Why don't teams follow back their fans?

Posted on January 27, 2016 at 9:28 AM Comments comments (19)

NFL teams are not exactly small businesses.  In fact, according to Forbes the 2015 NFL franchise value for the Denver Broncos is $1.94B making them the 11 most valuable team.  The Carolina Panthers at $1.56B are ranked 19.  When you compare their Twitter follow-to-follower ratios the Broncos are above average while the Panthers are below average.  The average for the entire league is less than one half of one percent (0.32%) which means that bar is not set very high.


“This Copyrighted Broadcast is the Property of the National Football League”
Let’s face it, NFL teams broadcast on Twitter; they don’t follow back for purposes of fan engagement.


Too bad, because the numbers above suggest that each team is passing up an opportunity to show their fans just how much they appreciate their support by following them back.  Think about it; how would you feel if your favorite NFL team followed you back?  How cool would that be?!  Based on the numbers above I may start cheering for the Chargers.
Why don’t teams follow back their fans? Would it take away their brand prestige? Would the process and cost be too great to implement a strategic follow back plan?  Based on their financial values I don’t think it would break their bank accounts to support their customers with a new social engagement strategy.  And it’s not like the NFL doesn’t leverage technology.  Why do major brands ignore their customers in this manner?  The business goodwill they could be generating would be priceless.

Can One Percent Be Influential?

Posted on January 4, 2016 at 7:54 AM Comments comments (0)

I grew up in Iowa which is generally considered a pretty low key state.  However, this February Iowa will be the keynote when the first step in the United States Presidential nomination process for both the Democrats and the Republicans begin with the Iowa Caucuses.  The Iowa caucus is generally defined as a “gathering of neighbors,” as many Iowans will be meeting in local schools, churches and public libraries to publicly stand up for their presidential preference.
Neighbors gathering to discuss who should be in, as well as who should be out.  Does that sound a little like a social network in action?  Believe it, these caucuses will be followed closely by the rest of the nation, and can be an important factor in determining who will remain in the race and who will drop out.  Iowa may represent only one percent of the U.S. population; however, since 1972 when Iowa began to hold the country’s first caucuses, the eventual nominee of each party has been among the top three finishers in Iowa.
Can one percent be that influential?  It’s something to think about as you kick-off your 2015 social networking strategy.  Happy New Year!


Be Well-Trusted and You Will Never Want

Posted on September 23, 2015 at 8:10 AM Comments comments (0)

“Be liked and you will never want.”
Willy Loman – Death of a Salesman


If you’ve spent any time in personal sales you know that Willy’s philosophy that anything is possible as long as a person is “well liked” is not going to close every deal. To influence someone about an important idea, you need to be more than just liked. A successful, persuasive personality that projects a positive selling image focuses on building rapport, reducing risk and has the substance that comes with having credibility. In short, their calls to action are answered because they are well-trusted.

Professional sales and marketing people have to consider not only face-to-face and over the phone encounters, but also digital platforms. In fact, digital may very well be todays default communication channel. So, how do you establish rapport, build credibility and reduce risk in order to develop trust in today’s digital environment? The following might help.
How to Establish Rapport Online:
1. Look people in the eye and smile. Online that means use their real name when you can. Everyone likes the sound of their name. Drop the automated direct messages and @replies. Respond real-time letting them know you are not a social bot.
2. Adapt. We feel comfortable and relaxed with people who are like us. Synchronize your profile with your targeted personas in order to facilitate immediate connection.
3. Capture their imagination and tap into their emotions by using sensory-rich language and pictures. If you’re not talking to the emotional side of the brain you are not talking to the decision maker.
4. Listen more and talk less. Encourage them to talk about themselves. Talk in terms of their interests. 

How to Build Credibility Online:
1. Positional authority is one source of personal credibility. Your profile bio should reflect your experience in a professional tone.
2. Expertise and knowledge. You can demonstrate your expertise and knowledge through your content. Blogs, articles, discussion forums, white papers and video are all excellent content artifacts.

3. Personal integrity. The history of your online behavior allows others to see your personal qualities. If you’ve been highly recommended and followed by other credible sources a lack of positional authority can be mitigated.

How to Reduce Risk Online:
1. Transparency. Yes, just as brands need to be more transparent with consumers, we need to be more transparent with each other. Make sure your motivations are sincere.

2. Empathy. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s perspective. Different points of view appear obvious to the observer.

Don’t Be That Twitter Person

Posted on August 21, 2015 at 11:08 AM Comments comments (39)
Their Twitter profile looked legitimate. It had a professional looking picture, a well written bio and a customized banner.

So you followed them back. It always feels good when a professional finds your page and follows you first. It kind of feels like your social media content is catapulting your personal brand forward at great speed. And then blunt force trauma. An automated tweet or automated direct message from that professional looking profile smashes into your communication stream. You are jolted by the fact that this person is immediately requesting that you should “Like” their Facebook page, check their website, and schedule 30 minutes for a “quick chat.”

Don’t Be That Twitter Person…
Social media platforms are great communication channels for meeting new prospects and building your reputation, but you don’t want to be “that person.” Here are three important points to keep in mind.
1. You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. And the first impression doesn’t stop with your profile page. Yes, it definitely helped you get the follow back because you took the time to present your background in a professional manner. But using automation to make a bold request from someone you really don’t know yet is not a good strategy. In fact, many people immediately unfollow profiles demonstrating that type of behavior because it feels like you are now dealing with Bad Comedian Eli Manning.
2. Reevaluate your social media lead qualification process. We get it. You targeted certain profiles based on their job title, company, location or the hashtags they were using. And then you followed them hoping they would follow you back. They did, so you proclaimed instant interest and jumped all over them. The fact that you performed those tasks completely through automation made you feel both efficient and effective. However; you’ve just made a very bad tactical error because your “suspect” does not necessarily have the qualifications to be a “prospect.” And even if they do they will most likely be put off by your blunt initial approach.

3. Prepare to meet your new connection by developing a preapproach strategy and process. Wait a minute. I’ve already approached them; in fact, I’ve sent them my “happy to connect, let me know if I can help” message! No, even in the social media world, you really haven’t met them as it relates to their individual needs, desires or goals. Be honest, you’ve merely made assumptions based on their job title and a few hashtags and arbitrarily marked them to be a qualified lead. At this point you are demonstrating in the most direct way that you don’t care what motivates them or what their current goals might be, you just want their immediate attention and for them to get interested in what you have to sell.

There is a big difference between personal salesmanship and mass broadcasting. A professional sales person realizes that people are different from each other; they also know that the same person is different under different conditions. Your preapproach strategy and process should include time to study and learn in what respects your new high value connection is different and what might motivate them. Remember, we all have buying motives – that inner urge that makes us want a product or solution. But that motive is a psychological concept, not a material one. That is to say it’s in our minds, not in the product.


How to Keep Your Audience Looking Down

Posted on August 15, 2015 at 11:59 AM Comments comments (2)

It was the most engaging of times. It was the least engaging of times. It was an age of fabulous fellowship. It was an age of fake followers. It was the spring of sharing. It was the winter of shilling. Our audience was looking down, but would our prospects ever look up?
Are you looking down right now? There is a good chance you are if you are reading this post on your cell phone. What type of content makes you look down?

·         A funny video?
·         A pithy blog post?
·         A text message from a friend or family member?
·         A scandalizing picture?
·         An email from your boss?
·         A good book?
We all look down for many reasons. Sometimes we are just bored, or want to appear busy or popular. Other times we are truly interested in and engaged with the content on our mobile screen. It’s no secret that marketer’s want your attention. They want you to engage with their content and they spend money to tempt you to bow your head as though you are praying to their “Like” button. But what type of content truly captures the imagination and holds attention?

Sure, the content should be relevant to their needs.

Of course the content has to interest them. It helps if it’s also timely.

OK, it’s also helpful to tap into their emotions to create a connection. And you definitely want them to feel understood.

Yes, nothing captures attention or creates a bond quite like a good story…

When you create your relevant, timely, interesting and emotional content who is the hero in your story? Who rides in to save the day?

·         Your company?
·         Your product or solution?
·         Your executive team?
·         Your sales rep or other staff members?

If you want to keep them looking down and engaged with your content you need to turn your prospect into the hero of the story. Who doesn’t like to be the hero in the story? You can’t expect them to begin to like you if your approach keeps suggesting that they are the villains and their own worst enemy in their current situation. Does your copy state the following?
·         You have outdated technology.
·         Your people haven’t changed with the times.
·         You haven’t kept up with the competition.
·         You write product focused stories that are just like all the others.
OK, just kidding on that last one. Yes, I know, I’m suggesting you drop the direct fear, uncertainty and doubt babble. I was raised to use FUD too during my sales tenure and I know it’s hard to let go of. But if you continue to transfer ownership of blame back onto the shoulders of the person you are trying to woo you are in for a long day. Accept the role of the hero’s mentor and let a new story begin.

Back in the day, a common LinkedIn group meant something

Posted on July 6, 2015 at 1:14 PM Comments comments (17)

“Back in the day” is a phrase that is often used to refer to a blissful time in the past when life was simpler. For example, back in the day, you could get away with a LinkedIn message as follows:

“I noticed we share some of the same groups so I wanted to reach out. I’d love to start a conversation with you about your blah, blah efforts. When would be a good time for a chat?”

Wait a minute Alan; I’m still using that approach today! Well, first of all, if that approach is getting meetings for you, keep using it. I’d never tell you to stop doing something that produces the results you desire. But my guess is that you don’t get many replies. Here’s why:
1. There are over 2.1 million LinkedIn groups and over 8,000 new groups formed weekly. In fact, there are some LinkedIn groups that have over one million members. Back in the day, before the group explosion, an affiliation through a common interest was more unique and could attract attention.
2. You can join up to 50 groups. Back in the day, you could join as many as you wanted, but that functionality changed around 2008. The average LinkedIn user joins seven groups, so the 50 limit seems to be more than enough. The fact that you didn’t take the time to mention a specific group just tells me you are casting a wide net and hoping something will stick. You might as well as said “I noticed we both speak English.”
3. We are all coached to join. Join Facebook, join Twitter, join LinkedIn so you can join the conversation and be a thought-leader. Yes, we are both members of a common group. That just suggests we both know the potential power of a community, in addition to what types of personas are likely to do business with us. Congratulations, you understand target marketing. That factor alone will not make you my new trusted advisor.
OK, you just told me why I’m not getting any replies. What should I be doing differently?

“Your comment in the (specific) group was spot on. I noticed it was related to your recent blog post on (specific). In the spirit of networking I’d like to learn how that strategy impacts your blah efforts. I’d be willing to share some research that helps support your position.” May I extend a connection request?
1. Obviously the approach above suggests you took much more time researching my blogging background, interests and participation in group conversations. From the beginning this approach takes away the feel of “spray and prays” and screams personalization.
2. You played to my ego, and believe me; every executive likes to have their opinions validated. As Mark Twain stated … “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”

3. You crafted the message so that it was about me and not about your product or company. You also offered value-add (access to research), and made a polite request in your attempt to build rapport and trust. “When would be a good time for a chat” only feels like you’re trying to close me.

You’re Always Both the Messenger and the Message

Posted on June 30, 2015 at 1:39 PM Comments comments (2)

For your entertainment; a short knock-off skit based on the Drew Carey TV series “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

The Host: Welcome to “Whose Content Is It Anyway?” Where the quota is made up and the revenue doesn’t matter. Our first skit is called, “Your marketing content sucks.” Mr. Sales VP, you’re very nervous; you’ve just examined your sales pipeline and discovered your team will not meet its sales objectives.

Ms. Marketing Rep, you are a super confident business development person from a marketing technology company ready to save the day.

Ready? … Action!!
Sales VP: Oh my! No wonder we don’t have a #salespipeline. We don’t have the support we need to nurture our leads and move them through the #salesfunnel.
Marketing Rep: I know #whatkeepsyouupatnight. You have a #contentmarketing problem! Our #robust #scalable #cloudbased #revolutionary #unique #endtoend solution helps business #engage with their prospects so that they can #buildprofitableloyalrelationships and #closedealsfaster!
Sales VP: I’m glad you called! I’m so lucky you just happen to come across my #LinkedIn profile and decided to reach out! Our #marketingcontent is terrible. Is there any hope??
Marketing Rep: Never fear! Although your pipeline is practically nonexistent, we can help. We can quickly implement our solution and you’ll be #fillingyourfunnel in no time!

Sales VP: Oh thank you!! I’ll sign the #orderrightnow!

Content is the Totality
Can you relate to the skit above? Of course not, your quota may feel like it was just made up, but you know revenue always matters! OK, on a more serious note; did you notice that marketing was thrown under the bus? The “what keeps you up at night” situation was described as a “marketing content problem.” But what if the social profiles of the sales force is the real content problem? Content is the total picture. And that means you’re always both the messenger and the message. Your message may contain great content concerning your product and your company, but the receiver is still going to check your personal credentials. Yes, they are going to look you up on LinkedIn and will probably Google your name. The question is; are they going to find someone they believe is capable of adding value to their day, and allow you the opportunity to develop their trust?
Making a Good First Impression 
There is no room for error here. Does your profile brand you as a professional?

  • Profile picture: LinkedIn data shows that having one makes your profile 7 times more likely to be viewed, so don’t use your company logo. Profiles with photos receive a 40% InMail response rate. Enough said. Use a professional business photo. Sure, cell phones take pretty good pictures these days. But this is not where you want to post a selfie. On the other extreme I wouldn’t recommend glamour shots either. If you don’t keep it professional looking you are putting your first impression with the viewer at risk.
  • Headline: Be descriptive. How do you help organizations accomplish their goals? What’s your value-add? The headline must be compelling enough to persuade the viewer to look deeper into your profile. If your picture passed, but your headline fails engagement will never start. I’m not going to lie. An important job title as a part of your headline will help. Executives like to network with other executives and they are more likely to respond to individuals they believe to be their peers. That may not seem fair, but that’s how it unfolds most of the time. That means you should think carefully before sending your summer interns or most junior sales people after the C-Suite because the odds are not in their favor no matter how revolutionary you think your product might be.
  • Summary: Your picture and headline passed. Congratulations on making it this far. The pressure is not off though because you’ve only got a couple of seconds to impress the viewer enough to examine your credentialed experience. Tell your story, capture their imagination. But don’t wonder, stay on point. How does your “story” benefit the viewer? You can also use this section to post videos, blogs, white papers and other marketing artifacts that help establish your authority and your organizations credentials.
Social platforms, particularly LinkedIn, are ideal for business development. If used properly they can be a map of all your business contacts, and create a route to important prospects you don’t know yet. Just remember, you are both the messenger and the message.

A Tale of Two Social Media Strategies

Posted on June 23, 2015 at 12:29 PM Comments comments (0)
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness... it was the era of brands buying Likes and Followers, it was the era of executives pushing the same old content, it was the period of social media spray and pray marketing.
I’m sure you recognized the reference to Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.” It’s fitting because you can often see a duality when you compare the way organizations use social media channels. Many use social communication the same way they use traditional media. They’ve resisted the social relationship revolution and have let yesterday’s marketing rules resurrect inside the new platforms. They continue to broadcast tired old content. They spray and pray for results.  And then turmoil erupts because many in the social audience want to overthrow the brand aristocrats. Take them to the guillotine … off with their heads!  OK, it’s not that dramatic; but you get the picture. Adjustments should be considered for social media. Here are three areas to examine:

I) Follow back your targeted audience.

Most major brands don’t take the time to follow back their audience. In fact, in the example below, you can see that the average NFL team only follows back 0.40% of their fans.

I’m sure they have their reasons for not following back. It could be a time or budget issue. Or perhaps they feel it would damage their elite brand status. Yes, that must be it. Major brands don’t have the time or money to spend managing that aspect of engagement on social media. And even if they did they’d probably feel funny acknowledging their audience with a follow back.
Of course we know they are missing an easy opportunity to influence the customer experience. After all, how would you “feel” if your favorite brand actually followed you back?


II) Turn off the automation and fake personalization.
Yes, social media automation promises to improve your marketing efficiency. But just because it’s efficient doesn’t mean it’s effective.  In fact, some forms of automation throw key social media tenets to the wind. Take for example transparency and authenticity. Does an automated direct message that thanks me for following you and then suggests I “Like” your Facebook page improve your transparency and authenticity? It might feel like a polite and efficient thing to do, but it’s really just a non-value-add annoyance. Besides, is the content in your automated direct message really the first impression you want to make with your new connection?

III) Focus on content.
Your social content is the voice and personality of your brand. And since the average attention span is only 8.25 seconds you don’t have much time to make an impression. This may very well be the toughest area you will examine because you need to ask yourself:
1. Are we agile? Can we quickly produce a variety of channel appropriate content? Does our content proactively support all phases of the customer buying cycle?
2. Is our content entertaining? Is our content available in several formats (video, etc.)? Does it quickly capture attention and tell a story? Does our content invite two-way conversation?
3. Is our content relevant to our audience? Does it answer their most important question, “what’s in it for me?”

It’s the age to use your social media program to make this the best of times.

Go West Digital Immigrant, Go West

Posted on June 18, 2015 at 1:34 PM Comments comments (4)
"Go West, young man" is a phrase often credited to the American author Horace Greeley concerning America's expansion westward, related to the then-popular concept of Manifest Destiny. My great grandfather traveled west to homestead on the Great Plains. That’s where my grandfather was born - in a sod cabin. I’m not old as dirt, but I am a trailing edge baby boomer with both pre-digital and digital world footprint. That makes me a “digital immigrant,” while my children, all born after 1980, are considered “digital natives.” Technology age gap or digital divide, I don’t really care what you call it, but it’s a form of segmentation that often bugs me. I suppose it’s because I disagree with the notion that, in general, digital immigrants are not supposed to find the change brought on by digital transformation natural to their life.
Sure, over 150 years ago, in the charge to go West seldom were mentioned the hardships of the climate, the isolation or the lack of conveniences seen in the populated states back east. The West tested the courage and strength of every man, woman, and child and often only the strong survived. But they did survive, and in fact they thrived. Are you a digital immigrant? Have you ventured west on the digital media trail? If you have experienced hardship on your digital journey and feel like you’re stranded, don’t despair. Here are a couple of trail markers to get you back on track.

Create a Roadmap
What’s that - you loaded up your wagon without a roadmap? You don’t like to ask for directions and decided you would just follow the first trail headed west. Well, at this point you may be retracing your steps back East to the old family farm. In many ways, executing your personal digital transformation is similar to a westward journey. A digital journey is about lifelong learning that requires a vision of what you’d like to achieve, a map, as well as some determination. Digital goals often involve different social media platforms such as, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest just to name a few. And let’s face it, the social part of the World Wide Web can feel like the Wild Wild West because the competition between those applications often goes against the pioneering spirit to work together. Adding mileage to your journey, your personal learning curve may need to include using those applications on a smart phone, tablet, and a personal computer. The challenge will be aligning your strategy across applications and devices in the limited amount of time you have budgeted each day for learning. Remember, the pioneers didn’t cross the Great Plains in one day, and you can’t learn all about social media in a one hour webinar. It’s a lifelong journey. Circle your wagons around one platform and one device; when you feel comfortable, break camp and move to the next.
Check Your Compass Regularly
A compass is an instrument for determining directions by means of a needle that indicates true north. Your digital compass or dashboard is a set of regularly tracked measures directly linked to the metrics that matter most (your true north) to your digital vision and strategy. You don’t have to measure everything and your dashboard doesn’t need to be technology based. Sure, you can use Hootsuite or some other social media dashboard application; but if you are just starting out, learning how to use another software application may just frustrate you. Measuring, analyzing and acting on your key metrics will help keep your digital journey on track.
My grandfather died before the digital age really took off. But he experienced firsthand the way transportation was changed by automobiles and air planes, how communication was changed by the telephone, and how indoor plumbing and electricity improved the comfort of our homes. He even watched a man walk on the moon. Lots of people have lived to see the before, during and after pictures of some form of industrial revolution or technology transformation. In general, it’s called progress. And progress is what makes all of us immigrants when it comes to change.

How to Use Transparency for Power

Posted on May 27, 2015 at 11:57 AM Comments comments (0)

What does “transparency” in business actually mean? A lot of material has been written on that topic over the last few years in relation to social media marketing.  Most of articles deal with transparency at the corporate branding level although some authors provide commentary around personal branding.  I’ll admit that a few of my own blog posts touch on transparency; yes, in many cases authenticity, relevance and trust are also mentioned.  One business dictionary defines transparency as a “lack of hidden agendas or conditions, accompanied by the availability of full information required for collaboration, cooperation, and collective decision making.”
If we go with that definition, what might a transparent exchange sound like?

Of course transparency doesn’t imply being rude or cutting people short.  In the example above both individuals are showing a type of transparency.  The executive is asking very direct “what and why” questions.  Yes, the example may feel a bit abrupt, but according to G. Richard Shell’s bookBargaining for Advantageyou often get more by finding out what the other person wants than you do by clever arguments supporting what you need.”  On the other hand, the sales rep is not making any attempt to find out what motivates or might inspire the executive to move forward with a meeting.  He is circling around what would be a good outcome for him.
Information about what people want is power.  Are you using transparency to gather information?  Or does your transparency represent a threat to your prospects because it’s obvious you are only considering your own needs and perceptions?