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Business Social Media

Are we hiding behind email? A new study shows young people prefer emailing clients to calling

A recent post on Young Entrepreneur quoted a survey showing that young entrepreneurs prefer using email in business.

It was found that when going after clients the rate of phone use drops by 30% for entrepreneurs in their 20’s compared to their counterparts in their 40’s.

Are we hiding behind our email or is it simply an evolution in the way our generation prefers to do business?

Growing up in a pure Internet social network, many young people getting out of college today probably consider it the norm to communicate through Web 2.0 tech and instant messages rather than an in-person meetings or phone calls. We all grew up socializing on instant messenger clients outside of our regular school day. We ran Xangas and blogs for our friends to keep up with our daily actions. We even got the benefit of Facebook and Twitter just before graduating, so that even when we were busy finishing up classes and getting a job, there was always a social network online for us.

Whether it is this upbringing or not, I realize in business that I prefer to email first and call later. In an email, I feel like I can fully introduce myself and establish a rapport without interrupting someone’s day or badgering them. Once intros are aside, I can move on to the phone.It would seem like our first instinct would be emailing others. In that way, I don’t fully rely on email as my only form of communication.

Does our Internet-first nature make us bad business people?

The study points out that face-to-face meetings are more successful in business and that email is slightly less effective–20 percent less–than these face-to-face meetings.

I don’t personally believe that preferring to communicate through email is that detrimental to business. In sales, one might argue that phone time is the best way to close a deal, but in other business functions, email can certainly be more productive because of the multitasking and less intrusive approach. Email has caught on the primary communication tool for business, so barring getting caught in the spam filter, I feel like it is the most effective way to communicate with business associates and clients throughout my day.

I can email seven people in the time it might take me to make one phone call, so by using email, I manage my time better and get more messages across to others. When a matter is urgent or a relationship is there, I can also jump on the line and use the phone.

If you are about to break into the world of business, think about your own use of email over the phone. If you are a completely email-centric person and use it as a crutch, you should make an effort to build up your skills on the phone. Even if you do think email is a more effective way of communicating–as I do–you have to keep in mind that your bosses and superiors will most likely be of the generation that prefers to go to the phones more often. They will want to see that you are able and willing to handle the phone side of business in addition to your tidy inbox.

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Social Media Web Culture

Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) are a great way to tell your marketing story online

I love ARGs–or alternate reality games–as a marketing tool. I personally find them fascinating when used effectively. Two of my recent favorites have been the ILoveBees campaign from 42 Entertainment for Microsoft’s Halo 2 release, and the “Ethan Haas was Right” mystery currently marketing J.J. Abrams’ new movie codenamed “Cloverfield” online. If you haven’t seen either one, read about ILoveBees and Ethan Haas was Right on Wikipedia.

Part of the reason they are even more successful these days is the socialization of the Web. With an online ARG, one person who becomes fascinated with the hooks and mystery of the game end up sharing links virally through social networks and outlets like Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. The viral movement makes the scope of the campaign much larger than if you had to personally find and attract each person to the campaign.

The ARGs are also a great way to educate consumers and interest them in your product. The ILoveBees campaign leaked parts a side story of the Halo saga, and the Ethan Haas was Right campaign had a huge pull already because of the mystery surrounding J.J. Abrams new film and his background from Lost, the television series. ILoveBees ended up creating one of the largest media launches in history–until Halo 3 was released.

The Escapist highlighted an even more intricate campaign done by Lance Weiler to promote his film Head Trauma with a blog called Hope is Missing. The blog follows a storyline similar to the movie with the sole author logging his efforts to find the missing “Hope.” According to Weiler, with these types of games, the site feeds his creativity for the film and vice versa.

“They’re wild times right now in terms of storytelling,” says Weiler. “I’m approaching all my work in a new way – I’m creating a world. It’s not just enough to create a script anymore.”

The world is what end users and consumers cry out for these days.

The ARG isn’t Weiler’s first effort in the space. He experimented with promoting his films by integrating them with Web sites back in 1998 with his first film The Last Broadcast. His experience shows as he is smart enough to provide various levels of involvement for the passive observer or for the conspiracy theory junkie.

“Sometimes ARGs are dense and take a quite a bit of time to get into,” says Weiler. “With this we were doing media-integrated gameplay. You can enjoy it at multiple levels. You could dig as deep as you want, but you can just look at the web videos if you want. You don’t have to play the game.”

ARGs are one of my marketing passions, and while they take a great deal of effort and planning to execute, their effectiveness with the young, Internet generation has to be noted. Weiler is one of the bold few experimenting with ARGs and involving fans in the presentation of his films by interacting through cell phone text messages and remixing music and scenes live while the movie plays.

“We live in a remix culture, an on-demand culture,” says Weiler. “Media consumption is changing, and because of that media creation is changing. Everything now has become decentralized, controlled by the end user. When that happens it’s about discoverability. It’s all about empowering that user and finding ways to interact with them, and the language of that storytelling has changed.”

While Weiler focuses on the storytelling aspect of involving the fans in the ARG, the marketing aspect is visible in all parts of his site’s presentation.

ARGs can be as simple as a YouTube video or as complicated as a full-fledged puzzle site and email campaign like Ethan Haas was Right. In grassroots marketing, ARGs are cost-effective despite the effort required because of their large scope and conversational/viral value.

Be sure to consider an ARG next time you have a marketing story to tell, but make sure it’s properly introduced so as not to make a bad or scary first impression.

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Social Media

Branding: Do it or someone else will do it for you

Branding is one of if not THE most critical part of starting a small business beyond having the original business idea. For big companies, branding is what makes them a household name, but smaller businesses can overlook how important it is to form a brand before you can begin to generate any kind of marketing movement.

One of the most accurate definitions of branding comes from John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing.

So, here you go. Branding is the art of becoming knowable, likable and trustable.

I like Jantsch’s definition because he puts branding directly in the preparation to be marketable. You must be likable and trustable with a clear message to give the consumers you hope to win over.

With this definition in mind marketing then becomes the act of taking the elements of that personality and exposing them to the ideal customer at the ideal time in the ideal setting. Elements like a company name, logo, images, metaphors, colors, words, look and feel, dress, attitude, networks, consistency and vision.

If marketing is doing then branding is being. Often the two are so integrated strategically and tactically that it’s hard to say one comes before or is more important than the other.

In all my projects, the first step is define a clear branding message before you even begin to think about your marketing plan. As you form your brand, you should have your target audience and market in mind. You want your brand to be likable by anyone who might use or view your product. With consideration to consistency throughout the timeline of a campaign, it’s best to also revisit your branding messages and symbols periodically to make sure that they still define the company and message moving forward. A solid brand can tell a customer more about your company than a sales pitch if you establish it, and it is best to have a strong branding platform in place with your business idea or name.

Without a solid brand, people will not know who you are, or even worse, they might make one up for you with which you don’t agree. Losing the chance to brand yourself is devastating to a new company in winning over you target market. It’s hard enough to change an established brand once it is out in the open, but it is even harder to establish one over a pre-existing negative brand label.

Make sure you brand yourself before someone else does it for you.

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Business Social Media

How to find trends the Web 2.0 way: Trend Hunter and Chictini.com

If your job depends on your ability to follow the “cool” or keep in touch with the latest obsessions–probably true of all entrepreneurs–then it would benefit you to follow new Web start ups. Two sites have emerged on the scene to spread the word on the latest trends.

  • Trend Hunter – Trend Hunters create portfolios, the best of which are published in online magazines
  • Chictini.com – The more digg-like phenom that let’s users vote on what hits the A-list

Trend Hunter creates a sort of competition between its hunters to see who can find the hottest new developments. Many of the top hunters are involved in the marketing/ad industry or journalists. KillerStartups.com–which isn’t a bad pulse on new business trends either–highlighted Trend Hunter, sourced in media quite often for its data collection on cool.

Trend Hunters add cool trends to their portfolios, and the site publishes the best stuff in over a dozen online magazines. These magazines generate 1.2 million views per month. They leverage this information and group the hottest trends into clusters of inspiration in the Annual Trend Report.

Chictini is more for the hipsters and social darlings who want to spread their choice selection to all their friends and fellow cool cats. In contrast to Trend Hunter, it seems to emphasize the trend posted more than the user who put it there. They integrate this social network with the digg-like voting system to create a community and society for trend hunting.

KillerStartups also posted on the many features of their site.

They want to show what’s hot before it even knows it’s hot. You can vote whether you think a posted item is “chic” or “weak”, and these votes determine whether the posted items make it to the A-list or the C-list. Unlike Digg, you can actually purchase items from the site. Chictini also has a social network set up where you can create a pretty detailed profile page. You can list all of the basic personal details, see the last ten posted items by that person, leave them comments, create a detailed bio, include contact info, and have people join your “clique.” You can even post a song to your profile.

Keep an eye on them both, and you just might land yourself a choice find in the world of trends or come up with that great idea that will make you millions.

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Business Social Media

Facebook vs. Google: If you can’t join ’em, beat ’em–Google’s OpenSocial and Facebook Ads

Losing a bid to for a profitable investment to one of your major rivals is bound to be upsetting. It might even be so upsetting that you take a blood oath to destroy that investment or bend it to your will…

Facebook may have missed out on the chance to be a part of Google’s next big strategic move, but without their part ownership, Google moved on without them to launch their “Maka-Maka” initiative in the Facebook space. Facebook’s only rebuttal thus far is their new Facebook Ads services–Beacon, Insight and Social Ads.

Maka-Maka will integrate their major applications like Gmail and Google Maps into the social space and provide features similar to the Facebook “News Feed.”

The deadliest part of Google’s Maka-Maka plan is OpenSocial, which opens up a new development standards for integrating user information and competes with Facebook’s open API applications. With standards established, Google could pioneer a move that would allow users to keep in touch even outside of their social networks. Google is seeking a solid start to the movement by soliciting a number of the top developers of applications for Facebook.

OpenSocial will truly be open. Google is even allowing their competitors to take advantage. Google operates a social network called Orkut, more popular outside of the US than in it, but services such as Hi5, LinkedIn and Friendster have already jumped on board for OpenSocial, too. Even bigger news was made when shortly after the initial announcement, MySpace jumped on the bandwagon.

“Our partnership with Google allows developers to gain massive distribution without unnecessary specialized development for every platform,” Chris DeWolfe, co-founder and CEO MySpace, said in a statement released late Thursday.

As a member of OpenSocial, MySpace is providing the group with platform experience and user mass, as it is still the most popular social network online.

MySpace is by far the biggest partner in this initiative as the largest, most popular social network to date and Facebook’s only close rival. Open Social applications could help them stop the rumors that Facebook will begin to steal away their users in the coming months. While Google makes itself the champion of open, Facebook continues to emphasize keeping it closed and private. TechCrunch warns that this move might make them the Apple of the social networking scene–as more and more developers see greater benefit from focusing on their OpenSocial apps that work across a larger number of sites and services. But is it so bad to be Apple? They aren’t doing so bad lately.

If you see OpenSocial as the upper hand for Google, you are overlooking Facebook’s possible stunning business move. As Mark Cuban pointed out, Facebook has a more valuable ad network because they have truthful, honest info on their profiles, and he suggests a licensing to someone like Yahoo! could be phenomenal.

So back to Yahoo and the Facebook API. I thought that if you put the 2 together, enabling Yahoo to access the Facebook database of users within the current API constraints, Yahoo search and ad serving would improve considerably. Expand the Facebook database with an opt in option to add further personal data that could be used FROM WITHIN THE YAHOO WEBSITE, the results for Yahoo could be extraordinary. A Yahoo searchbox within Facebook , or a search from a Yahoo site that recognizes you are the owner of a Facebook profile and customizes the results according to information culled from your profile would be incredibly powerful

I don’t know if anything can or would come of my little referral. Maybe now with MicroSoft buying into Facebook, they can get a free crack at the Facebook API and Facebook profile owners who also use MicroSoft Live can get better search and ad results. Who knows.

It’s a great thought, but it is probably not likely. Facebook prides itself on keeping user information within the network and private. Permissions have to be given for each individual application to access information. College students, the base users of the program, need to be extremely sensitive about what info goes out on the Web about them these days with employers going to Google to scope out candidates before they step in the door. Until Facebook finds a way to balance its emphasis on privacy and usability for developers by opening up the data a little more, they will remain the Ivory Tower in the social networking space.

Unfortunately for Facebook, if they don’t make this move, Google will certainly bring social networking into the search space to overwhelm Facebook’s offerings.

As an additional encroachment to the Facebook business model, Google has not only started to woo the hearts of application developers but is also planting the seeds of pay-per-action ads. These ads could eventually lead to a movement of developers utilizing AdSense in their apps on Facebook and get AdSense into the belly of the Facebook beast.

Facebook has not yet made any substantial response to Google’s move. With they’re anticipated ad services announcement today, Facebook provides some increased public uses of their info. Advertisers will be able to make use of Insight to collect info about the people who click their ads, Beacon to use Facebook profile widgets as endorsers and Social Ads to target specific interests that users have specified.

I don’t think Facebook Ads is the open direction that I was looking for with opening up their platform–as Wired states, it probably just means more spam. This ad move will probably just create another set of miffed users on Facebook as do many of Facebook’s pioneering steps. I would like to see the data opened up for more useful application around the Web, but only time will tell if Facebook will take the plunge or stand their ground try to wear out the Google “open” attack.

Google certainly has a great chance for revenge.

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Social Media

Public Relations 101: Don’t be lazy

Not to offend anyone who was caught in the crossfire of Wired’s Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson’s backlash recently, but one of the most important rules of media relations is knowing your target journalist and tailoring your message to their outlet/beat.

Anderson recently posted the email addresses of anyone who had emailed him as editor-in-chief rather than trying to find the correct beat writer or editor at Wired to contact. Many of the offenders had, unfortunately, purchased his email address from a list service of people to contact for their industry or freelance service–which is unfortunate considering his email is publicly available. It is horrible that list services charge just to compile a list for you.

It’s part of a growing problem in the industry that journalists are getting more and more mail since they don’t have what Godin describes as the “friction” of adding a stamp. An email is free to send and requires no commitment other than one click of the Send button, so spammers and ill-advised public relations professionals can send hundreds of emails and find themselves on the naughty list of many an editor.

The moral of the story: Don’t be lazy!

While Chris Anderson certainly went a little extreme by posting the email addresses and may have puzzled many PR professionals while being championed by journalists, the easiest way to avoid getting on anyone’s bad side is to do your homework and develop your own mailing lists from scratch.

Having a personal relationship is the best way to have any sort of profitable connection with a journalist. Even if your first email message is just an introduction about your company/business and a request to keep them in the loop, that is a better email to send their way than including them in a blanket pitch that may or may not be directed to the right person. Irresponsibility damages the relationship journalists have with public relations professionals–and hurts public relations as an industry.

If you can avoid it, try not to send out anything besides a press release update to a mass mailing list. Personal emails make a much better impression and can be tailored for each individual outlet and journalist based on your relationship. The most successful PR professionals are able to use their relationships and connection with journalists to keep them informed–no spin required.

Keep that in mind when you are starting up a new business or developing a new media list for a client. Doing your homework pays off far greater than trying to contact as many journalists as possible with little personal touch.