12 Things I Learned About SlideShare, Part 1

“May you live in interesting times” is the English translation of the first of three Chinese proverbs. These are very interesting times indeed for business owners struggling to market their products and services without simultaneously emptying their bank account. It seems not a week goes by that I do not learn about another free or (almost as good) low-cost marketing tool on the Internet.

This week was no exception! CFO America opened an account at SlideShare.net, a free online slide hosting service. Users can upload files in PowerPoint and pdf formats, among others. It is comparable to YouTube, but is primarily for slideshows. Launched in 2006, the website was originally intended as a vehicle for businesses to share slides with employees. However, it has since expanded to host slides and videos for entertainment, educational and other purposes.

SlideShare claims 50 million visitors and 90 million page views per month, ranking it as one of the top 250 websites in the world. The White House used SlideShare to publish President Obama’s birth certificate in
April 2011. The impressive list of blue ribbon users also includes NASA, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, IBM, several branches of the U.S. military, Dell and the University of Texas.

Today I present the first of a three-part series on this subject. I will cover the basics of how to get started and how to increase your market exposure. I will complete the series next week.

Here are the first three things I learned about SlideShare that will help you “Avoid Market Obscurity“:

  1. Begin your exciting marketing experience by opening a free account at http://www.slideshare.net/. You will be asked to create a public profile that includes a description of your business, address and contact information, logo or picture, website link, industry, keyword tags, and other basic information. Start by visiting CFO America’s profile at http://www.slideshare.net/CFOAmerica.
  2. Like most “free” online services, this one has several upgraded versions. They range in price from $19 to $249 per month. The extra fees buy customized channels, expanded functionality, visitor analytics and the removal of banner ads, among other advantages. All upgrades include Zipcast, a virtual meeting service similar to the better-known and admittedly more robust GoToMeeting. The advantage is that subscribers receive a customized link to share with their attendees. Those attendees merely click the link without the need to download software or open a SlideShare account. Regular readers already know my advice on this one! Even if these features appeal to you, I suggest you resist the urge to upgrade until after you have had an opportunity to evaluate your experience over the first thirty to ninety days. You may find the additional cost is unnecessary. I should add that the free service includes unlimited slide shows and documents, plus three videos per month.
  3. SlideShare collaborates with social media giants Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to promote and share content. For example, you can embed presentations on your Facebook Fan Page, your LinkedIn profile or your blog. I embedded a document on my Fan Page, a simple matter of coping and pasting a code supplied by SlideShare. The document can now be opened in full screen. Viewers can also like, retweet or otherwise
    share presentations with their followers and connections.

Three of my PowerPoint presentations had over 200 combined views during their first 3 days online. One of my pdf documents (a reprint of this article) was featured on SlideShare’s home page, and was viewed over 1,500 times during its first 36 hours online. I am confident this activity, which puts to shame my YouTube statistics, was largely the result of the other social media services. Take full advantage of these capabilities for maximum market exposure.

Have a great weekend, and please plan to read Twelve Things I Learned About SlideShare, Part 2 on Monday. As an added incentive to returning readers, next week I will share the final two Chinese proverbs.

Surely you won’t want to miss that!

GREAT CAESAR’S GHOST, CLARK!

OK, today’s title dates me to the 1950s and 60s. With that said, you might remember some advice I offered on Monday. It was that when writing a book, decide when “enough is enough” and save subsequent content for the second edition or your next book. Today I offer an example of me practicing what I preach. This content did not “make the cut” of Highly Visible Marketing. It will instead appear in print later this year. Here it is.

Did you ever dream about running your own newspaper? Here is a free opportunity to become an online Editor-in-Chief. Paper.li takes your Twitter stream and extracts links to news stories, photographs and videos. It then determines which stories are relevant based on criteria you establish. The service creates themed pages based on specific topics using hashtags. A Twitter user is therefore a potential editor, with the people they follow serving as their unpaid journalists. Paper.li users then distribute their daily or weekly publication as a unique newspaper, written from a perspective of what is considered of interest on the Web on any given day. You can create up to ten versions of Paper.li newspapers, each of which can be set up in minutes.

A downside of this communications vehicle is that since it is automatically generated, you have no say in what appears as the lead story, and cannot hide or rearrange the topical sections. The good news is that once created, it is completely self-sustaining. In addition, since Paper.li tweets every time a new edition of your newspaper is issued, this idea increases your Twitter followers as it helps establish your profile as a recognized expert in your field.

To view a sample of Paper.li in action, visit http://paper.li/CFOAmerica/1300800014 and read The CFO America Daily.

P.S. Today’s topic provided an excuse to include a picture of the great Jackie Cooper. Mr. Cooper played Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet in the 1970s Superman series. His TV and movie career spanned seven decades, and included serving in the Navy in World War II. Jackie passed away last week at the age of 88.

Word of Mouth Has Gone Global-Part 7

I conclude this seven-part discussion of social media marketing today with just a few closing thoughts. First, having gone through the effort to develop content, create a social media marketing program and build a following, do not fail to promote Twitter, Facebook etc. on outgoing email signatures, business cards, letterhead, websites, and promotional materials.

Every media platform should be used to promote all the others. For example, you should occasionally send a tweet inviting followers to “Like” your Facebook Fan page, and use Facebook and Twitter to announce new posts on your blog.

Provide a direct link to your blog and social media platforms whenever possible. For example, my outgoing email signature ends with, “Please click on the links below to read our blog or to follow us on Facebook & Twitter.”

This series presented many new challenges for the already overworked small businessperson. Let me end with one more. Future Vision Web Services made this observation: “Most of today’s market leaders are those companies who had the foresight to recognize the changing landscape in today’s modern business world. The new business battleground has been very cruel to those companies that have fallen behind the curve.”

Do not allow the rapidly evolving landscape of social media marketing keep you from realizing the full potential of your business.

See you again on Wednesday.

Word-of-Mouth Has Gone Global-Part 6

Even if you use outside assistance to design and develop your social media platforms, generating fresh content remains your responsibility. Quite simply, no one knows more about your business than you do. Demonstrate that fact by sharing the body of material you accumulated in becoming a recognized expert. However, resist the temptation to share it all at once. Building a following in cyberspace is a marathon, not a sprint. As with blogging, develop a consistent conversational style and reporting pattern.

Here are a few pointers to get the most social media mileage out of your content and maximize its effectiveness:

  • If you have a document with multiple bullet points, break each into a separate post.
  • End each post by briefly telling readers what to expect in your next entry, and when it will be published.
  • Most content can be reformatted and repurposed as appropriate. For example, press releases and articles can be posted on Facebook and other sites as well as your blog. A 1,200-word article can provide a lot of content at 140 characters per tweet. Facebook status update fields have a 420-character limit. LinkedIn has a 700-character limit. Other social networks each have similar limits. With a little practice, you will probably find, as I did, that communicating your message within those limits is usually quite easy to accomplish.
  • You can supplement your original content with relevant quotes and articles written by others, or simply pass along helpful advice and suggestions you come across in your daily business. Numerous websites provide extensive quotes on every business subject. One example is www.brainyquote.com.
  • Timely material can be re-circulated or retweeted periodically.
  • Unless supporting a particular point of view is a deliberate part of your branding and marketing strategy, avoid expressing religious and political opinions or supporting controversial agendas that might alienate potential customers.
  • Have several people proofread and review your content. Check your pride of authorship at the door. Do not be afraid to use someone who will look you in the eye and tell you if you have “an ugly baby.” My son’s unbridled desire to correct his father makes him an extremely effective proofreader. Another friend’s frank comments often bruise my ego. I typically stew about them for a day, and then incorporate most of his suggestions.
  • No one cares about trivial matters like what you ate for dinner unless of course you are a food critic or Kim Kardashian. Maintain an air of business decorum and professionalism in your social media platforms.
  • There are numerous social networking tools available free online to help you monitor and simultaneously update multiple sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Those tools currently include Tweetdeck, Hootsuite and Ping.fm. Most also provide upgraded versions for a fee. It is a truism of any free-market system that whenever a product or service becomes an undifferentiated commodity, those offering it can only compete on price. It is inevitable in the fast-paced world of social media that as soon as someone develops a new Internet-based service, someone else will figure out how to make money by offering it free. Therefore, periodically ask your social media active friends and network contacts whether they are aware of any new tools.
  • Finally, the ultimate purpose of social media marketing is to build business relationships. All relationships require two-way communication. Do not get so consumed in posting content that you neglect to respond to direct messages or DMs. Try to establish a dedicated time every day to answer your DMs.

I will conclude this series about social media marketing on Monday with some final thoughts. Enjoy your weekend.

Word of Mouth Has Gone Global-Part 4

Last week, I introduced the topic of social media marketing as a low-cost, effective marketing tool for your business. Like everything else in business, success in social media marketing requires that you prepare a plan.

Develop a social media plan that includes target dates and milestones. It should incorporate several platforms with a consistent message and theme or look. Each platform should be linked to your website or blog. Fred Campos, a social media expert and founder of FunCitySocialMedia likes to compare social media marketing to a three-legged stool. Following his analogy, I ultimately selected Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as my three legs. Again, visit www.alexa.com to find the best matches for your target market.

I also have two websites, one of which is the WordPress blog that I mentioned earlier. The other is a “landing pad” that presents a three-minute video and invites viewers to join my mailing list to receive a free publication that explains my services and business approach.

My social media platforms always carry a summary of blog postings. To the extent possible, Twitter, Facebook and both websites have a similar look as to color scheme, graphics and narrative theme. While LinkedIn is far more limiting in its graphic design options, it does allow your logo and picture. And it is hard to argue with free!

Your followers can greatly magnify the distribution of anything you post by making it available to their contacts. They do that on Facebook by simply clicking the “Like” button. On LinkedIn, they recommend you. On Twitter, they “re-tweet” your comments. Whatever it is called, encourage your following to share your content for maximum exposure.

YouTube is the most popular search engine, and now exceeds 2 billion downloads per day. I confess that I have yet to add YouTube to my social media-marketing arsenal. On Wednesday, I will discuss this exciting social media platform.

Word of Mouth Has Gone Global-Part 3

This week, we are discussing social media marketing as a cost-effective marketing option for small businesses. Let’s pickup where we left off on Wednesday.

Evaluate social media marketing as a platform to build brand awareness and share content with your customers and target market. Use it as a vehicle to provide your customers with a voice. Encourage feedback. Social media marketing is all about consistent communication in channels selected by your markets. Avoid the trap of thinking it is about technology. Moreover, remember that ultimately you are connecting with individuals, not faceless companies and organizations. Consider these points:

  • Individuals all have birthdays, families, homes, hobbies and other personal characteristics and interests that they will occasionally mention online. Apply what Dale Carnegie said about making friends by being interested in other people rather than by trying to get people interested in you. Remember the personal stuff.
  • It is very likely that you will eventually attract hundreds and even thousands of followers on your social media platforms. It will not be possible (or even advisable) to attempt to develop relationships with all of your connections, especially since many will be in distant areas that effectively disqualify them as realistic prospects. However, for those online connections that are realistic customer prospects, cultivating an offline relationship greatly increases the prospect of a sale.
  • Try to exhibit a conversational style, but keep in mind that your conversations will be online and therefore accessible to virtually the entire planet.

Having decided to move forward with social media, the first crossroad you will come to in your analysis and evaluation of social media is whether to do everything yourself or hire experts. Make an informed decision. There are plenty of free or low cost resources available to you. Begin with an Internet search or by spending a few dollars on one of those 1,618 books and videos. Talk to your social media savvy friends and associates, perhaps starting with your “screenage” children. Having done my research, I decided that while I could muddle through the maze myself, the time saved and professionalism gained by hiring a consultant was worth the small investment. I should also mention that I met my social media consultants at a free seminar they sponsored. Look at what competitors and others in your area are doing. Make a list of what you like and dislike about each. Remember, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In this situation, it may also be the cheapest.

We will continue with this subject next week. Until then, have a great weekend.

Word of Mouth Has Gone Global-Part 2

On Monday, I introduced the topic of social media marketing as a low-cost, effective marketing tool for your business. Social media platforms currently include about 20 widely recognized platforms including Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube.

Whatever platforms are chosen, they provide incoming or backlinks to your website and blog. This improves search engine results since the number of backlinks is an indication of the popularity and importance of a website.

Businesses use social media marketing to increase brand awareness and promote products and services. Businesses also receive feedback from customers and potential markets. Perhaps the best analogy I have heard was a comparison to a large, porous funnel. The various platforms cast a wide net to gather many followers into the funnel. As you continue to provide valuable and interesting content and develop relationships, some of those followers will eventually progress through the narrowing funnel to become customers and sources of referrals. Others will fall away.

Because these social media websites are available free to everyone with Internet access, they present inexpensive and powerful platforms for small businesses to get market feedback and conduct targeted marketing campaigns on a local, regional, national or even global basis.

How popular is social media marketing? I got a sense of the interest it generates when I searched Amazon for the phrase “Facebook marketing” and got 452 results. I got 1,618 hits when I searched “social media marketing.” Products included a cornucopia of books and videos ranging up to $1,200 and included 137 hits of “For Dummies” books alone.

Perhaps the real surprise is why there were not more results. According to Goldman Sachs, Facebook has over 600 million active users (defined as those who log on at least three times a week). Perhaps buoyed by the 2010 movie The Social Network, that is a 20% increase in six months. Those users include President Obama and Queen Elizabeth. According to LinkedIn’s Press Center, they have 100 million users speaking one of six languages in more than 200 countries. They add a new user every second. In September 2010, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams said Twitter is averaging 90 million tweets per day. They are gaining 370,000 new accounts daily, with 16% of them starting the service on mobile devices. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Social media marketing is simply too large to ignore, especially if your target market is under the age of 40, affluent and highly educated. It demands attention because of its size, growth trends and cost efficiency when compared to alternative marketing channels.

Today’s suggestion should be obvious by now. Evaluate social media marketing as a platform to build brand awareness and share content with your customers and target market. Use it as a vehicle to provide your customers with a voice. Encourage feedback. Social media marketing is all about consistent communication in channels selected by your markets. Avoid the trap of thinking it is about technology. Moreover, remember that ultimately you are connecting with individuals, not faceless companies and organizations.

On Friday, I will offer some specific tips to help you successfully implement that suggestion.

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