Monday, November 24, 2008

The Case for Using Social Networking

Quick Points:
  1. Social Networking is here to stay
  2. You as a business owner should embrace the concept
  3. Remember that Google's idea of search marketing was considered silly 10 years ago
  4. The business landscape is changing - Yahoo is researching how to reach social networks
  5. Below are 5 essential activities to conduct on either Facebook, LinkedIN, or Twitter
For the past three or four months, I have heard rumblings and gripes from many of my colleagues, expressing their frustration with Social Networking, on venues such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIN. Many have trouble embracing its business purpose, others consider it a waste of valuable business time, and some feel that it is a fad that will go away soon.

As a web designer for the past 10 years, I have seen many fads come and go ("that was so 15 minutes ago" was a term that was specifically created due to the advent of fly by night web trends), such as, flashing banner ads, and Flash games that drop more cookies on your PC than Santa on Christmas Eve. I can assure the skeptics two things: first - social networking is here to stay, and second - those that embrace the concept sooner rather than later will profit from the commitment. To understand why, let's rewind about 10 years to another nifty concept - search advertising.

Google rapidly rose to power despite critical opinion that there is no way to monetize search. 10 years later its advertising delivery system AdWords is still a force to be reckoned with, as Fortune 500's are aggressively making the switch to online advertising, both on Google and its vast partner networks. Just this past year, Proctor and Gamble, one of the most corporate-traditional cultures in the world agreed to an employee exchange program, which helped both Google and P&G profit from each other. The point is that even traditional companies are jumping on a bandwagon that the tech world has foreseen many moons ago.

This morning I was reading an article in Advertising Age, which discusses a study being conducted by Yahoo and several Social Networking startups. The theory is that consumers can be targeted much more effectively by relationships, rather than demographics. So if you are talking with Judy more often than Bill, it is much more likely that you will have similar tastes as Judy does.

What this means for you is that when you study your friends' likes and dislikes on Social Networking sites, you can better understand what they collectively need, and deliver those needs. It is the ultimate open research tool. Further, it is a direct way to develop good relationships with your client base online (as a supplement to in person relationships...not a replacement). As I often quote from Chase Bank, "the right relationship is everything"...a phrase which bears greater merit during our recent financial travails. It behooves you as a business to embrace social networking, so that when new methods of monetizing the concept emerge, you'll be ready to roll.

As I wrote a few weeks back on this blog, the best way to get started is to create profiles at Facebook and LinkedIN. The only initial cost is time, which unfortunately can be sucked from your day quite rapidly if you do not set proper controls and discipline to use the tools effectively. I recommend about 15 minutes a day to start - simply by logging on once a day and updating your status. If you can squeeze in the time, recognize that no man (or woman) is an island, and add a few friends that you know also have profiles. They will also help you during your learning curve.

Here are the top five activities I recommend during your power 15 minutes each day of Social Networking:
  1. Update your status at least once a day
  2. Add interesting content to your profile that people will read (blog)
  3. Add friends that you can relate to on both a professional and personal basis
  4. Take some time to read other people's profiles, and comment on their statuses
  5. Introduce friends of yours to other friends that have similar interests
Try it out for a week. I assure you that you will enjoy it, but also consider how Social Networking can help your clients, and your business in the future.

Tom Ossa
Rockland Web Design
(845) 271 - 4488

Friday, November 14, 2008

More Networking Do's and Dont's - Some anecdotes

Ok, so on November 13th we had our networking event at the Black Bear Saloon. (Blatant promotion: All went very well, and we hit our usual crowd of about 35-40 people. From the feedback I got so far, almost everyone enjoyed it.

However I cannot emphasize enough that there are certain things that one can do to increase the effectiveness of networking. A lot of it has to do with taking the time to get to know someone before shoving a business card down their throat. I see this all too often in networking circles, and while it might garner short term gains, it serves as the antithesis of networking's primary purpose - do develop long-term relationships. In order to do this, one must remove from brain the idea of networking being...gasp...a numbers game.

Moreover, let's face it - in the current economic climate, many are trying to get the word out there in as efficient a manner as possible. Unfortunately, efficiency and effectiveness don't always go together. Stephen Covey writes in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People about how a person in the woods was sawing down a tree, and when someone pointed out to him that he would probably be able to get the tree cut quicker if he sharpened his blade, the man said that he didn't have time for that sort of thing. So I ask you, people who think of networking as a "numbers game"...and I say this with love...if you took the time to get to know us before telling us more about your products or services, do you think you might have receive a more robust response?

Once we as networkers all come to terms with that cold-cock to the brain, it makes life a lot easier when dealing with people. Certainly we need to employ the energy, enthusiasm and hard work to put ourselves in front of suitable potential clients, to get to know them better, and to let them know (in a polite manner) how cool we and our life's work happens to be. BUT, we must always remember that most of our lives don't play out like the New York Stock Exchange, nor does it make it any more enjoyable to conduct oneself in such a manner.

Here are a few quick anecdotes regarding good networking.

My Stepfather Jim Hudick (R.I.P.) from American Management Association was the perfect example of how humans should relate to each other. He was kind, considerate, and most of all took a genuine interest in other people. The funny thing was...he was also kind of quiet. You had to ask questions to learn more about him, but each time you walked away from Jim, you got a really good feeling inside - that he was genuinely interested in you. At his funeral, you should have seen the out pour of emotion for this very fine man, who spent much of his life caring about other human beings.

Vincent Blehl from Green T just gave me a call, and he brought up an excellent point; while you are speaking with people, make mental notes of who in your current circle might be good contacts for him or her. In that way you are an instant service to the person, and although you may not reap the rewards immediately, you can be sure they will appreciate it and perhaps reciprocate in the future. Multiply that by the number of people you meet, and you have built a network of people who want to get to know you better...and are more likely to do business with you.

Kevin Kearsey of Montvale Mortgage saved me last night. While I was doing my 60-second infomercial at the ProMetroNet event, I suddenly paused in a manner worse than when former NY Attorney General Jeannine Pirro announced her run for Senate (“does anyone have page 10?”). Kevin subsequently used a few moments of his own presentation last night to do a quick rescue, endorsing me and letting the audience know that Rockland Web Design is working on his company's new website. Very classy move, Kevin; thank you.

There are so many more points that can be made here, but you're busy. Go back to work - but remember that networking should not just be about you. Remember the other person to whom you speak. If you see eyes roll over or attention wander as you are talking, ask a few questions of the other persons that help you to get to know them better, and don't make it about your product or service. Maybe it should be about the Jets game, or that lovely purse that someone is wearing, or something that makes it more enjoyable to speak with you, and remember you.

And to the number-crunching networkers out there...if you are reading this and think I am trying to offend, please don't feel that way. As a matter of fact I really am trying to help. I truly hope to talk with you again at the next meeting - and here's an icebreaker for you - my favorite band of all time is Led Zeppelin. What's yours? :-)

Tom Ossa
Rockland Web Design
(845) 271 - 4488

P.S. Check out some additional resources:

The Art of Networking - A Tutorial
What Makes Business Networking So Important
Small Businesses Turning to Social Networking

Also, feel free to comment on this article below.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Caring for Clients...Online.

Hi, everyone. This week's blog is listed below. Here are some key advice points for those of you on the go:

Key Points:
  1. Our work online isn't just to help ourselves, it is to help others.
  2. Refer others while e-mailing people
  3. Use websites like Facebook and LinkedIN to keep in touch with, and help your network of friends, family and business associates
  4. Use your website as an advice forum to give others knowledge
  5. Send e-cards or SendOutCards to people that are in need of consolation
  6. Link your website to others...they will reciprocate.
  7. These are only a few of the things we can do - but the point is to care for those we interact with online.
Caring for Clients...Online.

So I was just reading a great article in Success Magazine from Mr. Televangelist himself, Joel Osteen. While sometimes he migrates into cheesyland, I do have to say that nine times out of ten he has really good, sound advice that we as individuals, friends, family members and of course business owners can use in the ongoings of our daily lives. As a matter of fact I went to see him once at Madison Square Garden, and I have to say he really reaches out to people on a very good-hearted level. In short, he cares.

The Success Magazine article - click here to read an excerpt - was from my friend Leah Rosen of In it, Joel discusses the "energy" that we send out to people ultimately comes back to us. Some things that stuck out in the article to me:
  • A teacher that worked for a tough inner city school lent one of her most troubled students $100 so that he could pay off his loan from a street gang. The stipulation: he had to pay it back at his graduation. The young man in turn worked hard and indeed made it to graduation, citing his teacher's faith in him as a prime motivator.
  • A young boy fell down a steep slope and started yelling for help. Every time he yelled "help", he heard another voice yelling back to him "help". He started insulting the voice as a coward for not rescuing him, and the voice responded back in kind. Later when his Dad ultimately found and rescued him, the boy found that the voice was only his own echo...but also a metaphor for life - what we send out comes back to us.
  • Rule: "You never bring out the best in someone by criticizing, condemning, or verbally beating down a person. You bring out the best by love. You bring out the best by showing people you care."
  • The final sentence of the article "If you make someone else's day, God will make yours."
The relevance to what we do online is simple. Every time we log onto our e-mail, someone else's website, Facebook, LinkedIN, ProMetroNet or other places where we interact with our business community, friends and family, we can be focusing on more than just trying to get more bang for the buck. Sure, we all need to survive by pulling in our daily bread, but at the same time we can be finding opportunities to assist people with the knowledge that we have as business owners to better other people's lives.

Several business owner friends of mine that just started a blog at the same time asked me what they should write about. I suggested they write about things that they are passionate about in their industry. Upon further reflection, I realize that I was only partially correct. The truth is we should be writing about the things that will help other people to live better lives. And like the advice in the article I mentioned, what you put out there will ultimately come back in kind.

Some tangible steps for taking care of your clients online:
  1. Whenever you are reading through your e-mails, keep in mind the other trusted associates in your network that could possibly help solve some of your client's problems. I recently referred a client with a business plan question to my good friend Mark Cohen of PerformanceStream. While I may have been able to help the person myself, I realized that I couldn't do it as well as Mark ultimately did. The client was thankful, and so was Mark.
  2. If you are on Facebook or LinkedIN, take interest in the stories of your friends network, and reach out to them with geniuine commentary when they are happy, sad or need help. I like the Guiliani rule: "Weddings are optional, but funerals are mandatory." This means that when someone needs consolation, you should be one of the consolers.
  3. On your website, run an advice forum that allows people to ask questions of you or your business. You can accomplish this with a simple contact form, and update your website from time to time with your answers to those questions.
  4. When someone is having a difficult time, consider sending them an e-card, or a SendOutCard. In addition to your consistent marketing efforts (you are marketing, right? :-) it is an added way of telling someone that you care about them. By the way, while we all need to prioritize our most monetarily lucrative clients to get the job done, that is no excuse to neglect those that are just starting out or struggling in their businesses. As a matter of fact they need your help the most. Thusly, devote time to also helping those in the middle, or even the bottom of your list. A very wise carpenter once said "The least shall be first". (paraphrased, of course)
  5. Link your website to those in your network whom you trust. The more links that go to a person's website, the more likely their rankings will rise significantly in major search engines such as Google and Yahoo. Also create links to articles from your friends that blog.
While all of this prompts most to respond who the heck has time to do all this, I say YOU. Every success guru out there, including Joel Osteen has said that if we focus time on the most important things, they will get done. (As a matter of fact I just got an e-mail reminding me that God isn't just about Sunday mass - for which I am terribily guilty.) But what I'm trying to say is that if we are taking the time and energy to impart our online wisdom to others that need it the most (even if they can't give us anything back right now), we will ultimately see a significant return in the web-based components of our business.

Just from a logical point of view, if we are putting more information our there for people to benefit from, search engines, social networking groups, web browsers, blog readers and e-mail recipients will start to pay more attention to us. That's not a bad return for the 15 minutes* a day we're spending helping others, is it?

Tom Ossa
Rockland Web Design
(845) 271 - 4488

* 15 minutes, minimum people!