursquare, Gowalla has placed itself in a unique position. For people who enjoy sharing information (like myself) this makes me very happy. Most importantly this move is going to greatly  (if it hasn’t already) increase the number of active Gowalla users and potentially stunt growth within Foursquares user base.

For the person who likes to share information and update people regularly this is a big deal. I used to use Foursquare every day, I had a Gowalla app, but never cared to try it out. As of today, I’ll be using Gowalla from here on out! It’s all about simplicity for the end-user. Now, not everyone is as excited about this move or even cares that it happened. Some people will naturally stay with Foursquare, but why? Now, you’re check in will appear in two places at once!

What does this mean for small businesses? It’s time to learn! If you’re a business owner regardless of your location or size you need to strongly consider engaging consumers using location-based marketing techniques. Consumers who are using Foursquare already have an established list of friends who can view their whereabouts. Now, Gowalla has invited consumers to their platform while allowing all Gowalla users to keep in touch with and update their Foursquare friends. With the  number of smartphone users on the rise small business owners are faced with a difficult decision. Accept the fact that consumers are spending more time online than watching TV or reading the newspaper. It’s time to join or get left behind. Get educated and help yourself and your business grow. Think about how your business might succeed with mobile marketing and location based services. After all with the rise in smartphone users consumers are searching the internet more and more, but will they find you or your competition?

What do you think about Gowalla’s Foursquare integration? Do you like the idea? Would (do) you use Gowalla’s Foursquare integration, why?

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