Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How to Form a Social Media Strategy - Q&A with Liz Duggan

The following post "Lean Media" was originally published on AviationWeek's blog "Turnaround Time" by Kristin Majcher on December 9, 2011.

How to form a social media strategy - dinglehopper.net

LEAN MEDIA

I could talk about tablets all day, but let’s switch gears to make way for today’s guest interview with Liz Duggan, a marketing associate for Duggan Associates. Her company teaches organizations about Lean training and a complement to it called Operational Excellence. I noticed yesterday that she added me on twitter with the handle @lizjduggan and re-blogged one our previous Turnaround Time posts about Kevin Duggan’s new book. I asked Liz about what it’s like to form a social media strategy for a training organization, and here’s what she had to say. Because it is Friday, read to the end for a funny anecdote that sums up professional online networking perfectly. Thanks, Liz!

Tell our readers a little bit about your role at Duggan Associates.

I’m a Marketing Associate at Duggan Associates, a global Operational Excellence consulting and training firm. I’m responsible for setting strategic direction and implementation of the company’s global brand, public relations, social media, advertising and event planning.

Please tell us about how you first became engaged in social media. When did you first start using it and how has your strategy for social networking changed since then?

I initially approached social media like any other marketing strategy: I found my target market and delivered my company’s message. What I’ve learned since then is that social media is about more than just reaching potential clients; it also serves to keep our company top of mind among key influencers such as media professionals and event producers, who now view us as expert sources and contact us regularly with interview and speaking opportunities.

How does social media fit into your duties at Duggan and Associates? Why did you think it would be beneficial to start using it?

Social media is a growing component of our marketing efforts at Duggan Associates. While we initially viewed it as another tool to increase our exposure and grow our mailing list, we’ve become much more strategic – and committed – about our outreach. Today, I manage several social media accounts and spend about 20 minutes each day sifting through various streams on HootSuite looking for interactions to respond to, identifying opportunities to comment or post a RT on, checking the latest posts for keywords I follow, and reviewing my analytics report to track my exposure and engagement with other users.


How long have you been Tweeting for Duggan and Associates, and what have you learned so far from the process?

I began tweeting in April of this year and quickly lost any and all skepticism I had about Twitter! We immediately saw results from our presence and now it’s a critical component of our marketing strategy. In fact, we use Twitter to support all of our marketing efforts at Duggan Associates and continue to look to it for new outreach opportunities we hadn’t even considered before.

i love social media - dinglehopper.net

What kinds of tweets do you write, and whose profiles are your favorite to follow?

What I love about Twitter is that I can blend my personal and professional interests. So I tweet fun or interesting quotes about Operational Excellence, marketing and graphic design, posting anything from what I learned in my graphic design or MBA class the night before to upcoming work events I’m attending or a link to my company’s newsletter.

My favorite profiles to follow are my peers’. Twitter is a great forum to share successful ideas, trends, and tips. I also follow publications from Duggan Associates’ target industries to help me keep the pulse of how lean and Operational Excellence are perceived in these industries without having to read though 12 magazines a month.


Besides Twitter, does Duggan Associates use any other social media platforms?

Duggan Associates also utilizes LinkedIn, mostly for conference research and networking. We can easily track what events our clients and prospects are attending as well as follow updates from event producers so we can find out about speaking opportunities. When Management at Duggan Associates is on a conference agenda, they update their profiles to communicate this to our target audience.

Has using social media provided you with any interesting new contacts or information that you would not have been able to get otherwise?

Social media has been a great vehicle for me to re-connect with the media and conference producers. Before social media, I would meet these professionals at international events, but the connection was typically short-lived. Twitter and LinkedIn have enabled me to re-establish these relationships and remain within their active network long after the event.

A great example of this happened last month. An event producer I met three years ago sent me a message on Twitter asking if my company could provide a speaker for a conference in Amsterdam the following week. Although this relationship was pre-established, it was Twitter that kept me on her radar.


What is the benefit of using social media in a professional organization?

I really see three main benefits. First, including social media as part of an integrated marketing campaign is a great way to quickly and easily share information, videos and images. And when these materials go viral, you increase your awareness faster than traditional outreach efforts.

Since it offers a lot of opportunity to provide valuable content that’s not self-promoting, it’s also a great tool to boost your company’s reputation and position your leaders as experts.
And of course, including social media in an SEO campaign increases your ranking on search engines and increases traffic to your website.


Do you have any advice for companies that are new to using social media about how to make their networking experience more useful?

Social media is all about staying top of mind among key influencers in your industry. Whether its current clients, prospects, journalists, or event producers, you should know your audience and understand what they expect when they follow you. They are not looking for a 24/7 advertising campaign about your company. They want your expertise. The reason people chose to follow you is to learn from your knowledge.

When you start a social media campaign, you have to be committed to maintaining it with fresh content or you’ll fall off the radar. I find it helpful to have a short list of tweets and status updates ready for those hectic days when I don’t have time for social media, or I’ll schedule them in advance by utilizing HootSuite.

Also keep in mind that, thanks to the great SEO Twitter provides, your potential audience is broader than you think. Take advantage of this fact and include strategic keywords in your tweets to increase your discoverability on search engines.

Lastly, remember that social media is not your traditional advertising campaign. It is okay to be personable. How personable? I’ll end with a fun analogy I read about the personalities of three big social medias: LinkedIn is like attending an event for the Chamber of Commerce, Facebook is attending a company picnic, and Twitter is pretty much happy hour.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Planning the Perfect Bridal Shower Party Favor

Planning the perfect bridal shower favor
Bridal shower party favors can be a lot of fun and a memorable touch for the bride-to-be. With so many choices it's hard to know where to even begin. Here are a few easy steps to review before you start planning the party favors for your next bridal shower.

Step One: Pick a Theme

Keep it simple. It's not necessary to have a vision board to follow these steps. Focus on the bride and what she likes whether it's her favorite place or color. For my sister's bridal shower I selected blue hydrangeas as the theme because they are her favorite flower. Consider your theme in room decor, the cake, centerpieces, invitations and of course the party favors.

Step Two: Determine Your Budget

It's easy to spend hours on pintrest and etsy mapping out fun ideas for your party favors. Before you narrow down your options for party favors make a budget. You will be surprised how quickly small items like ribbon or bags add up. Plan ahead to make sure you don't overspend. After all if you are planning a bridal shower you are most likely facing other wedding expenses that you need to balance.

Step Three: Assembly Required?

Some bridal shower favors can be purchased with no assembly required. Other DIY projects require a creative touch and lots of time. Do you have time to dedicate to a custom party favor? Do you have others that will help you? Be realistic about your resources and avoid creating a stressful environment.  There are plenty of websites where you can order cute favors like this soap set Stamped with Love Scented Soaps - Wedding and Bridal Shower Favor Guest Keepsake Gift (BULK BUY SALE)  or cute mints like these, Darice VL09560 Mr. and Mrs. Buttermints Wrap, 50-Pack, both available on Amazon. Even if you opt to purchase your favors, read step four on how to select the perfect one.

Step Four: Use Colors to Link the Favor to the Theme

Having a bridal shower favor that fits your theme doesn't have to be a challenge. Using color as a guide to selecting your party favors is a fool-proof way to incorporate your theme.  Whatever you selected as a theme there will colors associated it with. If there aren't go ahead and pick two colors to use throughout your planning process.

blue hydrangea bridal shower invitation
Above is the bridal shower invitation I designed for my sister's
wedding and the blueberry yogurt covered pretzel party favors.
For example, for my sister's bridal shower I mentioned my theme was blue hydrangeas. Because the table centerpieces were arrangements of blue hydrangeas I wanted the favors to be a little different but still complement the theme. I decided to give away a food item so I did an online search for "blue candy" and found an online store that sold blue blueberry yogurt covered pretzels. I packaged the pretzels in clear bags and secured with blue and white ribbon. I then designed a small tag to match the bridal shower invitation that said "thank you" on one side and "blueberry yogurt pretzels" on the back.

You don't have to use food to coordinate your party gifts by color. [Although I always recommend offering using food as favors because guest love them and you know they won't go to waste.] Other examples of favor items included a small bottle of lotion, a candle, anti-bacterial gel or a small picture frame.

Congrats, You Nailed It

No matter where you are in the planning process, these four easy steps will help streamline and coordinate your event. And trust me, the bride-to-be will notice and appreciate your efforts.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Best Breakfast in the Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort

Best breakfast in the Magic Kingdom, Disney World

As an avid Walt Disney World park-goer I know my food options. When it comes to breakfast in Magic Kingdom I always go for the unique offerings at Sleepy Hollow. The menu is basically fresh waffles with fun toppings such as nutella and fruit or strawberries and whipped cream. I obviously optioned for the nuetella with fresh fruit (check my "before" photo above, it wasn't nearly as pretty after I demolished it so you won't be treated to an "After" picture). I've included pictures of the full menu below.  Plus, they have all the caffine drinks as a New Englander I have come to expect (iced coffee anyone?).

Sleepy Hollow's Menu | Breakfast in Magic Kingdom | Walt Disney World

Another benefit to this breakfast option is it's location. Positioned to the left of Cinderella's castle you have the perfect view with minimum foot traffic. Enjoy!

Sleepy Hollow Restaurant | Breakfast in Magic Kingdom | Walt Disney World


Saturday, January 25, 2014

5 Low Cost Resources for Small Biz Marketers

5 low cost resources for small biz marketing

Marketing managers for small businesses do it all. From public relations, online marketing, branding, advertising to the day to day decisions that guide the firm's overall marketing strategy. As the marketing manger for two RI based b2b firms I'm no stranger to these tasks. Luckily, I have access to great low-cost resources that make my firm look like is has a marketing budget 3x it's actual size.

Below are my top five low-cost resources for small business marketing along with examples of how I've used them (listed in no particular order!)


ONE: Fiverr

fiverr logo
Fiverr.com calls itself "The world's largest market place for services, starting at $5." Sound too good to be true? It can be, proceed with caution and use good common sense and you'll be fine. Target sellers with an impressive portfolio and high ratings. I've used this website and received narration for a 5-minute YouTube video for $20, a video animation of my firm's logo to use as an intro to our marketing videos for $5 and a custom cartoon for my boss's keynote presentation for $15. These items may seem minor but they make all the difference in positioning your small business to play in the big leagues.

I paid $15 for an artist to create this custom cartoon that will be used in keynote presentations given by senior management at conferences. This cartoon was drawn by the seller "alifestyle"



TWO: Powtoon

PowToon Logo
I read about PowToons.com in Inc Magazine a while ago and had it bookmarked on my browser ever since then. Powtoons is a quick and easy way to create animated videos and presentations. While some of its features can be limiting, such as your audio has to be in one file and you cannot sync it with animation (last time I checked fixing this was on their list), it offers a lot of value for what you pay. If your marketing strategy includes content marketing you probably are already leaving this blog to go sign up for one of their free accounts. It's a great way create marketing videos without paying the hefty price for a production company.

Below is a video I made with Powtoons






THREE: Hootsuite

hootsuite logoIf you manage more than one social media account chances are you've looked into a social media management platform. For me hoosuite is ideal. My company pays $8.99/month (there is also a free account with restrictions) and I'm able to have complete control over all our social networks. Key features include a built-in link shortener, the ability to pre-schedule tweets and team collaboration.



FOUR: Constant Contact

If you are reading this I doubt I need to sell you on the benefits of email marketing. My preferred vender is Constant Contact and I've used them for years. Pricing starts at $15/month for a basic plan, if you have more than 500 contacts you will need to upgrade to the next plan and pay $30/month.

In addition I always pay the $5 for image library. Without this feature you are limited to the number of pictures you can upload to your account. Also without this feature if you delete an image from your library it removes it from any emails you have archived.  I also pay another $5 for email archiving which lets me keep our company newsletters archived on our website.

Here are two sample newsletters I developed using constant contact. The first is for Amenity Aid, a local nonprofit and the second is for Duggan Associates, a management consulting firm.



FIVE: PR Web

While not every news is "news worthy" for announcements that are I use PR Web to submit a press release. Often my main goal is SEO which works great for short-term results. There free account is very limited as you may suspect.  I word of caution about their standard $159 per release -  it is limited too. I used it recently and I could not place hyperlinks on words, I could only paste in a sloppy full url. Also you are not given a featured image, you had to use the tiny sidebars. With all this in mind the free or low cost accounts still achieve the SEO results I was looking for.

Here is a sample press release I compiled for the Institute for Operational Excellence. Please note this press release was part of a premium yearly agreement I had with PR Web. If you choose the free or standard account, your release may be formatted differently. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Wedding Reception Entrance Music: The Best Alt Rock Songs of 2013

Best 2013 alt rock wedding songs

One of my favorite parts of helping to plan weddings for family and friends is picking out the music the bridal party will enter to during the reception. This is the perfect time to show off your amazing music taste and if you are a fan of alt rock you will want to keep reading. Here are my top picks of 2013 alt rock songs to play during your wedding reception entrance.


"Best Day of my life" by American Authors

Here are the lyrics to the chorus:
Oo-o-o-o-oo
This is gonna be the best day of my life
My li-i-i-i-i-ife
Oo-o-o-o-oo
This is gonna be the best day of my life
My li-i-i-i-i-ife




"Tonight You're Perfect" by New Politics

Here are the lyrics to the chorus:
Tonight you're perfect
I wanna fall in love with stars in your eyes
Tonight you're perfect
I wanna fall in love but only for the night
Only for the night
I feel perfect too




"Lover of the light" By Mumford and Sons

Here are the lyrics to the chorus:
But love the one you hold
And I'll be your goal
To have and to hold
A lover of the light





"I'll Follow You" by Shinedown

Here are the lyrics to the chorus:
I'll follow you down through the eye of the storm
Don't worry I'll keep you warm
I'll follow you down while we're passing through space
I don't care if we fall from grace
I'll follow you down




"Ho, Hey" by The Lumineers


Here are the lyrics to the chorus:
I belong with you, you belong with me, you're my sweetheart
I belong with you, you belong with me, you're my sweet



Monday, December 9, 2013

Basics of Search Engine Optimization: What Small Biz Owners Should Know Before They Call an Online Marketer

Search engine marketing is complex but essential part of any online marketing strategy. Successful strategies require keyword research, competitive landscape analysis and evaluation of your current website. Below are a few insights into the basics of creating a search engine optimization (or SEO) strategy for small business owners. Having this foundational knowledge will better prepare you in selecting an agency to assist you with your custom SEO strategy.

Optimize webpages, not your entire website

A key thing to remember about search engine optimization is that you do not optimize your entire website for search engines. Rather, webpages are optimized. An effective SEO strategy includes selecting key webpages to optimize (not every webpage needs to be optimized). Then 1-3 keywords per webpage are selected. These keywords should be used throughout each of the factors listed below.

Key factors in optimizing a webpage for search engines include:

url
page title
meta description 
meta keywords
headings (h1 and h2 specifically) 
keyword density (frequency keywords appear on webpage)
text modifications (bold, italics of keywords)
Image optimization (ATL text)

SEO Basics | Search Engine Optimization Basics


      Some of these key factors are obvious but here are a description of those that are more technical:

Meta descriptions are the short descriptions that appears below your website link during an online search. This description should be limited to 175-200 characters and should provide a solution to the problem searches are trying to solve.

Meta keywords are specific keywords that search engines use in evaluating your website’s content. These key words are back-end data and are not displayed on your website or in search engines results.

Page titles are displayed on the top of the user’s browser and should be limited to 70-75 characters while placing important keywords first.

When is comes to keyword density do not go crazy and "over stuff" your copy with keywords. Search engines will pick up on this and penalize you by lowering your ranking. Always write for your readers, not search engines.

Once your key pages are optimized there are other factors to consider:

Link Building

Search engines like Google use an algorithm to compute how many websites link to your website and the creditably of the referring website. The more creditable links that point to your website increases the creditably your website. This translates into higher rankings on search engines.

Submission directories

A link directory is simply a catalog of websites organized by category to allow users to easily browse for the information they need. Search directories are organized by people not by a computer algorithm. Submission into these directories can be free or paid. Submission to directories can provide your webpage with high quality links.

Pay-Per-Click Campaigns

This is when you pay search engines to display your website in search results. This approach can be costly. However, you can set budgets with daily limits and run very targeted campaigns. 


Social Media Optimization

Social media platforms not only drive traffic to your website but can be included in search engine results. 

Tacking Your Results

As you begin your SEO strategy make sure you are reviewing your website's traffic including source, average duration visitors are staying and what keywords are most successful . I use Google Analytics for several websites I manage and would recommend this service. 





Saturday, November 30, 2013

Facebook Etiquette: The Do's and Don'ts of Sharing BIG News


Facebook Etiquette: The Do's and Don'ts of Sharing BIG News

I'm an avid social media user who doesn't need to be sold of the benefits of social networking. However, I've noticed the more comfortable we become sharing personal news on Facebook, the more desensitized we become to its impact. Have you ever read something on Facebook and felt a little hurt that this was the way you heard the news?  Or maybe you saw a very emotional post that you felt a bit awkward reading? Your not alone. Everyday people are over-sharing and not just about what they ate for breakfast - it is about life changing events.

Here are a few simple tips to keep in mind the next time you go to post major news on Facebook.


DON'T share big news if it's not your news to share 

I know you are excited to learn your sister is engaged or your best friend is pregnant. But resist the urge to instantly blast the news out to your friends and family on Facebook. First, you could steal the thunder of your friend or sister by not letting them tell the people closest to them. Secondly, think of who might be reading your post. Would they like to hear this news directly from the source, maybe even in person? Play it safe by waiting till the personal experiencing the big news shares it on Facebook, then go nuts. If the personal doesn't share the news on Facebook, chances are they don't want the news on Facebook. Be a good friend and respect his/her choice and keep the news offline.

DON'T immediately share bad or sensitive news 

Take for instance when someone close to you passes away or is experiencing health issues. It's a difficult time and we don't always think straight. Sharing the news when it's still settling in is a risky move that you may regret later. I know what you are thinking its "easier" to post news on Facebook then to pick up the phone. But does that make it right? Think twice. Even if you just want to share logistical information such as the date and time of a surgery, the people who want this information will find it. That's how it's been done for centuries. This is your most private life, once you offer information you can never take it back. And you are inviting the public into a private mater that involves those closest to you who may have different opinions on sharing the news online. Give it time, lots of it, then share something you will feel good about, even days later.

DO ask if you can share news on Facebook if the news involves someone who does not have Facebook

People who don't have a Facebook account probably have their reasons behind it. There is a very good chance they don't want information about them shared on Facebook. Always ask permission to post a big announcement about them. They may not want to hear from someone, "oh I heard on Facebook you are moving to Los Angeles." 

DO congratulate a good friend or relative when they share exciting news

If someone is sharing great news on Facebook it most likely means they have already spoke with those closest to them about the news. So go ahead and jump in on the excitement.  They are looking for their friends and family to share in the good news with them.