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August Network and Lunch Report

What interesting conversations we had at today’s Network and Lunch get-together.  As you know, every month I organize a Network and Lunch event at a different location in the Washington, DC area.  Today, we met at the Silver Diner in Falls Church, Virginia.

In addition to me and David (and my son William), we also had return attendee and fellow communicator Leah Ibrahim with us, who consults on social media strategy for Pew Charitable Trusts.  We were joined by new friends Divina Rutherford, senior account executive with Sage Payment Solutions, and James Perkins, co-owner of MotoHaven, a business that teaches people how to ride motorcycles safely.

Everyone had something interesting to share today.  Divina works with local businesses and nonprofits on technological solutions for processing payments and accounting.  She set the Girl Scouts of Northern Virginia up with a smart phone compatible system (see photo), so they can take credit card payments as they sell door-to-door.  Her company also manages e-commerce solutions for business websites.

James answered our many curious questions about what it was like teaching people how to ride motorcycles.  His business is doing very well with customers coming from all over the DC area to his Fredericksburg, Virginia location.  One of the ways he reaches customers is through his company’s Facebook Page.

Speaking of Facebook, Leah shared some really helpful tips about Facebook.  She has good experience with using sponsored stories on Facebook with her clients.  This pay advertising option significantly raises the visibility of a selected Page update in newsfeeds, and you can target who sees them by location, age, interests, and many other attributes.  She also mentioned that you can raise awareness on Facebook by creating Facebook ads on birthdays.  Read her blog post for more details on that tactic.

Of course, the food was great.  I enjoyed the lunch a lot and I really appreciate people making time in their day to join us.

Come to the Network and Lunch Event in September!

Our next Network and Lunch event will be at Whitlow’s on Wilson (Arlington, Virginia) on Monday, September 17 .  Register today and join us for conversation and delicious food.  It’s free — just pay for your own lunch and help out with the tip.  See you then!

Tips for creating an attention-getting online profile

As you may know, online profiles appear in a number of social media platforms and online directories: Google+, blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp, Twitter, Flickr,and YouTube, for example.  Here are my tips for crafting a brand-building online profile.

1. Write for your customers.

Online profiles give you a limited amount of text space to describe yourself, or your company.  This is valuable real estate, so think about how it might appear in search engine results, i.e., use keywords.  When composing your company or personal description, think about what differentiates you from others, or your company from other companies.  One tip for profiles is to write from your customer’s perspective. Think, “If I were my customer, why would I want to read this, and what benefit would it offer me? What problem will knowing more about this company help solve for me?”

2. Tone down the superlatives

I read a lot of online profiles that make me wince.  It does not build credibility to call yourself a rock star or a diva, or what have you. Don’t use promotional language, unless you have something external to back up your claim.  Just be matter-of-fact — that’s believable.  For example, on my Twitter account, I do not identify Fletcher Prince as a top PR agency, but rather as a Washington Business Journal top PR agency.  See the difference?

3. Include details, like location. Details build trust.

The more specific and transparent you are on your online profile, the more trust and interest you will build for your expertise or for your company.

Your profile should also clearly indicate the location of your company (or self).  Social media is global.  So don’t make people guess if you are from the U.S. or the U.K. Make sure you include a reference to your city, if you want leads.   Here’s an example:

“Carousel30 is a full-service Digital Agency with national clients based in historic Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.”

Perfect. The Twitter profile description says what they do and where they are located, but it makes it clear that they work for clients nationwide.

4. Build in a call-to-action.

Why are you online?  What do you want people to do?  Put it out there!  And if you’re short on space, then at least include a website link.  Then your URL is your CTA.  The URL can be your website address, blog address, or Facebook Page.  I also try to include my phone number on my online profiles, when space allows.

5. Don’t include distractions

What you probably don’t need in your profile description: a disclaimer stating that tweets represent your own opinions.  Whose else would they be?  Are you truly afraid of getting sued?  As long as you add #client or #ad to tweets that represent a paid relationship, you don’t need to take up valuable real estate on your profile with what is really a negative statement.

6. Be personal…but not TOO personal

Many people add a little interesting tidbit in an attempt to make their profiles memorable.  If you choose to do this, then think carefully about what you include in your profile.  For example, one online profile says the person likes chocolate.  Well, very few people don’t like chocolate.  So think of something that really says something about you.

Another Twitter profile I saw today was a bit too revealing: she said was into cocaine and a particular sexual practice.  The reason why I saw her post is that she was inquiring with an acquaintance about a job in public relations with her firm.  Even worse, the acquaintance replied that the job was available.  Seriously.  I am not making that up.  So, watch what you put in those profiles.  And don’t tweet back to just anybody.

7. Maximize the visual impact.

As you may know, people scan content they view online.  Looks matter (when it comes to branding) and recognition builds trust.  When you think about how your profile appears, it’s important to take advantage of the branding and recognition opportunities.

Every profile should have a logo (if it is for your company) or a high quality photograph, if it is for yourself.  Most social media sites display a square profile image, but not every logo is designed to be square.  Guess what?  This means you need a special logo, just for social media.  There is no getting around this branding requirement — attempt to make a rectangular logo in the square space, and your company will just look unprofessional.

Add all the images you can. If you can upload more photos to the profile (as you may do on Google+ and Yelp, for example) take advantage of that potential by showing off images of your employees, company headquarters, products, or portfolio examples.  Most sites permit video now, so include at least one short online video.

So, those are my recommendations for today.  What other ways have you found to customize and brand your social media profiles?  Leave your suggestions in the comments.

For Your Editorial Calendar: May Engagement Ideas PLUS Hashtags

Tuesday, May 1: Today is May Day, a traditional spring holiday.

Wednesday, May 2: DC Social Madness Happy Hour at 5 pm, Asia Cafe, Arlington, VA, featuring special guests Elizabeth Shea (SpeakerBox) and Shashi Bellamkonda. Free.  Use hashtag #DCSocialMadness. Sponsored by Washington Business Journal.

Thursday, May 3: Newsweek reporter and McLaughlin Group panelist Eleanor Clift is the guest speaker at the IPRA luncheon today.  Follow @EleanorClift on Twitter.

Friday, May 4: Nationals General Manager/Vice President Michael Rizzo will discuss the baseball season at a National Press Club luncheon today ($37).  Follow the Washington Nationals on Twitter @Nationals and use hashtag #Nats.

Friday, May 4: Happy Birthday, Fletcher Prince client Jennifer Reising!  Follow @JenniferReising on Twitter.

Friday, Saturday May 4-5:  A vintage carousel, live entertainment, and of course, flowers for sale at the free National Cathedral Flower Mart.  Follow @WNCathedral on Twitter.

Saturday, May 5: Cinco de Mayo. Join the celebration on the National Mall from 12 to 6 p.m.

Saturday, May 5: The American Visionary Art Museum‘s annual Kinetic Sculpture Race in Baltimore was voted the #1 free Weird and Wacky Event by National Geographic.  If you have not seen it, you must go.  Follow @TheAVAM on Twitter

Tuesday, May 8: Happy Birthday to Fletcher Prince client Sandra Remey!  Follow Remey Communications @RemeyComms on Twitter.

Saturday, May 12: Celebrate National Train Day at Union Station.  Follow @natltrainday on Twitter and use hashtag #NTD12

Saturday, May 12: Today is the 6th annual European Union Embassies’ Open House.  It’s crowded but fun.  Follow @EUintheUS on Twitter.

Sunday, May 13: It’s Mother’s Day.  Publicize how your business is family-friendly.  Follow your mom on Twitter!  Give away a bouquet of flowers to a mom fan on Facebook. Use hashtag #MothersDay

Monday, May 14: Happy Birthday, Mark Zuckerberg!  The Facebook founder is 28 today.  Subscribe to Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook.

Tuesday, May 15: Join your Fletcher Prince friends for our May Network-and-Lunch event, this month at Pilin Thai in Falls Church, 12 Noon.  Follow @FletcherPrince on Twitter.

Thursday, May 17: The Social Media Club of DC presents a panel discussion on social media and political campaigns 6 pm at Policy Restaurant, Washington, DC ($5). Follow @SMCDC

Saturday May 19: The free Andrews Air Show is today.  Follow @AndrewsAirShow on Twitter and use hashtag #andrewsairshow.

Monday, May 21 – Wednesday, May 23: Meet Gary Vaynerchuk, James Carville, and others at America’s Small Business Summit, U.S. Chamber of Congress.  Follow @uschamber on Twitter and use hashtag #ASBS

Monday, May 28: It’s Memorial Day, and a federal holiday.  Follow Veterans Affairs on Twitter @DeptVetAffairs and use hashtags #memorialday and #thankavet

Thursday, May 31: New to fundraising? Representatives of nonprofit organizations are invited to a class on how to obtain grants, sponsored by The Foundation Center.  Follow @GrantSpace on Twitter and use hashtags #fundraising #fndcenter

Thursday, May 31: Artomatic: The Overload of Social Media Marketing, 7 pm in Arlington, VA.  Free.  Follow @artomatic on Twitter.

Read the 2012 Digital Marketer Benchmark and Trend Report

Experian Marketing Services, a provider of data, analytics and marketing technologies, today announced the release of the 2012 Digital Marketer: Benchmark and Trend Report.  The 128-page report provides data pertinent to consumer and technology trends, as well as insights on email marketing, mobile, and social media.

Not surprisingly, nearly half of marketers (46%) in the study say that coordinating all these channels is their biggest challenge.

Other findings:

• 91% of adults online use social media regularly.
• Revenue per email averages two times higher for “friends and family” campaigns.
• 28% of smartphone owners watch videos on their phones in a typical month.
Pinterest is now the third most popular social networking site, after Facebook and Twitter.
• 92% percent of businesses feel their contact data is inaccurate in some way.

Download the free report here: http://press.experian.com/United-States/Press-Release/experian-marketing-services-releases-2012-digital-marketer.aspx

Design challenge: Facebook Timeline Cover Images

The profile image/logo has a prominent placement within the Timeline cover image.  As we design branded Covers, we find it is best to work with the profile image rather than fight with it.

This reminds me of a time I was watching my dad finish a painting.  He was getting ready to put in his signature.  I asked him if he always put it in the same place.  He said, no, you have to find a “home” for the signature in the painting.  So the size, location, and color of the signature would vary from painting to painting.

I was thinking about this in relation to the Timelines Cover images.  The profile image really needs to have a “home” within the Cover image.

In this example for Rink Strategic Communications, the colors of the image work with the logo. For example, the black in Susan’s camisole anchors with the black in her logo — it also calls attention to her as the important person in the photograph (besides the fact that she is in the center :)

Could a tagline have also been included here in the Cover?  Maybe, but I think the text would have been too busy and would have competed with the R.  What you want for many Facebook Cover images is a compelling photograph or design that complements the profile image.  With Facebook Timeline Covers, you have to know when to walk away.

When planning the Timeline image for other clients, I also look at the Cover in terms of balance and composition.  For example, there is a good space in the upper right corner.  You don’t want to crowd the left side too much, since the profile picture is there.

That is the approach we took with this design for the Keenan PR Facebook Page.  This is basically a banner ad she already (created by another designer) that she liked that we reworked for her as a Timeline Cover.

We flipped the image so the Silver Anvil award is on the right, and we moved the text and changed the font.  So, the result is a more balanced composition that works with her logo, which is her profile image.  See how the logo points at the message and the award? Cool, huh?  That was almost accidental :)

This is also a good example (we didn’t design) from Constant Contact UK that gives the profile image a “home” in the Timeline Cover and makes good use of that upper right corner/sweet spot… You can tell this image was designed expressly for Facebook.

There is also a really nice flow, composition, and a great match between the Cover image and the profile image in this example from Manchester United (we did not design this one, either).

Look, by contrast, at this one from the New York Times. I suppose with that red staircase that it’s an interesting photograph.  But does it make a good Timeline image?  In my opinion, no.  Nothing about the image communicates anything about the attributes (or a single attribute) of the New York Times (other than they have a lot of employees and a really cool staircase).  It’s not memorable.  It doesn’t play nicely with the profile image. I think they should give this one another shot….

Facebook is a fun and friendly environment, and it has a certain cool factor.  Being overly corporate on Facebook would be a mistake just as it would be a mistake to use business jargon at a backyard barbecue.  Brands have a real opportunity with these Facebook Page Timeline Covers.  It’s worthwhile to design them well — to delight the viewer, as well as convey a message.

Time to Update Your Facebook Page with a New Cover

Remember back in September when I blogged that Facebook would most likely shift Pages to the Timelines format?  Well, that day is here.  You can implement the changes right now, or spend the next few weeks getting ready for them, because the changes will go into effect for all Pages on March 30, 2012.

To illustrate, here is what the Fletcher Prince Facebook Page looked like before the changes:

Fletcher Prince Facebook Page -- Former Layout

And here is the Fletcher Prince Facebook Page after the changes that will take place for all Pages on March 30 (you can go ahead and change your Page now).

Fletcher Prince Facebook Page with the new Cover image

Are you ready?  The main thing you are going to need right away is a branded Cover.  You have a month to work with, and we are ready to help you.  Depending on the complexity of your design, we can create a new Page Cover image for your Facebook Page for about $125 to $375, estimated.

The new Page format is visual and wide.  The look of your page will change.  Photos will be getting top billing, by default, and as you may know, photos are what get engagement on Facebook Pages. The photo that is featured on your Page front is the most recent photo you posted on your wall, in landscape format.  So that is something to consider.

The first two “tabs” you have on your Page will be featured most prominently with thumbnails, and the rest of your links will have a click through, so pick the two tabs you like best and move them to the top of the list of your tabs.

Facebook Restrictions about Page Covers

There are some restrictions from Facebook about the Cover image. You may not put a call to action in the Cover image — you cannot say or suggest someone “like” the Page or share the Page.  Facebook specifically restricts this.  You cannot include price or purchase information, or any kind of promotional wording.

Choose a Cover image — or have us create one for you, because we would love to do that! — that is a creative and original photograph that sums up what your Page is about.  For example, if you were a realtor, it might be an image of homes.  If your Page was for a restaurant, it might be some menu items or the restaurant interior.  If your Page is for a product, it might be an image of people using your product.

While you don’t want to get overly promotional, there’s no rule that says you can’t change your Cover from time to time.  So, think about seasonal and holiday versions of your Covers, if that is appropriate for your brand.  We will offer that design service for Page owners who would like that option.

Please contact us to update your Facebook Page Cover Image, and your client’s Facebook Pages.  And remember: we also create branded Google + Page banner images, LinkedIn Business Profile banner images, new YouTube layout graphics, blog headers, Twitter profiles, and more.  We can create a whole suite of branded social media images for you.

The latest social media trends — findings from comScore report

Image representing comScore as depicted in Cru...

 

 

comScore released the 2012 U.S. Digital Future in Focus report today.   Here are some key findings about social media trends you’ll want to know about –

 

  • More minutes were spent on Facebook than any other place online in 2011.  Time spent on social networks accounts for 16.6% of all minutes spent online.
  • Online video viewing increased 43% among Americans in 2011. More than 100 million Americans watched online video content on an average day.
  • By the end of last year, 8% of all digital traffic was accessed via smartphones or tablets (like the iPad).  The majority of mobile phone owners went online with their phone.
  • U.S. retail and travel-related e-commerce increased 12% last year, to $256 billion in 2011.
  • The search engine Bing surpassed Yahoo for the first time in its history, snagging the #2 position behind Google in the U.S. search market.  Bing has a social search partnership with Facebook.

 

 

 

Your Marketing Strategy for 2012: 5 Ways to Improve Your Public Relations Capabilities

Photo by Jerry Silfwer

Would you like to improve your public relations capabilities in the new year?  Is that a goal for you?  Here are some free online resources for you to check out.

If you find these resources helpful, do us a favor and please tweet this post!

1. Write Better RFPs

Need to hire a public relations firm?  The next time you gear up to prepare a Request For Proposals (RFP), check out this free online resource, RFP Builder, with tools that walk you through the RFP process.

2. Power Up Your Press Releases

If you are using a service to distribute your press releases, you may be confounded about which one to select.  Download this Press Release Buyers Guide from Bulldog Reporter.

3. Refresh Your Basic PR Skills

Sharpen your public relations skills.  Download the free PRSA APR Study Guide.

4. Measure the Results of Your PR Efforts

Measure the results of your public relations efforts.  Here is a comprehensive Communications measurement guide.  Be sure to review the 2011 Barcelona Principles.

5. Master Social Media

You already use social media for networking and engagement.  Now learn how to use social media in your public relations effortsDownload this HubSpot ebook.

Review and refine your corporate social media policy regularly.  Here are more than 150 real-life social media policies to guide you.  Don’t forget the employee training component.  For more social media in the workplace guidelines, read these posts on the Fletcher Prince Blog.

Engage your supporters on Facebook.  Read these Facebook Pages guides and tips.  There are links here to guides for businesses, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, police departments, the military, and more.

Make sure you taking full advantage of YouTube.  Download the free YouTube HandbookWe also have a YouTube tips section on the Fletcher Prince blog; that is another resource for you.

Want to use Google+ effectively?  Watch this video from Chris Brogan on using Google+ for business.

Your Marketing Strategy for 2012: How Much? How Often?

Every marketing scenario is different but it can be helpful to have some “frequency” rules of thumb that you can consider and adjust for your needs.

  • Blog Posts: Once per week, or more frequently.  No less than 12 per year (once per month).
  • YouTube Videos: One per month, or more frequently.  No less than 6 per year (every other month).
  • Facebook Page Updates: Monitor daily and update once or twice a day, max.  Try every other day.  Schedule updates during evening hours and on weekends and holidays.
  • Twitter Updates: Monitor daily and update one to five times a day (space tweets an hour apart).  Suspend unrelated tweets during emergencies and disasters, breaking news events.
  • Email Communications: One newsletter and one announcement/postcard per month, or no fewer than 6 email communications per year (every other month).
  • Radio Advertising: Read this blog post on frequency and effectiveness and consult your ad rep.
  • Newspaper Advertising: Run at least 6-8 display ad insertions, at minimum, over a 2 month period, and measure results. Consider weekly ads, and consult your ad rep.
  • Postcard Mailings: Tie to events, which you may have every 4-6 weeks, for example.

Write an informal annual report for your business this year

Publicly traded companies and nonprofit organizations write and distribute annual reports to stakeholders and interested parties, but those are not the kinds I am talking about here.

I’m talking about an informal annual report for you — or your business.  It could be a blog post or an internal document.  It’s simply a chronicle of achievements and activities from the past year.  It can be a document you either develop on your own, or in conjunction with your partners and staff.  This “annual report” is a tool for looking at how far you have come, and for deciding what goals to set in the future.

Do you take the time to do that now?  If not, why not try it this year?  Your effort does not have to be elaborate.   I have written an “annual report” and published them on this blog every year that I have been in business.  The 2011 report will be published next week.  It’s my way of celebrating the progress of my company, and being transparent about our business operations.  Also, all year long, I know I am going to write this annual report.  So I am very good at taking pictures and documenting our successes throughout the year.

How to Write Your “Annual Report”

There is no right or wrong way to write your company annual report for the purposes I am talking about.  The only wrong way would be not to write and save anything at all.  It really is fun and a feel-good activity.  Here is how I do it.

Client Work

I review the past year’s projects and billings.  I look for patterns, then I report on our business activities.  I talk about the kinds of projects we worked on, and I mention current and new clients.

Acknowledgements and Thanks

The “annual report” is a perfect way to say thank you to all the people who keep your business going: from employees to partners, from vendors to referrers.  And don’t forget to thank your clients, of course!  We also thank our supporters in social media — including our blog subscribers, video viewers, Facebook friends, and Twitter followers.  Expressing gratitude should be a regular part of your marketing outreach and business operations.

Pro Bono Work, Donations, Mentoring, Community Service, Committee Work, and Corporate Volunteerism

You will probably be surprised, as I am each year, at how much you contribute to your profession and your community.  Document that service!  It’s important.

Professional Affiliations and Development

Staying connected and current is good business hygiene.  Those benefits trickle down to our clients.  So we make a point of identifying how we kept our skills sharp and networked.

Speaking Engagements, Recognition, and Awards

Crow a little bit at the end of the year.  I do!  You’re entitled!  All year long, I know I am going to mention recognition and speaking engagements in my annual report, and it keeps me motivated to make my best effort.

Add whatever feels right to you.  And if you can publish it, so much the better!  It keeps you accountable for making your best effort.  Good luck, and let me know if you decide to try it this year.

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