[This is part 8 of the series "Debunking the Myths of E-Mail Marketing."]
I wonder how many people reading this can honestly say “I never use email.” How could this myth possibly be true? How would we communicate without email? Let’s explore the alternatives.
By Phone. What a concept! Anybody under 25 doesn’t even answer their own cell-phone (just ask my 24-year old step-son), they only respond to text messages. And speaking of which…
Texting. I love texting, it’s highly useful, but it’s no replacement for email. First of all you can’t format a text message, which would drive me nuts after a while. Second, you can’t have conversations with groups of people over text. And finally, you can’t organize them or follow threads. I’m sure there are lots of other reasons… it’s just too ridiculous to even try to enumerate them.
Facebook. Unless you’re constantly on Facebook, or log into it several times a day, you wouldn’t be able to use it in the same way as email. Every time I go into Facebook I lose time because I’m compelled to check and see what everyone’s up to. It’s designed that way! Very inefficient for a professional trying to get her work done.
Instant message. Basically it’s the same as texting but can also be done on computers via chat services like AIM and Jabber. Same comments as above.
Twitter. Really? Most people I know don’t even use Twitter, much less understand all the nuances and etiquette known only to the hard-core users.
In-person. This one makes me nostalgic. It’s not that I yearn for the old days when my father-in-law used to just “drop by” our house to say hi, and stay for 2 hours. But there’s something to be said for face to face communications. It just can’t replace e-mail.
As recent as last October, the Pew Internet and American Life Project released a report that found that more than 90% of the population who uses the internet use it for e-mail. I’m not sure what the other “less than 10%” use, but this factoid being from a highly trustworthy source tells me that email is not going away any time soon.
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Last week I met with one of my clients, Accounting Solutions. This is a small accounting firm in Fredericksburg, VA run by two women, Anne and Michelle. They have a perky, smart part-timer, Tanya, who is basically the office manager and does everything from filing and answering phones to (now) social media strategy.
That’s it. That’s the whole company. Just like millions of other small local businesses out there, this firm is solid and service-oriented, with a loyal client base. They work like dogs during tax season, have a little breathing room during the late spring and summer, and then start gearing up again. It’s a very common story. There are thousands of firms just like this all across the country. Actually let’s be real – all around the world.
This meeting was a Q&A session. Tanya had attended my E-Marketing 101 workshop earlier in the year and the partners wanted to start implementing the concepts she’d learned. Tanya had gone through her notes and came up with a list of discussion topics to go over.
Many of the questions were semantics and clarifications. What does this mean? How should we do that? What options do you recommend for these areas? But the real struggle was the social stuff. They don’t get how to use LinkedIn to help them generate business leads. They don’t see the value of using facebook. They don’t want to write blog posts. The more ethereal concepts like social bookmarking weren’t even on the radar.
I find this to be very common, and completely understandable. I have long since stopped telling small business owners why they should use social media. First of all, it doesn’t help them. I might as well try to explain to them why they should fly to the moon. As I see it, there are two options: 1) do it for them, or 2) use other internet marketing methods that make better sense to them. If it makes sense to them they’re more likely to get on board with it. And that means it has a good shot of being successful. An ideal solution would be a hybrid approach, and this is what I generally shoot for.
So, if you are a small business owner who is contemplating (with dread) the idea of using social media, fear not. There are many other things you can do to get exposure for your business on the Internet, and they work just as well. Post a comment or email me privately if you want to learn more.
In the meantime, Anne and Michelle (via Tanya) will be using a hybrid approach. We decided to steer clear of facebook and opted for some more comfortable (but also highly relevant) options. So if you are one of Accounting Solutions’ competitors, watch out.
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Listen to this 1-1/2 minute audio clip taken from a recent E-Marketing Workshop I held. In it I explain how to make sure you are getting the results you desire from your Facebook Business Page.
I recently read an excellent article by Sue Cartwright on using Facebook for business reasons. It’s actually a review of another article (which I did not read) and she uses that article as a springboard to talk about this topic, which is near and dear to my heart.
The big challenge of Facebook marketing is this: your facebook page is a personal page. You can only have one, and it must represent you as a person. As a small business owner, you may decide to use your personal Facebook page as a platform to promote your business. This is loosely equivalent to being out with some friends and someone asks you “so, how’s business?”
Sue gives some nice takeaways, which I will share with you in my own words:
Just as in any networking environment, always remember the goal is to build relationships.
You are a person and a business owner, and you have both business and personal relationships. These lines get crossed in real life as well, but on Facebook the blurring of those lines is even more prominent. Everyone can see both sides of your life, or at least anything you post on your own wall or someone else’s wall. [FYI, I'm simplifying a bit here because Facebook's privacy settings allow you to finely tune what gets seen by whom, but let's assume you've left your settings at the default for now.]
You should aim to provide posts, quotes, links, and opinions that people will find interesting and helpful. Posts that smack too much of self-promotion will, at best, get ignored, and at worst, get you un-friended and perhaps even stridently dissed.
Facebook “ranks” posts by popularity and uses that ranking to decide which posts will show up higher and more often on your friends’ walls. The more interesting your post is, the more comments and likes it will get. This achieves a level of popularity which will help your post, and you, get more exposure.
Sue goes on to talk about the difference between posting to your personal page vs. your business page, so I recommend reading the article if you want to learn more about that.
I will close with an interesting excerpt from Sue’s article, because she articulates this much better than any re-phrasing job I could do: “…the degree to which our professional relationships become personal vary but our professional connections will mingle with our personal ones and this will lead to new business, new opportunities, new ideas and inspiration for a new direction.”
Clearly Sue is a strong advocate for using your personal facebook presence for business. Sue also started her facebook account with the intention of using it mostly for business. I on the other hand started with a personal facebook page a good year and a half before I started using it for business. So I still tend to be ultra-careful about what I say and what I comment on.
Either way, each of us has to decide for ourselves.
A colleague of mine recently wrote an article for her newsletter on the topic of list size. Many business owners who rely on email marketing for sales leads constantly stress over the challenge of growing our lists.
I had to chuckle when I saw her article because 6 months ago she was lamenting to me that her list wasn’t nearly as big as those of other, well-known people in her field. At the time I said to her, “It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. The size of your list is not as important as the number of people who see real value in what you provide.” Clearly she got the message. Whether it was from me, or if I just planted a seed and she took it from there, I was happy to see she changed her mind and doesn’t worry so much about comparative list sizes any more. By the way, her list is way bigger than mine .
Many of the “big names” in the industry have tens of thousands of people on their list. While this sounds great, you have to wonder what percentage of those people actually pay any attention to the messages that get sent to them from the provider. How many mailing lists are YOU on? How many of those messages do you actually read? Maybe it’s time to start unsubscribing… liberally.
The size issue is the same deal with Twitter followers and Facebook Business Page Likers. You can use a site like fiverr.com to hire someone cheaply to get followers or likers for you, but are these followers really paying any attention to your messages? I think it’s more about ego and bragging rights than about really connecting with your audience.
If you are one of these people who think more is automatically better… my advice to you is “get over yourself.” Provide real value to people and they will join your list. It’s that simple.
My friend who wrote the article made the suggestion to me that the bigger your list, the more your quality degrades. I’m not sure I agree with that completely, but it gave me something to think about. I had not ever considered that point, and plan on doing some research to find out what others think about it. If you have any thoughts about this I’d love to hear them, please comment below.
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