Build Your Brand Series: Social Media Strategy For An Educational Instituition

foto courtesy: facebook share

I met an old time friend recently. We were buddies during our representative days. He has been a super salesman and my admiration for him still holds good. He is currently running a management training institute/business school. I like what he does because it is so different with lots of value for students. Value for money. I like their concept. Our discussion proceeded towards devising a social media strategy for them.
While talking to them, I understood that they are very confused about #socialmedia. They are looking for “quick growth” (that which would fix their monthly goals). Looks natural to me. I shared the basics of Social Media with them.

Situation: They are a management training institute. They are trying to reach prospective students and their goal is to promote the courses they have, detailing their uniqueness, which will benefit students. They have the uniqueness where students will get to work while studying, get international exposure and finally get good placements.
I am extremely happy that they are very clear about goals.

My point of view is as follows:

  • Do some research and find out where are the students online today.
  • Use #socialmedia tools to find conversations of such kind among students and, may be, among parents.
  • Find what kind of topics students are discussing. 
  • Check what their online social orientations are. See how they are using online social tools towards their decision making. 
  • See who are the influencers for them. See who they trust and listen to. Also see if other successful students are influencing them. 

You can do these research with in-house people or use a consultant who can assist you doing it. Once you have these findings, formulate your action plan. Such an action plan will lead you to your well-informed marketing efforts. Then do your homework on #socialmedia tools, learn the best practices and use them towards your objectives. I am sure the learning curve would be steep but you are sure to arrive with a good #socialmedia strategy and results.
Let me know what you think. Feel free to question.
You think your situation is different? Want to talk about it? I will be happy to talk to you. Buzz me here.

Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

Help Customers To Help You

Customers are Ignoring You
Image by ronploof via Flickr

If you have a shop, you invite everyone in to your shop. To invite everyone to visit your shop, you spend huge sums of money on promotion.

People come

  • Just to know what range of products you have.
  • Sometimes with the option and intention of buying.
  • To buy a needed product desperately looking for it.
  • To update themselves (window shopping).
  • As a companion with these prospects.

Some don’t have the intention and some don’t have the money but they still come, spend more time, ask you all kinds of questions and bargain on prices and do not buy.

Now, while you would like to have more of customers who need the product and those who have the option of buying, you cannot pick and choose your customers. Some will waste their time and yours. It is part of the game.

The only way to learn how to handle each one of them is by experience. The importance of experience cannot be more stressed in these areas of business. You need to stay ahead all the time to convert the prospects, not to loose the straight forward customer and to minimize the wastage with time-wasters. Even the time-wasters can serve as ambassadors of your brand by referring others. You should sound nice to all of them and ensure that each one of them goes back with a good experience.

Sounds common knowledge? Yes, but when it comes to Social Media, people forget this. They fail to extend real world practices. Social Media is a set of online tools for online social interactions. I explained how what holds good in real-world practices holds good in Social Media also. Extension of logic is useful. So use your successful examples of real world with social media tools also.

Help customers to help you


Communicate small achievements. Communicate often. Imagine 300(just a number) small updates in a year to your prospects Vs 5 pages of achievements 6 times in a year. Small, frequent updates will help you get the top-of-the-mind-recall. Make it easy for them to share your message and refer you to others. I learnt this in my early years. Even in a job, imagine communicating daily or weekly achievements to your management Vs sitting down with a big list once-in-a-year when your appraisal is being done. The former is more likely to create an impact. Remember, Out of sight is out of mind.


Participate. Have conversations. Conversations should be with people and not at them. You may be observing everything, everyone. But in online world, how do they know that you exist, follow them and are available? Keep conversing. The biggest challenge remains that of inexperience of triggering conversations. While communicating to others, what can we check for? A lot .


Help wherever you can. Always be in the ready mode to ask “what can I do for you?”. When people benefit from your answers, they tend to reciprocate.

Have you tried online conversations with your customers? How do you find it? Feel free to buzz me if you need to know more about engaging your customers online.

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Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

Why Should Anyone Be Interested In What You say

Today a friend asked me why should what he has to say through social media tools interest anyone…a good question.

In traditional world people call you and check with you when
1. They know your expertise and know that you are the most updated on a given subject.
2. When what you say/comment/advise is useful to them.
3. When they know you enjoy such discussions either in your professional capacity or personally.
All these attract people to come to you and initiate conversations.
Social Media tools allow you to have more such conversations and the usefulness of your conversations get amplified. You also get more questions and get more thorough with your subject. Over time, your sharpness increases.
With Social Media tools you can allow people to come to you by sharing such things on your own.
My answer always revolve around the definition that Social Media is a productive tool for conversations. My friend seemed convinced.
How about you? Are you convinced? If not let us continue to dig more. Feel free to converse.

Why Should Anyone Be Interested In What You say

Today a friend asked me why should what he has to say through social media tools interest anyone…a good question.

In traditional world people call you and check with you when
1. They know your expertise and know that you are the most updated on a given subject.
2. When what you say/comment/advise is useful to them.
3. When they know you enjoy such discussions either in your professional capacity or personally.
All these attract people to come to you and initiate conversations.
Social Media tools allow you to have more such conversations and the usefulness of your conversations get amplified. You also get more questions and get more thorough with your subject. Over time, your sharpness increases.
With Social Media tools you can allow people to come to you by sharing such things on your own.
My answer always revolve around the definition that Social Media is a productive tool for conversations. My friend seemed convinced.
How about you? Are you convinced? If not let us continue to dig more. Feel free to converse.

Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

For A Positive ROI With Social Media

While doing Social Media implementation, collect and categorize two customized lists.
One is the internal list that has to be done as part of planning for a good social media implementation. Second, a list of metrics depending on the social networks to measure the impact of the social media strategy.
Let me share a sample list.

Social Media Planning

Social Media Metrics for Impact Measurement

  • Business Objectives
  • Strategies
  • Target Customers
  • Geography
  • Identifying Networks where Target Customers flock
  • Profile of your Brand in Social Networks
  • Positioning of your Brand in Social Networks
  • Monitoring your Brand
  • Training Employees
  • Monitoring Competition
  • Study of worst-case scenario
  • Cultural changes
  • Social Media policy
  • Number of Subscribers (Passive customers)
  • Number of Customer Interactions (Active Customers)
  • Number of Referrals
  • Quantitative mentions ratio (How many times your brand has been mentioned)
  • Positive/Negative mentions Ratio
  • Comments/Forwards (also called retweets in the case of twitter) Ratio per post
  • Number of participative actions
  • Quantifiable increase in customer satisfaction or Sales
  • Awareness of Brand
  • ROI calculations by way of leads, sales, conversions, earnings, goodwill etc. etc.
  • Baseline and the deltas after implementing Social Media Strategy
  • Activity Time-Lines and Monitoring Sales with appropriate relative metrics
These metrics have to be customized basis their relevance to your brand’s business objectives. Monitoring such customized metrics will help you to be more focused and being more productive with your Social Media efforts. Once you learn to fine-tune the monitoring and reading of the metrics, you will start to see a positive ROI with Social Media implementation.
With my customers, I call these two lists as Subjective and Objective lists. The subjective list deals with the matters of the business and its objectives which is internal to an organization. The objective list deals with the tangibles of Social Media, some of which are listed above, as metrics for impact measurement which is external to an organization. These two lists can further be divided into sections while formulating the social media strategy so that training your staff is easier and KRAs(key result areas) can be derived from there.
The objective list becomes a source of information on the market and also reflects, many a times, the changing aspects of the market. These insights give an organization the opportunity to fine-tune their subjective list and prepares them with great details to anticipate the future of the business. If the metrics are chosen and evaluated well, the metrics shall present realism and immediacy of the markets so that the organization can grab the business opportunities all the time and well into the future.
Still got questions? Buzz me here. I am happy to help.

Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

Ingredients Of A Social Media Success

Social Media is a generic term for tools designed to aid online social interactions. Learn Social Media tools. Let us call this “tool knowledge”.

Think of the knowledge that exists already with your business traditionally. Let us call this your “business knowledge”.

Business knowledge is like gold. You may have gold in any form with you. Transform this golden “business knowledge” into a designer jewelry using “tool knowledge” for a successful business.

Map this “business knowledge” to your new found “tool knowledge” and use it to reach more people online and have conversations with them.

Think, Talk and Do the same thing with good consistency.

Treat your customers with the same excitement that you will show when a good friend comes home for dinner. Be a good host to your customer. Build that relationship with your customer.

Businesses have always harnessed the power of word of mouth. Social Media both accelerates and eases the utilization of word of mouth communication.

Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

A Rip Off Case Study

This post is a case-study of a recent happening in Social Media.
Before we go into this post’s subject let me disclose two things. I know @benkepes personally and had the privilege of having lunch with him when he visited Chennai during one of his trips. He likes India and has many friends and hence I completely agree with the following two tweets
Zenfresh












Second thing, I have nothing to do with @freshdesk and heard their name for the first time when I read the story posted on the net. So this post is neutral and just to show how Social Media plays out when we replace traditional conversations over social media tools. But this is a good Social Media case to learn from.

The ingredients of the case involved someone who became slightly overconfident when he made what may or may not be a off-the-cuff-comment that appeared to accuse one of the party involved, the hijacking of meanings and interpretations around his tweet by others and how the company who was accused used social media not only to hit back and answer that criticism but turned it as a good PR to grab attention.

Now you can read the whole story published here.
Social Media plays out dangerously when you are overconfident and this is a real case of it.
It was a clever move by freshdesk to publish this whole thing and getting in to the radar of people and maximizing profits from this unpleasant event. But certain things in their move also could backfire with many. For example, freshdesk whipping up the racism part and playing their cards can also backfire. This is because that comment is not Ben’s making but someone else’s who just used Ben’s tweet to share his own and added fuel to the fire.

In traditional world, this would not have been even heard. Welcome to Social Media. Social Media allows you to maximise benefits if you play your hand in the right proportion with the right mix at the right time.

Social media is about people talking to people. The use of Social Media changes the rules of the game in a big way. Traditionally, the conversations used to be private whereas Social Media tends to make these conversations public. So overconfidence can backfire. Making a non-issue to your advantage can also backfire.

The fact that freshdesk monitored the tweet is an example of what I shared in my whitepaper

Today, customers are empowered by Social Media. They will talk about products and services all the time and on distributed networks. Organizations might feel that they are transitioning from complete control of their brand to zero control. However, it doesn’t mean that Social Media is bad for businesses. Even if businesses ignore Social Media, their customers are going to talk about them and a tactic that sees businesses ignore these conversations has the potential to be greatly damaging.

Businesses should convert criticism into an opportunity to reach out to disgruntled customers and convert them into loyal ones. A bad move by a brand in Social Media gets amplified many times, eventually turning into a full scale PR nightmare. To avoid such nightmares, it is important for organizations to devise a smart social media strategy that includes proper policies, training, follow up procedures, etc..

Though this incident is between an analyst and a company, view it in terms of a Brand and its customers.

What do you think? What else can we learn from this? Feel free to share.

Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

Google+ For Business

images

I listened today to the recording of a webinar by Chris Brogan on “Google Plus For Business.” Human Business Works was kind enough to share the recorded version. Thanks, Rob!

I got into Google Plus when it was only by invitation and did some great HangOut sessions with friends. After that, sort of, I did not explore and that sounds as a mistake after hearing this webinar.

Let me share with you the areas that you need to explore in Google Plus to choose ways of using it well.

Spend time and make a good Profile.

Find People and add them.

Learn about Circles Management in Google Plus.

Explore and use HangOut. My 3 votes goes to this. Both Video and Audio.

Learn Shortcut keys for faster navigation.

Learn about “Mute the post” feature not to overload yourself.

Finally set your choices with Google+ Settings.

I am exploring and enjoying. Hope to be in your circle and hope to have you in my circle.

Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

Social Media Empowers

 

imagesPersonal And Professional Lives
As a working adult, for many, the personal and professional lives become almost one. Or at least there is no strict demarcation of the two. So how does Social Media  empower our personal and professional lives?

I am always asked if anyone will be interested to know what I do or if I am interested in what they do. Surprisingly the answer to both is a big YES. The truth is that a lot of people follow, comment and participate at a personal level be it suggesting a book or about where to eat or go in a particular city or town. Throughout my career so far, I have always had conversation which is a mix of personal and professional matters. When we strike a conversation with a customer, sometimes the whole conversation becomes personal and later ends with the intended professional talk. Sometimes you call a friend and get off to discuss some subject and it becomes a professional talk with lots of results.

Social Media is people talking to people. The beauty of being connected with friends, family and other professionals through Social Media is that it is not limited by geography or time-zones. So the regular norm of “people talking to people” just got amplified by social media tools.

Social Media Empowers

Social Media equips us or enables us to fulfill the need to contribute, the need to be guided, the need to converse, the need to feel wanted etc., be it personal or professional. Personally you can use social media tools to  keep in touch with friends and relatives, to keep yourself updated with news, to get new like-minded friends etc… Professionally it could be used to improve your visibility, to see if you can open up new selling channels, to communicate about what you do, to reach new markets and to collaborate with industry activities. Professionally long after you post things, the content keeps working for you and you get results. It is cost effective way of top-of-mind-recall for you and your brand. If you create content in a focussed manner, you can use the same to answer customer queries, you can use it when you are invited for a speech on such subjects or while conducting a workshop series. In today’s world it enhances your brand image also.

Even In Social Activism

Today we are increasingly seeing that Social Media tools are being used in social activism. We have examples from recent Egyptian uprising. Revolt does not happen because of social media, it is just that revolt happens faster with social media tools being used in such activism. For example, organizing a protest needs a lot of communication and gets easier with social media tools. When there is a spread of misinformation, social media tools give ample power to set them right with mass communication. Social media tools make it possible for lots of information to travel much faster and hence the stance of authorities might get closer to reality and truth. Social Media makes it possible to measure the reach and influence and hence plays a vital role in how things shape up.

I feel empowered with social media tools in both personal and professional lives. Most of the things I shared here work well with me. What is your success with social media? Or where do you think you did not succeed? Feel free to share them here.

 

Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

3 Kinds Of Social Media Ignorance

Social Media Week Milano :: Il Festival della rete

Image by br1dotcom via Flickr

After asking 5 questions towards a Social Media Strategy, I happened to discuss three kinds of scenarios where businesses fail to capitalize on the Social Media Strategy.

1. Some people are yet to realize the importance of Social Media for their business or have false objections as I described in this post as follows:

they often say, “who has the time for such stuff?”, “Looks interesting, but I have no time for anything”, “It is good but I may not have time for follow-up”, “Don’t have time for all these online stuff”.

Such people ignore Social Media.

2. People who use it doubtfully or start half-heartedly but do not allocate resources or do not align their objectives etc. and in due course give-up and blame that it is a hype or claim that it does not suit their kind of business.

Such people have not understood Social Media in proper perspective.

3. People who misunderstand and use it wrongly and get bad results.

Such people use short-cuts and have not done due-diligence or have not taken help to use Social Media in the proper way.

While considering the benefits of Social Media Strategy, it becomes important to dispel all the above to enjoy the benefits of Social Media strategy in a meaningful way for the business.

What do you think? Are there more categories in this list? Share them freely.

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Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com