Ian Portsmouth: I Amber MacArthur: A
I:Welcome to the Business Coach Podcast, an advice-oriented series that tackles the top issues and opportunities facing Canada’s small businesses. I’m your host, Ian Portsmouth, the Editor of Profit Magazine. And we’ve developed this podcast in cooperation with BMO Bank of Montreal.
Online social media are everywhere these days and they continue to grow in popularity and importance among consumers, if not also businesses. They also continue to evolve quickly which makes social media a big challenge for companies of all shapes and sizes. That’s why we’re dedicating this episode of the Business Coach Podcast to social media and why we’ve invited Canada’s first lady of technology, Amber MacArthur to be our guest. She is a well-known technology journalist, public speaker and entrepreneur and in June, she released her first book entitled Power Friending, Demystifying Social Media to Grow your Business. I can’t think of a better title for a book on social media. Amber, thanks for joining us and welcome to the Business Coach Podcast.
A:Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be on the show.
I: Amber, you called your book, Power Friending. What does that mean and why did you choose it for the title of this book?
A: I was speaking at a business event in Miami and I was talking about social media and there was a woman in the room who raised her hand at the end of my keynote and said: “how do you think the internet is changing our definition of a friend, as far as dealing with customers and clients?” And I thought it was a really great question because I think the definition of a friend has changed overtime. And I think for businesses, you want to form more friendships, like relationships with your clients or customers and this is true for small businesses as well. So I just came up with the idea of Power Friending and it seemed to really fit and, initially, it was just a working title but we stock with it because they all really loved it.
I: Now there remains some skepticism surrounding social media for business. A lot of businesses don’t consider social media to be their friend, and that is a fad. So why do you think businesses today should get into social media generally?
A: I think the most important thing to remember for most businesses is that even if you, yourself don’t believe in social media, the reality is that the stats prove that more and more people are spending time on social networking sites. For instance, Nielsen just released a study that in the past year, people spent approximately, a year ago they spent about 3 hours a month on social networking sites. And that was, you know, sort of picking Joe or Gill average. And this year that jumped to 6 hours. And so social media is something that people are finding that is more important in their lives and if you really want to connect with your customers in a more meaningful way, it’s important to be there. Because we know that people are increasingly going to the web to find out what products their friends are buying, to get recommendations. And so if you’re not there and you don’t have a role there, then you’ll really be missing out on a great opportunity.
I: So that speaks to the idea of quantity. Most people are spending more time on social media. What about quality? Is there some little secret to success that you can share with our listeners that would help them understand not just that there are a lot of people out there using social media, but how social media changes the way businesses would communicate with consumers and other businesses?
A: I would definitely caution against focusing on quantity as far as the amount of time but also the number of people you have say following you on Twitter or friends on Facebook. What you really want to think about is the audience you are trying to get, a targeted group of people. And maybe that’s only a thousand people for some people, maybe it’s a hundred people. If those people really love and they really want to spread the word about your brand and those people are the perfect people for you to connect with online. As far as actually saving time and some tips and tools to be able to connect with those people, one of the things you want to do is figure out where they are already communicating on the web and get a sense of where they’re having conversations. And also, there are amazing tools out there these days to manage social media sites so it doesn’t take you a lot of time. I am a big fan of this Canadian company called HootSuite, where you can have a dash board that allows you to send out a message to multiple social networks at once. That means you can head up Facebook and link them to Twitter, all with one message from one dash board online. So this saves you time, allows you to target and also within the stats, you can find out who has quite on Linkedln, where they’re from, you can get all this great demographic information. And that would really help you overtime, figure out if you are getting out to the right people and if people are listening as well.
I: HootSuite definitely is a fabulous product and something that I would recommend for all business owners to adopt within their businesses. Let’s talk one by one about some of the more popular social media platforms, the one that the typical Business Coach Podcast listener has heard of and maybe you can tell us what each of the following is good for. Facebook, where can a business use Facebook?
A: Well Facebook is great if you want to start up a Facebook page, so this is where people “like” or become members of your page. And so what you want to do there is to be able to show that you have different offers or different products that you want to promote and try to get as many people as possible to join that page. And one of the reasons you want to be on Facebook is that in Canada, for example, it’s almost one in every two Canadians is currently on Facebook. So chances are that your audience is participating on that site in one way or another way. And if you are participating on Facebook, you want to think about really writing messages and sharing content that other people want to share and comment on within the Facebook environment. So that’s the key, it’s to try to get things to go farther, even if you are just talking about a simple little message.
I: And I guess Facebook is a great place for customers to have conversations between each other about your product or service. Correct?
A: It really is. I mean, you might as well have them participating in conversations about your products or services on your own official site, because otherwise they are going to go elsewhere. And you may as well be part of that conversation and have an active voice to find out if you are doing something right or doing something wrong.
I: Let’s talk about the craziness of Twitter. What is that good for in a business context?
A: Twitter is great. I mean, I think what I like about Twitter and what a lot of small businesses to really enjoy about Twitter is the fact that it’s only 140 characters or less. So it’s very simple to send out a message on Twitter, to have that instant contact with people. Also because Twitter is a public facing website, you are not really invading anyone’s privacy and that may be a concern for example on Facebook. So what’s great about Twitter is to be able to build up your own audience there and you’re wondering, well, how do I create that audience, how do I get people to follow me? A really great site to check out is wefollow.com and this will allow you to find other people who are in your space or in the same type of business and become friends with them and network with them and build your community kind of from the bottom up. And so Twitter becomes really effective to get the message out about products or services and to try to connect with as many people as possible. Because the idea with Twitter too, is to try to read your message re-tweeted, that means as many people as possible share your message. So, again, a really great tool and a lot of people are going to Twitter to find out what products or services they should get versus going to Google these days because they trust their own network of people that they’ve built up there.
I: Now Linkedln is an interesting case. It came out a few years ago, it was quite popular and then it sort of got swamped by Facebook and Twitter. And now, it seems to have come back quite strongly, perhaps because it is integrated, Facebook and Twitter type applications, if not Twitter itself into its own system. What is Linkedln good for?
A: Well, I think you really hit the nail on the head, I mean Linkedln is definitely experiencing a come back right now. And what is really good for though is networking with other people, maybe other business owners who are in the same space. So it might not be the right tool necessarily to just target customers or clients but it’s great for connecting at the business level. It’s also great for individuals who are looking to build up their own professional network. Because at the end of the day, Linkedln really is a tool for people to share what they do and to be able to go out find jobs and network again at more of a business level than sort of a personal level, as far as product recommendation.
I: It’s kind of a digital rolodex on steroids.
A: Yeah, it really is, it’s a great way to explain it.
I: Can you describe an example of an effective use of social media by a business, it could be a big business or just a small business and suggest what made that particular instance work?
A: Sure. I’d love to share a quick little experience that I had recently. I had gone on Twitter and I was in Leslieville in the Toronto area and I had mentioned that I was going out for lunch somewhere. And then all of a sudden, I got this message on Twitter from the owner of a new burger place called “The Great Burger”. And it just opened up and he sent me a message saying: “Hey, you have to try out our burgers, you know, they’re really good, they are good for you as well” and you know, went on on sort of a sales pitch but in a very friendly way. So I thought I should give them a try. So I went up and checked out the shop and I ended up being there and loving their burgers, taking a picture and then sharing with all the people I have following on Twitter. So I thought there was a couple of things that this business owner did well. One is, he listened to conversations that were happening online and he found in, he found a way to be able to connect and say “Hey, I know you are going out for lunch, why don’t you try our place”. So this is really interesting because I wasn’t talking about his exact location, but still, he picked up on that really excellent opportunity. And another thing he did well was follow up. After I had been there and sent out a message that I loved the place, he followed up and said, “Oh I am so glad you came, please come again”. And so he was really active, really working and to be honest with you, I can’t tell you how many people I recommend that place too.
I: Amber that’s a great story. Why don’t you tell us about some of the more common social media mistakes that businesses are making these days?
A: I think one of the mistakes that people make is that they are not consistent. And so they may participate on multiple social media sites but then they kind of go away for a couple of weeks. And I like to equate this to going to the gym. We all know that when we have goals of losing weight or getting in shape, if you only go to the gym once a month or once every couple of weeks, you’re really not going to see the result that you want. You need to commit to social media in a very strong way and have some type of plan in place, and really act against that plan. So make sure that you are following things that you have outlined, reaching certain goals and again be consistent. So a big mistake is really inconsistency.
Another thing people often do as far as mistake in the social media world is that they don’t think a lot about how their customers are listening all the time and want to have these conversations. And so, a lot of companies don’t actually listen to the conservations that are happening, they’re not listening to people talking about their brand and they’re not finding these opportunities to engage and have conversations. And instead, they’re just losing out on what could be an amazing success story in the social media space.
I: Final question Amber. As I mentioned off the top, the social media world is evolving very rapidly. Is there a new platform or brand, you know, the next Twitter or Facebook that has you excited right now?
A: I think the thing that I would probably keep an eye on, as far as social media services that are hot trends for 2010 is location based services. And so these are services like Foursquare or Gowala where people check in the location and tell their friends that they are there. It’s kind of like Twitter but again it’s tied to a geographic location. The interesting thing about Foursquare is, they also have this amazing social gaming component. And so, all of a sudden, if you check in at a certain location more than anyone else, then you can become mayor of that location. And all of a sudden, you’re getting special promotions from that company. It doesn’t just work for company to have a store front, it can work for a lot of different organizations, when I think of creative ways to actually use it. And so that’s a trend that I would definitely keep my eye on for this year.
I: That’s great Amber. Thanks for joining the Business Coach Podcast.
A: Thanks so much.
I: Amber MacArthur is a Toronto-based entrepreneur and technology journalist. You will find her in cyberspace at ambermac.com among other places.
That’s it for another episode of the Business Coach Podcast. Be sure to check out other episodes which you can download from BMO.com, profitguide.com and iTunes. For other tools to help you build your business, visit BMO.com/coach. Until next time, I am Ian Portsmouth, the Editor of Profit Magazine, wishing you continued success.