Beyond ‘Likes’: Growing Your Business with Social Media

Just because someone “Likes” your Facebook page doesn’t mean they’ll visit your business. Entrepreneurs need to engage these visitors, whether they encounter your business through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or your website. Please join me in a discussion of how to meet and measure success in digital communications at the Rotary Club of Sarasota Keys’ Business to Business Mixer.

The event will take place from noon to 1:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 4. At Café L’Europe on St. Armands Circle. Admission is $5 per person. Lunch is included. There will be a cash bar.

Enjoy meeting fellow Sarasota business professionals and community leaders as the Rotary club continues a 50-year tradition of fostering good will and building lasting friendships. I’ll be making a short presentation on planning and measuring a social media program.

To RSVP or for more information contact Jack Geldi at jjgeldi@aol.com or (941) 586-2777.

Beyond Likes 3 Planning and Measuring Social Media title slide

The Revolution Will Not Be Printed

It’s easy to believe that since print survived radio and television it will survive the Internet. After listening to Barry Dawson, I’m not so sure. Or to take a more nuanced approach, I’m not sure it will continue to influence the culture and the economy to the extent it has since Gutenberg invented movable type more than 500 years ago.

Certainly print works better for some content and some eyes, but not news. Its immediacy seeks out the fastest and most flexible medium, and digital tools deliver. Combine original content, new distribution channels and innovative marketing and you have a potentially profitable business, as well as an alternative to ink.

Barry DawsonThat brings us to Dawson, a resident of the West End of Monroe County, a rural area of the Pocono Mountains in Northeast Pennsylvania. Long inhabited by the descendants of German and Dutch settlers, the area best known for woodlands and resorts continues to transition to a bedroom community for metropolitan New York and New Jersey. Several papers, radio and television stations cover the region but shifts in the economy and the culture have gutted their newsrooms.

Enter the digital entrepreneur. Dawson grew up in the West End, moved to North Carolina and returned to take a job in radio promotion with a pair of stations in the nearby Lehigh Valley. He has local knowledge, knows how to bypass channel surfers by embedding commercial messages in programs and lives on his mobile phone. Combining those assets, he bought a police scanner, became a reluctant reporter and launched westendsupporter.com and westendradio101.com. He also integrated his site with accounts at Facebook and other networks as a way to drive traffic and measure results.

Dawson believes that with its speed to market, digital news will eventually replace printed news. It’s a natural fit. Blending content and commerce creates a viable business model. Only time and his bank account will prove him right. Meanwhile, here are five conclusions I’ve drawn from his venture:

  1. Digital trumps print for speed and relevance
  2. Mobile devices trump PCs for optimum news delivery
  3. Micro content beats state, national and international news for gaining followers
  4. In our attention-deficit culture, product integration trumps advertising
  5. For marketers, digital offers the precise measurement of the effectiveness of the ad spend.

Where do you find your news? And do you think print and the people who produce it will dwindle in importance?

3 Steps to Creating Social Networks

I’d just finished writing a social media strategy for a rather large healthcare company when my client asked: how are we going to implement this?

One step at a time.

A week later I think we have a solid plan for launching the network, first with employees, then with their customers and prospects. While developing those tactics I’ve come to a few conclusions—three to be exact.

  1. Promote the network. If you build it, will anyone show? Not unless you publicize it. Actively connect to, follow or like the key opinion leaders and media in your industry. And don’t rule out help from the other marketing disciplines—media planning, web development, public relations and direct marketing. Depending on your industry, an integrated, balanced campaign can drive traffic more effectively than an all-digital approach.
  2. Create your own content. Once you’ve attracted an audience you’ll need to work to keep visitors engaged. Providing original content, and allowing visitors to add their own material, will give them a reason to return.
  3. Measure the results. Whether you’re working with for-profit or non-profit organizations, buy-in is essential. Senior management looks for progress over time. Define realistic metrics and deliver them.

Jeff Widmer is a PR and social media strategist.

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Flattening the Learning Curve

If your New Year’s resolution includes learning something new, Sal Khan has a lesson for you. And it’s free.

An indefatigable educator with three degrees from MIT and a Harvard MBA, Khan has built an online learning library of 3,600 videos on topics ranging from medieval history to hypertension to mortgage rates. He narrates and illustrates many of the 10-to-15-minute clips in an easy-going but passionate manner. The Khan Academy offers interactive knowledge maps and dynamic exercises as well.

Khan says the success of the program hinges on the way the lessons are taught. “The lectures are coming from me, an actual human being who is fascinated by the world around him.”

The world has noticed. More than 41 million people learned from Khan Academy video tutorials last year. One of them was Bill Gates, whose Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, along with Google, has donated a combined $7.5 million to the nonprofit.

Khan’s resolution for the New Year? “We’re reaching over five million students now a month, and our big push is to find ways to make the video lessons more interactive,” Khan told The Rotarian magazine.” That includes having questions show up during the course of the video, like ‘How would you add fractions?’ to get the students really invested, or ‘What would you do as the next step?’ before showing them the right answer. Then there’s our community push – we’re developing software to get the students to help one another, quickly and effectively.”

Now there’s a resolution worth keeping.

Mature Adults Dialed into Smartphones

Selling smartphones in Southwest Florida? You’ve come to the right place.

While the conventional wisdom says younger people adopt new technology faster than their older counterparts, research from measurement company Nielsen Holdings shows adoption is as much a function of income as age. And that puts the Gulf Coast of Florida smack in the middle of a one of the nation’s hottest trends.

“While overall smartphone penetration stood at 48% in January, those in the 25-34 age group showed the greatest proportion of smartphone ownership, with 66% saying they had a smartphone,” according to a Nielsen survey of more than 20,000 mobile consumers. “But age isn’t the only determinant of smartphone ownership. Income also plays a significant role. When age and income are both taken into account, older subscribers with higher incomes are more likely to have a smartphone. For example, those 55-64 making over 100K a year are almost as likely to have a smartphone as those in the 35-44 age bracket making 35-75K per year.”

Here’s how that works. According to the survey, 33% of people ages 55-64 own a smartphone, half of the rate of people ages 18-24 (62%). Consider income and the numbers change. For people who make more than $100,000 a year, 48% in the 55-64 bracket own a smartphone while 77% in the 18-24 group own a device. The gap narrows with users making between $75,000 and $100,000 a year, where 42% of the 55-64 year olds own a smartphone compared to 65% of their younger cohorts.

Those figures jibe with statistics from Sarasota County’s Department of Planning Services and Enterprise Florida. Sarasota is one of the oldest counties in the United States, with a median age of 52.5 (the U.S. median age is 37.2), according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Nearly 54% of the county’s 382,000 residents are over the age of 50. Sarasota County is also a relatively wealthy area. According to Census data nearly 20% of Sarasota County households had income of more than $100,000. The Census pegged median family income at $57,229, slightly lower than the national average but about 8% higher than the Florida figure.

While we don’t have numbers on smartphone penetration in Sarasota, it’s safe to say that despite conventional assumptions, mature adults on the Gulf Coast are dialed into the latest technology.

Ghosts in the Machine

This holiday season, get ready for the blitz. We’re not talking football. We’re talking tech.

The National Retail Federation is projecting 2012 holiday sales will rise 4.1% from 2011 levels. A good portion of that will go to consumer electronics. Researchers at Booz & Co. expect a 4% rise in consumer purchases of downloadable gifts such as digital music, movies and books.

The shopping season is already off to a fast start. Amazon reported Thanksgiving holiday sales of its Kindle e-reader products doubled over the same time last year. And Apple alone may soak up a lot of holiday spending. Writing at forbes.com, Chuck Jones predicts sales of updated iPads and iPad minis should boost the company’s December quarter revenues by 19% year over year.

Sales enabled by technology continue to rise. Online retailers predict a record $43.4 billion in holiday sales this season as shoppers increasingly rely on social networks and mobile devices, according to Bloomberg. It estimates Internet sales will grow 17 percent over last year, or more than 10 percent of U.S. retail spending, excluding gas, food and cars.

What does that mean for those of us looking for gifts this Hanukkah and Christmas? Besides the usual smartphones, video games and big-screen TVs, expect to see a lot of so-called labor-saving devices.

Amazon is selling a wireless child locator shaped like a Teddy bear for $28.99. For the man cave, Sharper Image is promoting a Pac Man Arcade Machine for $2,999, with free shipping. And for people who like to drink, Bed Bath & Beyond offers a carbonator that turns water into soda for $129.99 and a cordless wine bottle opener for $29.99. Too bad they can’t turn water into wine. It would fit with the birthday celebration.

If all this strikes you as commercialized corruption of the holiday, you’re not alone. Charles Schultz expressed the sentiment 47 years ago with “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” As for the rest of us, some will light candles. Some will assemble the crèche and head to church. Others will give quiet thanks for good friends, family and health, realizing that in this holiday season, gratitude is one of the greatest gifts of all.

10 things Fla. can learn from Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy wasn’t our first major storm but it was the first since we bought property in Sarasota, Florida. After five days without water, power or reliable phone service, we’ve discovered what many Floridians know: that while you can’t move your home out of harm’s way, you can mitigate the discomfort with a little planning. Here are 10 tips from a northerner who has learned about infrequent but damaging storms:

  1. Plan for the worst. Create two options, one for sheltering in place, the other for abandoning your home. Find a place to shelter before hurricane season. If you can’t stay with relatives or friends outside the disaster zone, investigate nearby motels and plug that contact information into your mobile phone. You can tough it out without hot food but not a shower: you don’t want to report for work with bat hair. Don’t assume your neighbors can shelter you. Chances are they won’t have electricity, either. Book lodgings at least two days before the storm hits or you’ll lose your place to other homeowners and utility crews.
  2. Everything runs on electricity, not just AC and the Internet. Even alternative-fuel systems with electric starters, like pellet stoves and some gas hot water heaters, won’t work. Credit card and ATM machines need power. So do gasoline pumps at service stations. Assume no one will have electricity, including the municipalities, and plan accordingly. That means bulking up on generators, manual appliances, and cash.
  3. Invest in battery backup. Power outages outlast computers, cell phones and smartphones. Consider universal power supplies and dedicated cell-phone chargers. Once a storm approaches, charge all devices every night you have power. And remember to check the batteries in flashlights. You don’t want to be one of the things that go bump in the night.
  4. Sign up for text alerts from the electric company so you’ll know when it restores power to your home. Create a neighborhood phone tree so when the electric company says it has restored power, you can verify, or challenge, that assessment.
  5. Store essential phone numbers on paper. Keep a copy in your house, car and pocket.
  6. Inventory your medications. Keep a list in your wallet or purse. As soon as the first storm forms, refill your prescriptions. Every time the weather service begins tracking a new storm, use those alerts as reminders to check your supply.
  7. Save plastic containers to fill with water for washing, drinking and flushing toilets.
  8. Fill your cars with gasoline as soon as the weather service says a storm will make landfall within a few days.
  9. Pack a crash bag and keep it in the trunk of your car. Include clothing, personal hygiene items, bottled water, flashlight, cell-phone chargers and over-the-counter and prescription medications. If you’re stranded on your way home, you’ll have a few essentials.
  10. Don’t overstock the refrigerator or freezer. Perishables perish. In addition to paper products and plastic utensils, stockpile liquids packaged in bricks, dry goods like pasta, peanut butter, bottled water, canned goods and a manual can opener.

If there’s one lesson Hurricane Sandy has taught us it’s this: hope for the best but plan for the worst. Your future self will thank you.

Learn about how to prepare for hurricanes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ready.gov site.