Echo Chamber of One is Lame

I wrote that headline in a comment on Jayme’s blog on how to give good link love, thought it fit with this idea. And damn if she didn’t beat me to the punch with her post on amplifying the echo chamber, then Ari Herzog topped her last Thursday. (Grrr arrgh.)

Community and Sameness

Communities are great. Read the commments on posts by Ingrid Abboud, John Falchetto, Danny Brown, Mark Schaefer. Read Spin Sucks or Marcus Sheridan, Waxing Unlyrical or Margie Clayman.

The posts are often excellent and yet, merely the jumping off point for some good discussions and nice debate. I LIKE and WORD and WHAT SHE SAID all over the place. Eventually though we hit a tipping point where the discussion stops moving forward as we’re all agreeing with each other, the dissenters having left the building.

See also Kary Delaria on changes in Twitter, who got me thinking in a number of ways.

One voice X 1K followers = an echo in here?

Don’t misunderstand me I love it when I get to talk with my friends, run across a bunch of folks I know chatting it up in comments and on Twitter. And yet, if everyone is reading and sharing each others posts, isn’t that eventually going to lead to more of the same?

It’s tricky. I read about PR, social media and marketing because that’s what I do, it’s what interests me. And not to pick on Jayme again but she raises good points in efforts to push the PR envelope forward, asking if we are all talking to each other. An obvious solution is to talk to someone else.

This is a short, simple challenge (to myself as much as anyone) to fight sameness.

  • Do a search for a different topic. Go crazy, search for two different topics. I tried yesterday, once I got past the news, my boredom with Fast Company.. hard to think of other ways to search for things related to branding, small business marketing, social media without running across more posts on Google+.
  • Read different. Skip the usual suspects in the reader and Twitter feed for a few days, see what happens. Also harder than it seems – I miss my friends as there’s a reason I read them: they write good stuff.

I am trying to mix in different content, not concerned about the ‘influence’ or rank of the author. I try to read more bloggers who don’t only write about marketing and PR, social media and blogging. I’m unfollowing some to make room for more, more diversity, more originality, more of what I like and even a little of what I don’t.. to keep me honest.

 It’s the differences that can make things interesting, so this is just me.. attempting to fight sameness, whatever that means.

What are you doing differently? Any other ideas?

Photo credit: Newsvetter Gumshoo comic.

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Smart Marketing 101: Being helpful wins business

I’ve had a busy week of personal and technical difficulties, and just gotta single out a few folks. Sort of.

Real Mac Software is a smart company, and has a great community in place to offer suggestions, develop companion products. As a result they have an active user base on their forums, offering user-to-user technical support and there are many fine folks on the RapidWeaver forums, who have provided invaluable assistance over the years.
I'm more than happy to help if I get something out of it

A couple days ago one such individual (from the Netherlands!) made of awesome sauce even rolled up his sleeves, jumped right in and SOLVED MY PROBLEM. The next morning, I gave him some PayPal love, happy to do it.

Being helpful earned this guy some business.

I called a service agency yesterday and “met” the most helpful person in the world regarding my problem. She listened patiently, offered smart suggestions, even pointed out things for me to look out for as I vet her competitors. It’s personal, so I won’t give the company name or hers but I will say this: if I need her services, she is so hired.

Seriously this is how you train your employees and customer service reps:

  • Be real, listen and respond thoughtfully without the hard sell
  • Be helpful, offer worthwhile suggestions and meaningful advice
  • Be honest, be nice, give straight forward answers with professional respect

Being helpful may win this woman and her company some business.

In fact in the last 48 hours I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with a number of open, helpful people. And in a way it has me rethinking things every so slightly.

While I’ll always BOLO for the tire kickers and brain pickers, I am more than happy to discuss your public relations or marketing project with you. I had such a conversation with a nice woman a few weeks ago, and while she failed one of my qualifiers (cannot get a return email, or short RFP from her) I’m still glad I took the call.

If you need marketing communications, public relations or social media for your small business, I’m here to help.

Has being helping to others helped your business? Tell me how.

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Pimp Your Business, Atlanta

If imitation isn’t the highest form of flattery, maybe stealing is.

Danny Brown has been giving people a chance to pimp their blogs on his own site. Gini Dietrich liked this so much she “acquired” the idea herself, though she did warn Danny she would.

I am going to take it a little different. Pimp your local Atlanta business. Why?

An Experiment and a Tweet.

Experiment. Testing my SEO to see how many small businesses find the post, learning how many Atlanta area businesses find it interesting and if it’s a good idea to throw the doors open like this.

Tweet. A few days ago Mack Collier retweeted this Beth Harte gem: “The biggest mistake SM consultants make is to blog/microblog for the attention of other SM folks versus potential clients.”

It is a great reminder sometimes we forget our audiences, need to stop blogging to each other and reach out to those in the community. We need to market not only where we want our audience to be, but where our customers really are.

So go ahead small business owners. Got a business, then share:

  1. Business Name.
  2. Website URL.
  3. Blog if you have one.
  4. One Great Sentence about you and your business.

Have a business, large or small? Work in Atlanta or the Southeast? Now’s your chance for some free advertising, some link love and maybe meet a few potential clients to boot.

Oh, Spammers, you’re still getting blocked.

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Personal Service: Marketing and Public Relations Secret Weapon

For all the chatter about branding, reaching out, building relationships and making connections, I wonder how much of it really cuts through and matters to the paying customer.

Service and the X Factor

If two businesses are selling the same thing for comparable prices, what’s the difference maker?  That little something extra: an unexpected gift or special touch, Lagniappe we from Louisiana call it.

  • I don’t do fast food that often, but Chick-Fil-A (and their evil Chicken Minis) has always been one of my favorites. Chick-Fil-A may not have a dollar value menu like other fast food chains; it’s the employees that make an impression. Everyone is polite, well spoken, friendly and professional about doing their jobs.Just because it’s fast food, does not mean they cannot go above and beyond. During their Labor Day promotion last year, the service was fast, and then some: our food was delivered to our table, no waiting.

When Service gets Personal

What will make someone drive an extra five miles out of their way in Atlanta traffic (See also: the 6th circle of Hell) to go to one business vs. another? Quality, service and price certainly play their parts, but it’s the X factor.

I shop two wine stores in the Smyrna Vinings area of Atlanta. Wine-RedWhite

  • Smyrna World of Beverage. Large, varied selection with competitive pricing and solid service from owner Jay Wang.
    He makes great recommendations for affordable, second-label wines and new varietals.  More than that, Jay really likes and knows wine, and makes an effort to remember my face and my tastes when I visit.It’s a great shop just up the street, next to my local Publix and so convenient.
  • The Wine Cellars. Limited but impressive niche selection, focusing on quality wines at reasonable prices, and outstanding personal service. Owner Renee Rowe offers free wine tastings some days to give her customers a chance to try before they buy.Going a step further, Renee is developing relationships beyond the store. The other day she emailed me to let me know a couple of my favorite labels were back in stock. A simple example of personal service that will get me in my car, making more trips to see her…and spending more money in her store.

For small businesses in a harsh reality of price squeezes from big chains and competition from the Internet, the little things–the personal touch with a quick, easy and free email–make the biggest difference.

What’s your favorite example of personal service that keeps you going back for more?

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In Public Relations and Social Media: Gotta Watch The Blind Side

Caught the very good The Blind Side the other night, and looking forward to seeing it again. A true-life story as only Hollywood can do, The Blind Side is a movie about a kid with nothing who, with a lot of hard work and a little help from people in his community, achieved success.

Think about social media: community, crowd sourcing, public relations, protecting the brand, connecting with people, and most of all, giving and sharing of yourself and your ideas. Generosity leads to success.  the_blind_side06

In the movie a football coach persuaded his private school employers to give “Big Mike” Oher a chance in the hope that one day, he’d get a ball player in return. At first, Michael struggled. But then he got noticed. First to spot him was Mrs. Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), who took him home to live with her family. Second to catch on were his teachers.

Social media is about connecting with the real lives of people. Do you follow the same sports teams, like wine, have similar hobbies, go to the same restaurants? The more you know about someone, the better you can help them.

As they got to know him, Michael’s teachers began to realize he was learning…just not in the traditional ways. Instead of forcing their pigeonhole state mandated guidelines, they taught and tested him in a way that fit his style. Soon he began writing and testing well enough to play football. When Michael got off to a slow start at football practice, Sandra Bullock lectured the coach as only a pushy parent can do, “You got to learn something about your players.”

In public relations, you do not pitch blind. You read the blogs, the stories, the Twitter profiles; you follow and comment and learn the writer’s audience and interests, you connect. It’s about giving a reporter what they need to do their story, not just getting them to write yours.

<b>The real Michael Oher with Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy</b>

The real Michael Oher with Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy

Michael Oher is a left tackle, an offensive lineman responsible for protecting the quarterback and running back, a pivotal position. Public Relations and Social Media Managers, that’s what they do: they listen, monitor traffic, watch for opportunities to promote the brand (skillfully done by Michael’s little brother), and when necessary, protect the brand and its blind side.

The more successful Oher and the football team, the more connected to his schoolmates and community. The Tuohy family, the school and the community gave Michael Oher a home, an education and opportunity. If you see the movie, you will see how much he gave them right back.

In social media we share our ideas and expertise, in the hope that it will help the community, which in return, helps us. We learn what else is out there, see things in new ways, we learn how to give back, and how to watch the blind side.

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