Chris's Recent Posts

Social Media Presentation at the United Way

Chris Reimer Falk Harrison United Way

Over the past four years, across the St. Louis area, I’ve been giving presentations on social media. The topics have ranged from Twitter to personal branding to creating the right attitude and mindset for success to social media case studies. Often, once I step off stage, attendees will approach and say thanks, make a comment, or ask a question. I always enjoy chatting with people afterwards; it’s nice when they pay me a compliment, and I also like the constructive criticism I sometimes receive. I don’t even mind the “unconstructive” criticism.

I have taken note of one peculiarity. More often than not, attendees ask me a question completely unrelated to my presentation topic. If I spoke about online etiquette, the question would be “Do you recommend Hootsuite or Tweetdeck?” If I presented on the use of video to enhance company storytelling, the question would be “Does Pinterest need to be a part of my company’s marketing plan?”

Even if I had been trying to prepare and deliver presentations that I thought people needed to hear, these questions made me realize one thing: quite often, no one cared what I had to say; they had their own conundrum they were trying to solve, their own question to which they were seeking answers, and they didn’t want to bother the whole crowd with it by asking it during Q&A. So they approached me afterwards and got with me one-on-one.

This gave me an idea. I needed to do a Seinfeld-esque presentation. I emailed Carrie Zukowski at the United Way of Greater St. Louis and said, “I’d like to come in and present about nothing.” Actually, I stated it more appropriately as, “Let’s have a big two-hour Q&A session. Invite all member agencies, and tell them to bring their questions. I will answer every question they have.”

I did end up making a short presentation at the beginning before taking about an hour and 45 minutes of questions. I was so pleased to see a crowd of about 60 nonprofit marketers and Executive Directors. And they asked some excellent questions. Two of the most difficult were:

1. “How does one make the time to do this?” I encouraged each of them to audit their organizations. I explained that this form of communication, creating deeper relationships with people, was too important to ignore. So they had to find a way to find the time. I actually got a little serious for a minute (and this advice is based on personal experience). Companies, both for profit and nonprofit, often become like families. Eventually, as Jim Collins put it, people are sitting in the wrong seats on the bus. It becomes harder to make tough decisions about moving people around, restaffing and what not. I learned this from Gary Vaynerchuk – look closely at how you and your people spend your days, and find the weaknesses and holes. I do respond to tweets at stoplights, and in the evenings, and on Sundays. I choose to keep up; it actually takes very little time. I encouraged them to try.

2. “How do you not let this become a complete distraction?” I did not have a good answer for this one because, frankly, social media is often a huge distraction in my daily life. While it’s hard for these guys to pick it up and start using it, I find it very difficult to put down. I admitted to them that this could prove to be a big challenge to them, but if they kept “results” in mind, I had confidence they would not waver from their mission (whatever that NFP’s mission happened to be).

I want to thank Carrie and everyone at the United Way of Greater St. Louis for helping me pull this off. It was an honor to speak to your member agencies, and I just hope they got something out of the time spent. Let’s do it again next year.

Follow them on Twitter:
@UnitedWaySTL
@OrvinKimbrough

Some tweets from the day:

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Does Your Company Have a Social Media Problem?

On June 17, 1972, burglars broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington D.C. with the intent of installing listening devices and photographing documents. Five men were arrested that night, and during the ensuing two-year investigation, it was discovered that that President Nixon had a penchant for making White House audio recordings. Apparently, he was a real devotee of the evidence-creation arts. The scandal took down his presidency.

In the aftermath, one conclusion not drawn was, “President Nixon has a tape recorder problem mixed with a poorly executed break-in problem.”

In early 2012, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gathered with a sympathetic crowd of donors in San Francisco. Feeling comfortable in his surroundings, among a base of voters he needed to rally and solidify, he proceeded to dismiss 47% of the electorate as government-dependent, saying, “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” Via a strategically placed camera, his musings subsequently became public, and at a time when his campaign was struggling, this was trouble they did not need. His “not elegantly stated” comments made him a tough sell to independent voters.

In the aftermath, one conclusion not drawn was, “Governor Romney and his communications team have a surreptitiously placed camera problem.”

CIA Director David Petraeus and his mistress, Paula Broadwell, secretly communicated via Gmail by creating email drafts that they would never send. If one never hits send on that love note, then there is no love note. However, once Jill Kelley informed the FBI that she had received threatening emails allegedly sent by Broadwell, law enforcement determined that the threatening emails and the Gmail love account were originating from the same IP address. Busted.

In the aftermath, one conclusion not drawn was, “General Petraeus and his paramour have a sexy email and traceable IP address problem.”

Former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner snapped some unfortunate photos of himself and tweeted them to a female Twitter follower. He then claimed he had been hacked. After some additional truthiness gymnastics, he finally admitted he tweeted the picture, and his congressional career was over.

In the aftermath, one conclusion not drawn was “Representative Weiner has a cell phone camera problem.” In fact, social media was blamed. Representative Weiner had a “social media problem.” We’ve subsequently seen companies like Taco Bell, Kitchenaid and Amy’s Baking Company make similar “social media mistakes.”

Four stories, the same lesson

Small tape recorders, camera phones, old-fashioned letters created with fountain pens, the mouths and typing fingers of human beings conveying thoughts from within, and social media – each is a documentation and communications device that can become the gateway to a public show of seriously poor judgment. And at last check, public displays of poor judgment predate social media’s emergence by perhaps thousands of years.

Employees make poor decisions and embarrassing blunders on social media while representing their employers, and, while they often get fired, their decision-making faculties do not exclusively get the blame. The medium takes a hit, too. To mitigate risk, company executives sometimes slow down or shut down social media output. Their conclusion? “We have a social media problem.”

No, we do not. Your blundering employee had a failure of judgment. They just did something stupid, and social media happened to be the method of conveyance at the time. High-profile social media embarrassments are proof of nothing except poor human judgment, a lack of training, and perhaps poor hiring. They are not proof that social media is dangerous. Organizations that misdiagnose such a problem sometimes decide that social media is too thorny, too risky, and they pull back the reins or quit entirely. As social media is not going away, such a decision, having been made on poor grounds, will ultimately prove hasty.

I hate to see this happen! The marketing or corporate communications department cannot afford to lose one of its most effective forms of engagement. If you choose to use social media as part of an integrated marketing effort, and want employees to participate in social on behalf of the company, the company needs to hire judicious people. Those employees then need training on exercising proper judgment across all of their communication touchpoints (something your friends at Falk Harrison can provide). This includes in-person sales pitches, internal meetings, cocktail parties, the phone, emails and, of course, social media.

Companies should understand where the real risks lie and take measured steps to ensure that their team uses good judgment in all interactions with its audiences. If you decide to kick Facebook and Twitter in the rear for all of the trouble they caused, you might as well be kicking yourself.

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Instagram vs Vine: Which Is The More Important Video App?

Instagram video debuted last week, sending the prognosticators into overdrive. “Rest In Peace, Vine,” and “Goodbye Vine” were among the immediate social media headlines I caught. Vine debuted in January 2013, and the blog post I wrote about it remains heavily-trafficked, which tells me there is still a great deal of interest in the product. Brands and some extremely talented individuals are doing amazing things on Vine (go find the users “khoa” and “Ian Padgham” – brilliant).

I appeared on Fox 2 Now with Angela Hutti to discuss some of the differences between the services (video above). Out of the gate, Instagram video has set itself apart with features like image stabilization, 15-second videos vs. six, the ability to edit, and of course the filters. Most people and brands have larger followings on Instagram, as it’s been around for two years longer than Vine. I could not blame a brand like the NBA if they chose to use Instagram more often, as their Instagram account has 1.1 million followers, while they’re at 141,000 followers on Vine. Their Instagram videos have generated as many as 60,000 likes, which is almost 30 times more than their Vine videos.

So which app is better? Notice the headline of this post. Instagram’s feature set seems a little richer at this point, but maybe we shouldn’t be trying to determine which app is better. For brands, the question need not be “Which should I use?” but rather, “In which community are we making fruitful connections with consumers?” If your videos are connecting with consumers on both services, then both are important to your brand. Lack of time may get used as an excuse, but I’d find a way to use both services.

Instagram vs vine

image courtesy of Techcrunch

Here’s a link to the story on Fox 2 Now, in case the embedded video above doesn’t cooperate.

Here are a few more articles worth reading:

1. Instagram video is the phablet of social networking. I didn’t agree with the premise of the article. I think Instagram CAN pull this off. In this case, I don’t think trying to do two things well at once is going to be a problem for them.

2. Instagram vs. Vine – The Top 5 Differences

3. Techcrunch’s article on Instagram vs. Vine

4. Which app does video better?

5. I wrote this post on my personal blog with some additional thoughts.

Tell me: what have your experiences with Instagram video been like so far? Leave a comment below. And be sure to link up your Instagram account in the comment so we can find you.

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7 Reasons Why B2B Social Media Marketing Works

Social media can sometimes be very confounding. This confusion is borne of a diversity of perceptions and goals. People have varying definitions of social media. Some think it’s worthless, others think it’s something their sons and daughters do, and some believe its power borders on marketing sorcery. It’s still too new to be 100% proven (no tactic, no matter how old and “proven,” is ever truly 100% proven). The goals we set range from an uptick in brand awareness to emptying a warehouse full of goods.

You won’t often see a plurality of people pushing back when a B2C social media marketing campaign is kicked off. “Oh, you’re marketing a fun product to people – social media is perfect for that!” However, when a manufacturer of chemicals wants to sell more chemicals, social media sometimes doesn’t get the call. In the majority of cases, that is a call your marketing and communications department should be making.

Below are seven reasons why social media marketing is actually a great fit for B2B organizations.

1. – Your employees need to do research to solve problems

Smart employers are always looking for self-starters. And self-starting employees have a geniune wish to do their jobs better. However, even the most talented employee needs the proper tools in order to excel. If your corporation restricts social media usage at work, you’re actually restricting your employees’ ability to conduct research. They will still be able to Google this and that, but having a network of live human beings to turn to is sometimes superior to Google. Word of mouth is not dead, and social media is word of mouth for the 21st century.

2. – Your employees want to network to enhance their own careers

I’ve had a client say to me, “We don’t want our employees on LinkedIn, because our competition will poach them.” It could happen, and maybe the information they find on LinkedIn could help, but this is a notion that is ever so slowly getting turned on its ear. I hate to break it to you, but if your employee doesn’t get poached, they could just (eek!) decide to leave.

The question companies ask themselves is, “Will we let our employees use social media at work?” when maybe it should be, “Why should we let them?” Employees are not your property, so being overly protective of them or keeping them in the shadows is going to eventually make them feel like you only value them for the job they do, and not as human beings. Jobs aren’t forever, and employees and employers alike are increasingly realizing this. Employees sometimes network. Do not be scared! Their network can help them and your company. (see #1 above and #7 below). If you offer a fulfilling, challenging and kind place to work, you give yourself a great chance of keeping your best and brightest.

3. – Spread the word about your business, and increase brand awareness

Increasing brand awareness does not directly lead to an increase in sales, but it should result in an increase in leads. A B2B social media marketing effort can generate leads, and those leads need to be handed to a salesperson or account manager for nurturing and closing. To reiterate, social media does not close the sale. Real people, answering every question and reassuring the prospect that you’ll be there to back up the product, are the deal closers. Honestly, if you take nothing else from this blog post, remember this! Go here for a deeper discussion of this issue.

4. – B2B transactions are, on average, larger

Which pond would you rather be fishing in? The one with fish that weigh, on average, about $150, or the one where they weigh $150,000? While the B2B sales cycle is a bit longer and more complicated, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is often a 6-figure purchase order. Is that worth spending time on social media? Yes, let’s spend time working to secure such orders. If a steady stream of helpful, relevant online content plays a role in finally convincing a prospect to cut that purchase order, then your marketing department will have done their job. Help your marketing department do their job by providing them the tools they need.

5. – Prove your INTENT to others

People buy from those they know, like and trust. How do you get people to trust you? For one, you can do business with them once and prove you are able to deliver. If you’ve never done business with someone, you can put on a public face that says “We eat, sleep and breathe this business. We are NERDS for this stuff. We’re specialists. Why trust anyone else?” Brochures can’t convey this quite as well as videos can. A steady stream of content describing not just what you sell, but why you sell it, will help make your case. You’re not just in it for the money – you love what you do and what you sell. Your prospects are sitting at their laptops right now, Googling various terms in order to arrive at a solution to whatever challenge they’re facing. It would be best if they stumbled across your business and your website.

I was once delivering a lecture at a Washington University Olin School MBA class, and a student raised his hand and asked about social media for B2B. Before I was able to begin answering the question, the gentleman next to him answered it for me. He worked at a B2B corporation, and they were considering three different vendors for a big project. They saw only one of the three actively answering customer service questions on social media. He said they considered this fact, and extrapolated that this company probably would be the most responsive to their needs. That company got the six-figure purchase order.

6. – Attract great employees

Oh, how often this is overlooked. The prevailing thought in some organizations is, “We have jobs available, and people really need jobs. So we’ll be able to get people to fill these positions.” Personally, I like working for organizations with taste. I like an employer who’s picky. When can an employer afford to be choosy when hiring? When they’re receiving an avalanche of resumes from well-qualified applicants. Good employees have always wanted to work for strong organizations. Increasingly, they perceive that social media aids in making a company stronger, and worse, a lack of social media makes a company look weird and behind the times. If your company isn’t using social media, it does not necessarily mean you don’t “get it.” However, perception is often reality, and you don’t want a potential employee to perceive you in this way (much less a potential customer).

7. – Generate leads – your prospects are on social media!

Let’s cut through it all. You’re going to hear social media experts tell you social media is about engagement and transparency. It’s a cocktail party. You can’t sell, sell, sell. All of that might be true, but you have bills to pay. Sales must increase. Yes, it’s all about the money. Here’s what you need to know: your customers ARE on social media. Often, they’re just participating as themselves, and not as XYZ Corporation. This point deserves reiteration. Whether you believe it or not, your customers are on social media. Get to know them as people. Repeating, people work with people they know and trust. Warm calling is more effective that cold calling. So, warm up those prospects in the more traditional ways (treat them to dinner, a sporting event, talk on the phone and ask how their kids are doing), and interact with them and support them online as well. Don’t hesitate to get to know them a bit. Be genuinely interested in them. They have families and career goals just like you do. Besides the in-person interactions, social media offers you a great way to further develop a friendship, which could develop into a working relationship.

Conclusion

These lists are always different. Google “B2B Social Media” to get other perspectives. This post purposely takes a more human angle. Companies are stronger when their employees are happy. Great employees leave their jobs when they see no way up, and when they aren’t provided the tools they need to succeed. Rally around your best employees, empower them to solve your company’s problems, and communicate with your prospects in a very genuine and direct way. Strengthen your company by strengthening both your employees and the human connections between your sales team and your prospects.

Postscript

I should mention that we help clients with this sort of work all the time. Our B2B social media work for Belden won “Best in Show” at the 2012 TAM Awards. Out of 200+ entries, our B2B social media marketing work was judged to be the best work of the year. So yes, your B2B organization can do it, too!

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Welcome Corey Helling!

Corey Helling pic

We are excited to belatedly welcome Corey Helling to the firm. Corey joined us in early April after 3+ years at ProWolfe. He jumped right in on a huge branding project that Steve Harrison is heading. No rest!

During a grueling 30 minute interrogation, I was able to gather that:

1. Corey and his wife are the proud parents of a 10-week old daughter.
2. He graduated from UMSL with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.
3. Cunetto’s House of Pasta is his favorite restaurant. When he initially came to St. Louis, Cunetto’s was the first place his now-wife took him to. The family memories are starting to accumulate.
4. He enjoys watching Game of Thrones, Dexter, and American Pickers, but doesn’t watch much TV.
5. He f&$#king hates sports. He’ll play a sport but does not like watching or keeping up with sports.
6. He and his wife enjoy the outdoors. They tend to a wildflower garden on the grounds of Helling Manor. He especially likes camping, and whittling wood into useful things like arrows and figurines.
7. He enjoys folk bands like Fleet Foxes and Father John Misty.

Corey, we’re so glad to have you here!

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