10 Communications Secrets Every Business Should Know

Great Companies, Great Leaders - Tianjin WorkSpace 2008
Photo by World Economic Forum

I spend most of my professional life figuring out how to most effectively communicate. Yet, my most valuable tool is having the ability to listen rather than talk. I know that you have often found yourself in a situation where you wish you had an on/off button – working at being a good listener is just as important as talking. Great communicators are great listeners, and develop keen observational powers that enable them to sense the moods, attitudes and concerns of those they hope to connect with.

Here is a list of 10 communications secrets created by Mike Myatt. While you may not wish to adopt every suggestion, I think you will come away with some very good ideas.

1-Speak not with a forked tongue
In most cases, people just won’t open up to those they don’t trust. While you can attempt to demand trust, it rarely works. Trust is best created by earning it with right acting, thinking, and decision-making.
2-Get personal
Classic business theory tells leaders to stay at arms length. I say stay at arms length if you want to remain in the dark, receiving only highly sanitized versions of the truth.
3-Get specific
Learn to communicate with clarity. Simple and concise is always better than complicated and confusing. Your goal is to weed out the superfluous and to make your words count.
4-Focus on the leave-behinds not the take-aways
The key is to approach each interaction with a servant’s heart. When you truly focus on contributing more than receiving you will have accomplished the goal.
5-Have an open mind
A leader takes her game to a whole new level the minute she willingly seeks out those who hold dissenting opinions and opposing positions with the goal not of convincing them to change their minds, but with the goal of understanding what’s on their minds.
6-Shut-up and listen
Great leaders know when to dial it up, dial it down, and dial it off (mostly down and off).
7-Replace ego with empathy
Empathetic communicators display a level of authenticity and transparency that is not present with those who choose to communicate behind the carefully crafted facade, propped-up by a very fragile ego.
8-Read between the lines
In this age of instant communication, everyone seems to be in such a rush to communicate what’s on their minds that they fail to realize everything to be gained from the minds of others. Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut and you’ll be amazed at how your level of organizational awareness is raised.
9-When you speak, know what you’re talking about
Develop a technical command over your subject matter. If you don’t possess subject matter expertise, few people will give you the time of day. Good communicators address both the “what” and “how” aspects of messaging so they don’t fall prey to becoming the smooth talker who leaves people with the impression of form over substance.
10-Speak to groups as individuals
Great communicators can tailor a message such that they can speak to 10 people in a conference room or 10,000 people in an auditorium and have them feel as if they were speaking directly to each one of them as an individual.

Social media has changed the landscape of the “old way” businesses communicate not only with their customers, but also with their employees. How has your business adapted to new forms of communicating?

Get on Board with the Power Of Apps

 

Have you noticed? Branding and brands have changed along with the social media landscape. Some would even venture to say that if your brand is not an app … you’re nowhere. So, do you want to be invisible to your consumer, or do you want to be on the front lines of this technology? Consumers are demanding that your brand communicates with them on their level, in a way that makes them feel you value them. So what are your plans for building your brand through apps? If you’re not sure, read the condensed version of a recent article I read from  brandingstrategyinsider, and you may decide that apps might be another way you can strengthen and solidify your customer relationships and branding strategy:

Branding and Your Brand
A brand and branding are not the same. Branding is the strategy marketers use to build a brand.  Branding sets expectations about the value proposition that is a brand.

Branding’s New “Social” Approach
With the rise of social technologies, brands have lost priority with consumers. What people want are social relationships not brand relationships – people-to-people interactions not brands-to-consumers engagement. This is where apps come into play.

Where’s My App?
An app is a software tool that does something useful. Apps have been around as long as computing, but with the advent of touch-screen smartphones, icon-triggered apps have exploded on the scene as enhanced, innovative ways for conveniently and quickly performing a myriad of tasks. For brand marketers, an app is a tool that doubles as a communications vehicle.

It’s About Connecting
For consumers, the best thing about new technologies is not the ability to connect with brands, but the ability to connect with other people, thus leaving less time and interest than ever, if any at all, for branding.

In a mature marketplace of advertising clutter and savvy consumers, marketers must do more than just say something interesting; they must deliver a message that does something useful. To put it bluntly, be an app or be gone.

Branded App Examples
Brand marketers have begun using apps to position a brand’s value proposition to consumers. For example, Montblanc and Cartier have apps to communicate new product updates along with other news and graphics, thus offering a more timely, multifunctional handheld digital catalog that might one day provide customized notifications to fit individual preferences or to mirror past buying patterns.

Managing Apps
Managing branding as an app means that marketers must deliver value twice, both with the brand and with the branding. Traditionally, branding is the promise of brand value, not a source of value. But with consumers demanding something useful from branding in exchange for their time and attention, branding itself must be valuable above and beyond its brand message. Branding must have its own value, separate from the brand it is promoting.

Is a Brand’s Value Determined by Currency?
Marketers worry a lot these days about all that they give away for free, but such worries presume that the only currency that matters is money. What marketers make available at no financial cost to consumers is actually bought and sold in a different currency. If a brand can’t persuade consumers to spend social currency sharing it or talking about it, or if a brand can’t get consumers to spend time with it as, say, an app, then money is less likely to change hands.

The superbrands of the future may not necessarily be the ones that perform the best or offer the best solution to a problem. They just might be the ones who use apps to market themselves rather than brands that don’t.

7 Tips to Develop the Best Mobile Website for Your Company

Waterstone's in-store ad for their mobile website
Photo by ianfogg42

Now that having a mobile presence for your company website is almost a necessity, how are you developing your mobile strategy? If you haven’t started your mobile planning,  it’s time to give some thought to executing the strategy. Should your mobile site be a miniature version of your main site?  How should you present content?  How can you deliver the best user experience?

Here are some tips I thought were worth sharing from the Content Marketing Institute:

1. Keep it simple
Your mobile website home page should only display the most relevant information. Do not try to cram all the information you provide on your website into your mobile site. Instead, include a link to the desktop version from the mobile site. Include information like phone numbers, addresses and maps which would be useful to people on the move.

2. Don’t make ‘em wait
To retain your mobile visitors’ attention, your mobile website has to load in less than 5 seconds. It’s been found that 58 percent of mobile phone users expect websites to load as quickly, or faster, on their mobile devices as they load on their desktop computers.

3. Avoid “heavy” graphics
Avoid using large, Flash-based video files on your mobile site, as most smartphone browsers do not support Flash. Instead, use simple images to improve the look and feel of your mobile website — but make sure all images used on the desktop are set to resize automatically to fit a mobile device’s smaller screen sizes.

4. “Touch” is the new “click”
When designing your mobile site, use drop down menus, check boxes, and pre-populated fields whenever possible, so that your mobile visitors can navigate and input information easily rather than having to fill in long forms.

5. Every device is important
Your mobile website should work flawlessly on devices with various screen sizes and on various mobile platforms and operating systems, including iPhones, iOS, Android, Blackberry, Nokia, and even feature phones that use Opera browsers.

6. Redirect your mobile visitors automatically
Do not forget to redirect your mobile visitors automatically to your mobile website. Your webmaster can do this by creating a subdomain of your main website which will serve as your mobile website.

7. Track your mobile visitors
For all you know, your mobile website traffic might have surpassed your desktop website’s traffic. If you have an analytics system in place, such as Google Analytics, create a separate profile for your mobile website. This will help you track your mobile traffic and desktop traffic independently.

Recent studies back up many of the points above, especially when it comes to loading times. According to a study by Compuware,  60 percent of mobile users said they expect a mobile site to load in 3 seconds or less! When it doesn’t, 57 percent won’t return. It’s pretty clear, you can’t afford not to pay attention to these statistics.

Need More Comments On Your Blog? Try These Suggestions

Dog, cube
Photo by Ethan Hein

I recently re-read an older blog post about getting more comments on articles. I see posts claiming to give you awesome ways to increase your comments all the time, but this blog is still one of my favorites. Why? Because the author doesn’t repeat the same tired suggestions like, “Ask a question at the end of your blog.” I still think asking a question at the end of your blog can be a conversation starter, but we’ve all read those suggestions over and over again. So, I’m condensing his great blog into a shorter version for you here.

Why are comments important?
The benefits of user-generated content are obvious to most. Not only are you generating additional unique, (hopefully) on-topic content for your pages, comments may even contribute to your article’s freshness score.

1. Make it as easy as possible to leave a comment
Does “website” really need to be a required field? Are your CAPTCHA images harder to solve than a Rubik’s cube? Sometimes the effort it would take to comment on your blog outweighs the potential user benefits. Take a look at each field and ask yourself  ”is this a hoop I’d be willing to jump through to leave a comment on a blog I’ve never visited before?”

2. Comment placement
So many widgets, so little real estate. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that the end of a blog post is the hottest piece of property on the net these days. After you’ve pumped your full author bio, social buttons, “other articles you might like,” opinion disclaimer, and multiple ad units, the comment section often ends up an entire page screen below the actual content. If you’re truly serious about getting the conversation going on your article, then you should consider giving the comment section a more prominent position on the page.

3. Social logins
If for whatever reason you simply must require users to register for commenting (a rather large barrier to entry) consider allowing them to log in using the social media accounts they’re already using. If you’re running WordPress, this can be done by installing one or two plugins of your choice. Simple Facebook Connect will get the job done and the Twitter version will do the same.

4. Join the conversation
Respond to comments on your articles. You took the time to write the piece, so get in there and stand by it! Keep the conversation rolling with questions of your own and address things you may have glossed over in your initial publishing. The reality is that articles with comments get more comments.

If you want to read the whole blog, go to SEOMOZ. Oh, and don’t forget to add your comment below!

 

Lessons for Business Leaders on Delighting Your Customers and Creating Brand Advocates

 

photo

I am a recipient of under-delivery, and I hope to turn my disappointment into some sharable lessons about customer service. I love the concept of excellence and over-the-top delivery articulated in the Ritz Carlton brand. When I choose to stay at a Ritz hotel, I have a particular set of expectations.

Last December, I stayed the night at The Ritz in White Plains, New York, celebrating my niece’s 14th birthday. While preparing to check out of our luxurious room, I broke my toe on a protruding bathroom ledge. I preferred to deal with the issue on my own, and the hotel management team was so excited to have a non-litigious guest — they radiated gratitude and relief as they watched me sign a release. In this celebratory moment, I was asked if I prefer wine, soup or fruit. Making my choice, I was told that whenever I stay at a Ritz, for the rest of my life, I would have fruit in my room.

So, as I travelled to my next family reunion in New York, my hotel of choice was the Ritz Carlton in White Plains. My husband and I checked in after a stressful travel day. Although we were hungry and tired, I convinced my husband that we should wait to eat, as there would be a wonderful fruit basket waiting for us when we arrived. We were greeted with this message: “Welcome back. Thank you for choosing the Ritz Carlton.” Imagine our disappointment when we couldn’t find the fruit – was it perhaps hidden in the mini bar? No fruit to be found yet my toe continues to ache in cold weather.

Given my experience, here is the advice I have to offer when it comes to customer service:

Brand promise: Ensure that the brand promise is echoed through every activity. Make sure that the entire staff understands the nuances of what your company stands for and makes decisions based on this promise.

Action rather than words: Rather than state that you are going to do something special – just do it and then you will have the opportunity to talk about it. Surprise your customer in a good way.

Keep meticulous records: The more you know about your customer the more you are able to delight and super-serve. Beyond keeping records, develop a system to tap into the information that you are collecting without having anything fall through the cracks.

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, I am sure that you all have many more lessons to share. I have written about the importance of customer service before, and you’ll find more tips in my blog, “3 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Create Brand Super Fans.”

 

Will there be broken panes on Windows 8?

windows 8

With Microsoft soon releasing Windows 8, it is a good time to open up the window and take a deeper look inside. There are some exciting features being released in this new version of Windows. The big question is will this version be free of broken panes? As many Windows users know, when Microsoft releases new versions of their operation system (OS) it’s not always a good thing. In some cases, its been an outright disaster.

Windows 8 could be the OS to get Microsoft back in the game and potentially make them a contender for the leading OS against Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. One might consider Windows 8  a hybrid OS because it’s designed to work both on a standard type of computer or a touch-based device. Being able to toggle from the new Metro UI to the standard Windows UI is extremely important due to the limited amount of touch-style devices. I believe Microsoft is opening the door for device manufacturers to develop a laptop style device with touch capabilities that has computing power to handle everyday tasks.

Microsoft not only revamps the user experience in Windows 8, they also introduced a new design feel into the interface. I have to say they did a really good job from what I have seen thus far. It has a clean and modern looking design that’s refreshing to see. Microsoft is slowly doing away with the bubbly glossy look and moving to a flat, clean iconic-based design.

Windows 8 Release Preview

Only time will tell if Windows 8 will live up to its full potential and not become a bust like many of its predecessors. If successful, it will be very exciting to see how Google and Apple respond as well as device manufactures. As a designer I want nothing more than a touch-based computer powerful and large enough to design on.

You can download a 90 developer trial if you would like to test-drive it.

“My demographics don’t use social media or mobile devices.” This statement could be one of the biggest problems to your marketing plan.

Infographic from All Twitter

See the full size infographic

We can’t deny the fact that kids these days are getting mobile electronic devices at a younger age than ever before. As an example, my 4-year-old nephew had a Kindle Fire at the age of 3. In fact, all of my nieces and nephews, who range in age from 4 to 8, own some type of mobile device. Because this is a growing trend in the world today, marketers need to use social media and other digital marketing techniques to stay in front of their upcoming consumers.

Common Sense Media did a study on How Teens View Their Digital Lives that I found to be very interesting.

The survey polled 13-17 year-olds from around the U.S. to find out how social media plays a role in their lives. They discovered that 90 percent of them use some form of social media today, and the majority of teens use digital communications as a part of their daily lives. The results of this survey are not surprising, but I hear companies often say their target audience doesn’t use social media. That comment can’t be further from the truth.

There are many reports like the one from Common Sense Media showing social media and mobile device usage … and how they are being used. There are over 5.6 billion mobile phones being used in the world today. That is 79 percent of the world population! Approximately 55 percent of mobile owners access the web and predictions have been made that by 2014 using mobile to access the Internet will top desktop computer usage.

Mashable posted an infographic created by Online MBA which breaks down the demographics using the biggest social networks today. More than 66 percent of all adults are connected to one or more social media platforms. Interestingly, people 45 and older make up 46 percent of Facebook users.

Infographic from Mashable

See full size Infographic

You may need to evaluate your marketing plan if you think your demographics don’t use social media or mobile devices.

Other related Infographics

Surprising New Consumer Social Media Statistics


Social Media Trends for 2012Photo by HonestReporting.com

Do you feel as if you aren’t up on the latest in social media? Do you feel out of the loop? Do you sometimes wonder if all the attention social media seems to get is just a bunch of hype?

Just in time to help you navigate the social media landscape, here are some useful bits of information from a new study by Edison Research and Arbitron. Now you can say you have your finger on the pulse of the most recent social media trends.

Social media statistic #1
Over half of Americans (56 percent) surveyed have a profile on a social networking site. This is up from 24 percent in 2008, 34 percent in 2009, 48 percent in 2010 and 52 percent in 2011.

Social media statistic #2
While 52 percent of social media users surveyed are under age 35, approximately 48 percent are over age 35. The majority of any age group is the 12-24 year olds – with 32 percent of those individuals using social networking.

Social media statistic #3
Of those surveyed, 93, 90 and 85 percent expressed knowledge of each of the following social media sites—Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, respectively. Google + was known by 45 percent and LinkedIn by 39 percent.

Social media statistic #4
Knowledge of social networking sites does not necessarily equal usage. Of those surveyed, 54 percent said they currently use Facebook, only 13 percent said they used LinkedIn, 10 percent used Twitter and just 8 percent used Google+.

Social media statistic #5
The largest year-over-year growth in social networking was observed in those over age 45, with engagement among 45 to 54 year-olds increasing from 45 percent to 55 percent from 2010 to 2011. Social usage among those aged 18-34 saw no growth and remained flat.

Social media statistic #6
Not surprisingly, of the total individuals surveyed, 73 percent access Facebook via a smart device like a smartphone or tablet. Interestingly, 37 percent of Facebook users say they access the site via a smart device most!

I don’t know about you, but I found there were more than a few surprises published in the report. You can download the full survey here. Let us know what statistics you think are the most interesting or revealing!

4 Simple Social Habits for Busy Businesses

Social Media Landscape

How has your client engagement changed in the last five years? I don’t know about you, but even as the owner of a communications and marketing firm, my world has changed tremendously … right along with the social media landscape.  I don’t think my firm even offered social media training for clients five years ago but it’s a huge part of my business now. And I don’t see it slowing down.

What companies often have trouble with is coming to terms with “how” they will engage in social media … not “if” they will do it. Part of the concern is how much time employees should dedicate to the company’s social media platforms. I admit I am biased in my belief that most companies could use a little help and training in this area … at least to get started.

 But if you don’t have the ability to hire outside help, here’s some good advice from Samantha Stone on how you or your employees can manage the social media beast at your company:

Schedule it! (Two 15-minute increments per day)
The nature of social is fluid, and so we fool ourselves into thinking to be effective we must be engaged all the time. Physically block two 15-minute sessions on your calendar to do nothing but monitor priority social channels at least three days a week. Pick times that work for your schedule, even if it varies from one day to another. Just make a routine and stick to it.

Collide social and “non-social” work
You can and should re-use content. In fact, the busiest marketing professionals I know do exactly that. Each week I take a look at my to-do list. I carefully evaluate what needs to get done, and I toss to the bottom of the list items that are only to be used once. I physically write down what can be connected. Lesson learned: Forget the notion of “separate” disciplines of marketing. There is no social vs. traditional, there is only marketing. Plan to maximize integration.

Lower your expectations
When we expect instantaneous results, we disappoint ourselves and take focus off the outreach. Instead, set realistic goals and celebrate success. If I only looked at blog comments as a measure of my effort, I’d be sorely disappointed. My blog in general doesn’t get a lot of comments. However, I do get a fair amount of engagement on my blog posts via Facebook, Twitter, and often through email and in-person engagements. Not everything we do is going to go “viral,” and that’s OK. Small victories really do count.

Have fun with social
There is a reason these communication channels are called social networks. People engage through networking because they enjoy spending time connecting with other individuals who share common interests. If you think of it only as “another to-do on my daily list,” you’re missing a tremendous opportunity to expand your world in new and exciting ways. Let yourself enjoy it by celebrating company wins, giving sneak peaks into your unique corporate culture, rallying around client causes, and showing your sense of humor.

One word of caution about the last tip: humor is good, but make sure you use it with your audience and your corporate “voice” in mind.

Who’s Managing Your Organization’s Social and Online Content?

Spelling Error!

As my organization’s director of content, I’m always on the alert when I read or hear about issues that relate to content, content strategy, content creation and content management. I recently heard an interesting story regarding the lack of oversight in online content.

The story that made it on to my content radar concerned a local article about Medicare–with the word Medicaid in the headline. The two are very different government programs with very different meanings. There was an immediate backlash of online criticism and phone calls to the newsroom. The good news here is this: someone noticed.

All too often, in the world of online interaction and social media mania — mistakes, basic spelling errors, punctuation lapses and social blunders are not only tolerated but are accepted as the norm.

So, while it’s nice to know people do pay attention, it’s also cause for you to be sure the people you trust to tweet, post on Facebook, pin on Pinterest and publish on your website are qualified to do so. With that in mind, here are some major brands’ online “fails” you might want to think about before you hand over your social and online content management to your cousin’s friend’s college roommate!

Netflix’s Qwikster
When Netflix users tried to follow the @Qwikster link on Twitter, they were directed to someone who talked about drugs and cursed a lot. Even though he wasn’t associated with Netflix, a bad name and poor judgment became associated with the Netflix brand as a result. It’s a good idea to investigate your links before you publish them!

Burger King
Here’s a good example of a Facebook campaign that probably did NOT go through the CEO: Burger King created a Facebook challenge called the “Whopper Sacrifice” that asked users to de-friend 10 people from their own Facebook account in order to get a coupon for a free Whopper. Facebook shut it down and Burger King suffered some major egg-in-the-face.

FedEx
This is my favorite mistake and showed a complete lack of judgment — by an ad agency executive who should have known better! Public relations/marketing agency Ketchum was meeting in Memphis, Tennessee with its client FedEx. Just before the meeting one of Ketchum’s vice presidents tweeted that he’d rather die than live in Memphis!

This goes to show that even those of us in the communicating and content creation business can fail at managing our own content. Here’s a tip: tell employees who create content associated with your business to imagine that every tweet or post will be displayed in a PowerPoint presentation at your next annual meeting or pay review!