posted by on Outlook tips

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We realize this is a bit off topic but with the huge number of Outlook users, especially in network environments, we thought this tip might be helpful.

Those familiar with Outlook 2003 in a network environment might have created a shortcut in your favorites on the left hand side navigation area.  For some reason Microsoft removed the ability to add folders to Favorites (aka – shortcuts).  As a result accessing shared calendars is a four step process.  Open Outlook.  Select folders.  Open Public Folders.  Open All Public Folders and find the shared calendar folder.

With a literally a line of code, you can create a desktop shortcut directly to the shared calendar in the Public Folder.  Here’s how to do it.  We hope it helps streamline the process of keeping track of all of your colleagues schedules.

Right click your Outlook shortcut on your desktop or within the programs.  Select “Create Shortcut”.  It will tell you it can’t be created there and needs to create the shortcut on the desktop.  Select “Okay”.  Right click the shortcut and select properties.  You will see the location of the Outlook.exe file.  It will look something like “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office12\OUTLOOK.EXE” or “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\OUTLOOK.EXE”.  After that location, add the follow without the quotes and replace SHARED CALENDAR with the name of your shared calendar “Outlook:\\Public Folders\All Public Folders\SHARED CALENDAR”.

Dress it up a bit by changing the name from “Outlook Shortcut” to “Shared Calendar”.  Now dress it up even more by changing the icon to something like a calendar grid icon or a calendar page icon.  Select Apply and Okay.  You’re ready to keep up with everyone’s scheduling.

posted by on small business

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Facebook vs GoogleThere is nothing new about targeted marketing.  It’s been going on for literally centuries, that is, advertisers and companies have been directing messages toward particular demographics and conveying specific messages tailored to those demographics.  With the explosion of the web and the concise information that analytics provides, advertisers have sought to take advantage of every shred of data.  Enter Google and Facebook.  With the shear domination of Google and Facebook in gathering data of both users and pages, “interest” marketing is now possible.

“Interest” marketing or marketing based on the interests of audiences is also not new.  It makes perfect sense for Butterball to advertise in October and November issues of Good Housekeeping and Ladies’ Home Journal marketing directly “at” their prime demographic; folks thinking about the holidays.  Now that interest marketing can be even more specific.  Let’s examine.

Facebook Ads can be so targeted that they only appear on pages in your prime demographic.  Let’s say you’re a florist in Raleigh, NC.  You’re part of a network that ships nationwide, but your target is the local gift-giver.  We can target females in Raleigh or even the Triangle area between 25 and 60.  If you have a band that sounds a lot like Hot Chelle Rae and you’re playing a small venue in Norman, OK, you can advertise to Hot Chelle Rae fans (Facebook Likes) in the Oklahoma City area.  The best aspect of these ads are they are pay-per-click.  You only get charged for the Facebook users who click on your ad.  Then it’s up to you as to the page or offer; wording and graphics to “set the hook.”

Google Ads can also be very targeted but based on what people are searching for or reading.  Google Sponsored search results are based on the “organic” searching people are doing.  Again you can advertise based on area of the nation (determined by IP address).  Where Google is stronger than Facebook is that Google posts ads based on what people are looking for compared to Facebook displaying ads based on reported interests and information.  Where Facebook appears to be stronger than Google is that Facebook takes advantage of the information its users have provided.

On a side note, I said earlier regarding Google ads appear based on what you’re searching for OR READING.  If you have a gmail account, you may have already noticed the ads in the side panel as you’re reading your messages.  You may have also noticed the ads coincide with the content of your message.  That’s right, Google actually reads your email and displays ads based on the keywords in the content of your email.  Sounds creepy, I know but it is yet another reason why advertisers cannot help but consider Google in their advertising budget.

I encourage you to “check it out.”  You can explore the selections you can drill down into on Facebook without making any commitment or putting any money down.  Also, there are lots of Google offers online up to $150 of Google Adwords credits.  Take the plunge.  You may find they’re just what your business needed to reach its prime demographic.

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Steve JobsGenius.  Leader.  Businessman.  Entrepreneur.  Mogul.  Driven.  Focused.  Challenged.  Demanding.  Perfectionist.  Whatever words you use to describe Steve Jobs, there is no disputing that he was successful.  With so many articles, books, postings, interviews and speeches by or about Steve Jobs, he left us with a wealth of insight and clues as to how we can glean from his success.  Here are just 25 of the many insights we thought might be helpful as you grow your small business.

Do what you love to do –
Find your true passion. Do what you love to do a make a difference! The only way to do great work is to love what you do. “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do,” he told the Stanford grads in 2005. “If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.”

Have a “Beginner’s mind” –
“There’s a phrase in Buddhism, ‘Beginner’s mind.’ It’s wonderful to have a beginner’s mind,” Jobs said. Along the lines of loving what you do, approach everything with an open mind and experience it like it is the first time. Have a sense of wonder. Enjoy it. Savor it. Wonder in it.

Expect excellence (especially from yourself) –
“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected,” said Jobs. This is especially true of yourself. Challenge yourself. Grow yourself. Flee contentment. Jobs sought to reinvent himself.

Pick and cultivate talent –
Apple has around 50,000 employees and then within this organization it has an upper echelon called “The Top 100,” a group of leaders who participate in annual strategy retreats. Though you would think the group would only have the higher-ups, it actually often selects junior employees that show strong skills and great ideas. According to Channelnomics.com, “Apple shows the cultivation and rewarding of talent is more important than maintaining some artificial hierarchy and notions that rank has its privileges.” Do the same as Jobs did as your business grows. Don’t settle but cultivate talent. Reward talent. Many small business owners have let their own greed allow their most talented employees seek reward across town.

Don’t be afraid to be different –
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower,” Jobs said. Be different. Think differently. “Better be a pirate than to join the navy”, Jobs also said. Stand out in your industry, in your community, in your service, in your knowledge.

Be involved in all facets of your company –
During Jobs’ time as Apple’s CEO, the organization chart resembled a wheel with Steve at the center and managers or departments as the spokes. Jobs had his hand in every part of his company and that helped him build a better team. In small business, you HAVE TO be involved in every facet of your company. Jobs would often spend time in R & D learning what challenges the group was facing. As your small business grows, strive to find the challenges each employee is facing. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.

Make SWOT analysis –
As soon as you join/start a company, make a list of strengths and weaknesses of yourself and your company on a piece of paper. This includes YOUR personal strengths and weaknesses. Don’t hesitate in throwing bad apples out of the company (or correcting your worst habits).

Be entrepreneurial –
Look for the next big thing. Find a set of ideas that need to be quickly and decisively acted upon and jump through that window. Sometimes the first step is the hardest one. Just take it! Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

Start small, think big –
Don’t worry about too many things at once. Take a handful of simple things to begin with, and then progress to more complex ones. Think about not just tomorrow, but the future. “I want to put a ding in the universe,” reveal Steve Jobs his dream.

Strive to become a market leader –
Own and control the primary technology in everything you do. If there’s a better technology available, use it no matter if anyone else is not using it. Be the first, and make it an industry standard.

Focus on the outcome –
People judge you by your performance, so focus on the outcome. Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected. Advertise. If they don’t know it, they won’t buy your product. Pay attention to design. “We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them.” “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

Innovate –
Innovation distinguishes a leader from a follower. Delegate, let other top executives do 50% of your routine work to be able to spend 50% your time on the new stuff. Say no to 1,000 things to make sure you don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. Concentrate on really important creations and radical innovation. Hire people who want to make the best things in the world. You need a very product-oriented culture, even in a technology company. Lots of companies have tons of great engineers and smart people. But ultimately, there needs to be some gravitational force that pulls it all together.

Learn from failures –
Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations. There’s always “one more thing” to learn! Cross-pollinate ideas with others both within and outside your company. Learn from customers, competitors and partners. If you partner with someone whom you don’t like, learn to like them – praise them and benefit from them. Learn to criticize your enemies openly, but honestly.

Embrace the opportunity in every situation –
“Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, and less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

Commit to doing great work and never settle –
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking, and don’t settle.”

Make every day count –
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure- these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”

Don’t miss your moment –
“Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Keep your priorities in check –
“Manage the top line, which is your strategy, your people and your products, and the bottom line will follow. My model for business is the Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other, and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.”

Attract remarkable people –
“Building a company is really hard. It requires the greatest persuasive abilities to hire the best people and to keep them working at your company and doing the best work of their lives. We’ve been lucky to have great partners and to have attracted great people. Everything that has been done has been done by remarkable people.”

Choose the right horse to ride –
“Apple is a company that doesn’t have the most resources. The way we’ve succeeded is by choosing the right horses to ride really carefully. We try to pick things that are in their Spring. If you choose wisely you can save yourself a tremendous amount of work, instead of trying to do everything. Sometimes you just have to pick the things that look like they’ll be the right horse to ride.”

Don’t stress…it will all work itself out –
“If the market tells us we’re making the wrong choices, we’ll listen to the market. That’s what a lot of customers pay us to do, to try to make the best product. And if we succeed, they’ll buy them, but if we don’t, then they won’t. And it will all work itself out.”

Move on to the next great thing –
Jobs said, “If you do something and it turns out pretty good, you should go out and do something else wonderful. Don’t dwell on it for too long, just figure out what’s next.” Celebrate successes but move on.

Stay hungry. Stay foolish. –
“Much of what I’d stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.” Jobs always sought to improve their process and product line. When he landed on what he wanted, he made it happen. Don’t believe me? Look at Jobs impact on the overly simplistic Apple Stores or Apple packaging.

Choose simplicity –
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, according to Jobs. Jobs said “no” much more than he said “yes” in order to create products where only the necessary tools stood out. That simplicity was a result of his sole focus. Jobs detested people who simply say yes to everything. He talked about the power of picking the things you DON’T do.

Change the world multiple times –
Jobs changed several industries and he just kept doing it. “We may not all be able to change the world, but real leaders strive to do as much as they can. That’s the difference between being a leader and simply being a manager or boss.” You may not be able to impact the entire world the way Jobs and Apple and Pixar did. Change your corner of it.

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Social Media Left Field Web DesignThe explosive growth of Social Media has prompted significant changes in advertising campaigns, budgets and mindsets in large corporations and small businesses alike.  Many businesses are finding it a challenge to launch and maintain a successful social media strategy.  Here are just a few considerations that need to be addressed when you ask “Why hire a social media manager?” vs. handling social media updates and engagement in house.

–  Timing is everything.  Social Media managers know when to post or tweet.  There are optimal times to reach the most people and the most likely to read and retweet.  Good social media managers will have the tools and alerts that allow them to know of a comment, tweet or posting and allow them to respond at a moment’s notice.

–  Who has the time?  In addition to running the business and keeping customers happy, delivering the product or services, you’re responsible for marketing.  Who has time on top of that to manage multiple social media accounts?  Some have suggested businesses should spend at least 5 hours each day growing their presence on social media.  Even if you

–   Expertise.  Okay, so let’s say you have the time to manage all of your social media accounts.  Which will you engage in?  How often will you tweet and post?  Where will you get content for your articles and postings?  How will you handle criticism?  Social Media professionals will have the industry knowledge and personal expertise to advise you on how often to post or tweet, as well as when and how to respond.

–  Where to start.  Okay, you’ve decided you can handle all of your social media needs on your own.  You do realize there are a host of social media channels out there, don’t you?  Which ones will your business take advantage of?  Which ones will give you best exposure?  Which ones will give you most engagement?  Which ones will properly cast your brand and your product or service in the right light?  Which one will you have enough content to make an impression on?  A social media professional should have the recommendations for your business and answers to all of the above.

It is true that you can handle all of your business’ social media needs.  It will require time and effort as well as social media industry knowledge.  You’ll need to do research to stay current on new channels that may benefit your brand and also changes of existing channels (i.e.-LinkedIn recently began permuting updates on statuses of companies).  You can do this but you’ll have to consider if this is worth your time.  It’s up to you.

posted by on Wordpress

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Here is our first look at the latest version of WordPress – WordPress 3.3.  This version includes enhancements to the Administrator menus and menu bar, new flyout menus and also enhancements to WordPress SEO by Yoast.  Don’t miss it.

posted by on Google Plus, SMO

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Google Plus Business page StarbucksGoogle has been promising Google Plus for Businesses since before the unveiling of Google’s answer to Facebook.  This is largely in response to the offerings of the most popular social media channels.  You see, Facebook offers Facebook business pages (and expandable to complete sites) that is somewhat customizable with a profile picture (or corporate logo or icon).  Facebook business pages also have a wall where postings can be made and those who “like” the business page can post comments.  LinkedIn profiles can link to LinkedIn business profiles complete with a business description and listing of current and former employees.  Many business pages have added Youtube to their social media arsenal and is somewhat customizable or skin-able.  Of course, one of the most customizable or skin-able as far as look and feel is a business’ Twitter page.  Once again, businesses can post tweets and receive comments.

With all of this already available for businesses in the realm of social media, what might Google Plus pages for Business look like?  We’ve been imagining this for quite some time and here are just a few ideas.  We invite you to please comment below added to this incomplete list of Google Plus Business page requirements.  Seriously, what do you think are the must-haves and preferred features of social media new kid on the block?

Customizable or “skin-able” – We’d love to see it customizable and skin-able for businesses to add their color scheme in addition to the customary corporate logo.  Some businesses have gotten very creative skinning their Facebook page but some companies simply do not want to to have Facebook’s trademark blue and arial font on their page.  Too bad.  You’re stuck with it.  What if Google Plus for Business allowed some serious CSS editing?  We don’t want to change the layout.  Whatever their engineers decide will work.  But can we customize at least SOME features.  Google’s iGoogle home page is so highly customizable, we don’t see the world waiting very long for a highly customizable Google Plus Business page.

Tabs for videos and tabs for pictures.  With so many businesses making use of video and images, Google Plus Business pages could easily be a repository for all of their media.  With Google being the king of all that is indexed (not to mention the owner of Youtube) it would be quite possible to import and segregate Google Plus content into a video tab and an images tab.

Mentions – Because Google is the king of all information on the web, we think there might be some benefit to have a tab for mentions (or linkbacks) from sources online (of course, businesses would want to control the content of their business pages and so this listing should be “veto-ready”.

Like personal Google Plus pages, Google Plus Business pages should allow visitors to post and comment on the business’ wall.  Social Media is designed to be social.  This point is often missed by many businesses who only post and post and post and post and post.  We feel this is a bastardization of all that social media could offer.  Rather than engaging and conversing, these businesses simply provide uni-directional content.  BORING!  Like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube and other social media channels, Google Plus Business pages should also have some means of engagement between business and business fan.

Business “Likes” – Businesses have relationships with other businesses.  They have suppliers and they may even get along with competitors.  They might have met and developed an affinity via trade shows and such.  Maybe they recommend such businesses.  We’d like to see businesses have circles of people and businesses they like.  It would be great for businesses to communicate and message one another as well as individual users.  Just imagine Ned’s Paint Shop commenting on Ford’s Google Plus Business page, “Hey Ford, we just love our new F350!  Thanks for the hard work.  Keep it up!”  Yeah, that would be cool!

Well, these are just a few ideas.  Now it’s your turn.  Chime in.

Social Stategies

Sep
2011
27

posted by on brands, small business, SMO, Twitter

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social media strategiesThe team comes to the huddle. The quarterback looks around. “So we’ve got a center, two tight ends, two wide receivers, two backs, a center and a line. Okay, BREAK!” Each player then goes back to the line each wondering what they are to do. The quarterback has a play in his head (maybe) and starts calling out but the center doesn’t know what the snap count is and so he hikes the ball when he thinks he should. The two receivers run into each other and knock each other down. The quarterback is immediately sacked.

Of course you see the futility of simply listing the members of the offense without ever declaring the plan and what each teammate’s role is in to see that play to a touchdown. But while we see the futility of having a team not knowing the play, far too many companies are simply lining up Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube, Google Plus, Vimeo, Twitter accounts and setting up a blog for their company. “Okay, so we’ve got Twitter?” “Yes.” “How ’bout Facebook page?” “Yes sir.” On down the list and okay, “Break!” What are you communicating? What are you offering? What if people engage? These are just a few of the principle questions that need to be addressed BEFORE establishing social media accounts/channels for your business:

What channel accounts should you be establishing? It makes no sense at all to set up a Youtube or Vimeo account if your business will never be involved in video. Do not establish a Twitter account if your business is never going to tweet or read tweets.

What will be communicated? Where will you get content? Will you buy content? Will you relay existing content? Who is responsible for gathering and disseminating content and over which channels? Be sure and take the time to develop quality content. We all know that typos and misquotes reflect just as poorly in blog or Facebook postings as they do on the company website or print literature. Take your time and do it right.

Who is responsible for viewing responses? What if there is a comment? What if someone reaches out to your business? Will they answer and post a response? Will they forward the message on? To whom?

How will you handle complaints? What if someone has a negative or critical comment? Will you respond? Who is responsible?

Will you “retweet”? What are the guidelines? Sometimes your competition may have an excellent thought or article. Will you retweet it? Does everyone on the staff know this policy?

Here are a few suggestions. Many times you will get followers via one or two channels but it is unlikely they will follow you on all channels. Share your information via all channels. Tweet a blog post link via Twitter. Post it on Facebook and LinkedIn. If you post a video to Vimeo or Youtube, make sure you share that it’s been posted via your other channels. Speak with one voice. Designate a person or persona to speak for the company. Address complaints. Here is a previous post you might use as a guideline on dealing with upset Facebook fans.

In any case, make sure you have a play. Your business having social media channels without a carefully designed plan is as silly as a football team without a playbook!

posted by on SMO, Twitter

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Here’s a quick rundown of six Twitter tools to maximize your learning, time, and influence on Twitter.  Tools include Klout.com, Crowdbooster.com, Bufferapp, StrawberryJ.am, InboxQ and TwentyFeet.  If you are benefiting from one not mentioned, please tell us.

posted by on SMO

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upset Facebook fansThe explosive popularity of Facebook is providing companies with unfettered access to their fans and vice versa.  As a result, many complaints are publicly posted on company Facebook walls for the world to see.  We suggest you don’t sweep these complaints under the rug but deal with them head on.  Try to glean the potentially valuable information and strive to improve your good, product or service.  Here’s a few steps you can take in dealing with upset Facebook fans.

1.    Don’t delete the initial post.  Perhaps the worst thing that could be done is to delete the original post.  This is like burying the issue and disregarding the customer’s input.  This can infuriate and energize the customer to become even more vocal.  Some companies have referred to this situation like throwing gasoline on a fire.  In addition, if you delete it, you just might be ignoring a very real problem.  By preserving an upset post, you just might find out if others share the same issues.

2.    Contact the customer directly & privately.  Attempt to reach out to the disgruntled fan “off the radar” and directly.  Try to get as much information as possible.  This will help in your investigation as well as developing a solution.  The disgruntled customer just might be right and drawing your attention to a very real flaw.  Collecting data is a great step in reaching out and improving your product.

3.    Let your fans respond.  Some companies will pause for a time and allow customers/fans to respond and share in their experiences.  You just might find out if this is a real or contrived issue.  Is it a flaw or user error?  It may come out in the discussion and resolve itself.  This is risky because it may not.  You just might not have very vocal fans who routinely look to posts on your company wall.  DON’T WAIT TOO LONG.  You don’t want to appear unresponsive.

4.    Encourage your fans to respond (privately or publicly).  A company can appear publicly engaging but stating the situation.  “One of clients has stated they’re having issues with version 2.0 on their Windows 7 operating system.  We’d like to know if any others are having similar issues.”  This is proactive CRM.  You just might found out what kinds of products and what kinds of fans your company actually has.

5.    Engage them.  Respond back to the original post.  You do this if you’ve not found a remedy by contacting directly and privately.  You may also take advantage of updating everyone who sees your company “wall.”  “So glad we were able to identify and correct the issue you were having.  Thanks for using our product and letting us know if this potential issue.”  If you are unable to engage them and get a response privately, they may only wish to connect publicly.  This provides you with another opportunity to show fans and potential customers that you’re engaging, responsive and helpful.  This is the main benefit of social media; to engage your customers and potential customers.  In addition to seeing this conversation on your business’ wall, the disgruntled friends can see the conversation and your response as well.  Take advantage of it.

6.    Ask the fan to remove.  If the situation is remedied, you may want to remove this stain on your record by asking the complainant to remove the original post.  If they are truly satisfied, they just might agree.  They also might replace their complaining post with a simply thank you.  The worst case is they don’t remove their original post.  At the very least, the entire Facebook community can see firsthand what strides you’ve made in trying to address the situation.

7.    Offer alternatives.  In your communication with the complainant, ask what they’d offer as a solution.  You may receive surprising responses like, “I don’t want my money back.  I love the product.  I just want it to work.”  This is the perfect customer.  Greed is not the motivator here.  They are also not out to malign your product.  Instead, they are simply wanting a solution.  Seize this opportunity.  If they don’t offer any solutions, you may need to.  “How about if we fix this and give you a credit to our next product?”  “No?  How about if give you a full refund and our apologies?”  Be proactive and engaging demonstrating what you’re willing to do to make this disgruntled fan, a happy fan.

8.    Do not get defensive.  Perhaps the worst thing a company can do is take the complaint personally.  If it IS meant personally, taking it personally adds emotional thinking into the mix and kicks it up to a level not necessary.  You may even read of name-calling and downright rude behavior.  Still do not take it personally.  The customer is not always right but they are always the customer.  If you think of them as right, you’ll think of yourself or the business as wrong and this just might not be the case.  Thinking of the customer (particularly a vocal one) as a representative of others, accommodating and diffusing any raw emotion, just might not only save this sale but prove to gain a host of others sales as well.

9.    Keep it in perspective.  Facebook offers an opportunity for companies to actually accumulate “fans” like few other channels.  This being the case companies and businesses can actually see when they are liked.  It may be helpful for businesses to think, “Wow, with 1,000 fans, only one disgruntled customer.”  Thing on the “bright side.”

10.    If all else fails … Sometimes disgruntled customers will remain disgruntled regardless of any and all efforts.  These efforts include company explanations, apologies, tutorials, a money-back guarantee and/or other customer involvement.  Sometimes disgruntled fans are just plain vocal and obnoxious.  You can contact Facebook administrators if the conversation is vulgar or some other violation of Facebook policy.  Facebook administrators are known for being responsive and accommodating in disciplining this type of behavior.  This should be the LAST step and not the first step in addressing any upset Facebook fans.

posted by on brands, small business

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protecting your online reputationWhether you’re an individual or just a company, the more people become vocal online and share in social media channels, the more likely it is you’ll be involved in the discussion.  As a result of this sharing, your brand (once again, either your company or your self) will develop a reputation.  You’ve GOT to protect your online reputation.  In the “old days” (before online social networking sites) it might have been nearly impossible to control your reputation.  At the very least you’d have to make great efforts to correct the impression your brand was having in the marketplace.  This included press releases and campaigns and maybe even discounts and/or giveaways.  You had to do this because with word-of-mouth, you never really knew who was starting and purveying this story about your brand.  Now times are different and you can almost always accurately identify the source of disparaging rumors.  Below are just a few of the countless ways you can protect your online reputation or the online reputation of your company.

  • Start simple.  This may be a no-brainer but read what folks are saying TO you.  Do you have a social media channel?  Do you have a Facebook or LinkedIn page for your brand?  Read what folks are saying those channels.  Respond to them.  Deleting them only fuels frustration so responding directly can be the first step.  Also, does your website have a discussion section or forum or blog allowing dialogue.  Know what is written there.
  • Be aware.  Periodically search for mentions of your brand name (once again, either your name or your business name) in blogs.  See if there are any references at all.  It is so important to periodically Google your brand.  One client in particular had the most potent criticism appearing on Google page 1 position 1 without them even knowing it.
  • Search social channels.  Many search engines are delayed in indexing any discussions (Twitter, blogs, etc.) or simply miss them completely.  Search these channels yourself.  Search.Twitter.com is a great tool for such searches.  Look for mentions and respond.  It is true that some people online simply like to spout off without any real knowledge of who you are or the good you offer.  You may need to be polite and move on.
  • Invite input.  Transparency is also appreciated.  If you don’t have a medium for folks to offer comment or criticism, create one.  Announce that you are doing so in an effort to improve.  Invite constructive criticism and, once again, respond to it.
  • Engage directly.  Are there particularly vocal individuals mentioning your brand?  Respond directly.  If you are successful in changing this person’s opinion, they may be just as vocal about their satisfaction as they are about their dissatisfaction.  You can also politely ask them to share their experience and your responsiveness.
  • Offer compensation.  If you’ve “crossed” a particularly influential individual with a large following and they are vocal about your brand, the situation may require you to go “the extra mile” and offer some type of settlement to appease them.  “We’d like you to be pleased with your experience.  Is there anything we can offer to remedy this situation?”  You may find yourself offering a money-back guarantee.  This may or may not work but at least you’ve tried.
  • Public response.  This one is risky but you may want to share your side of the story.  For example, a person has a big online presence and is very influential.  You’ve taken every step imaginable including giving their money back and then some.  They still won’t let go.  It has turned to a person vendetta and they are getting traction.  You may to put out there in some proper channel your “side of the story.”  Stick to the facts about what the complaint was and how you tried to remedy the situation.  Hopefully those who find the criticism will find what you’ve done to correct it.
  • Highlight successes.  Give a forum or platform for those who love your product or brand.  Invite them to contribute in their own words.  Encourage these fans to use additional channels to share their experiences with others.  So many companies have learned their greatest “evangelists” were not hired hands but delighted customers.

PLEASE add to the discussion.  Don’t see idea presented here?  Share it below.  Share your experiences.