Should Social Media Marketers Give Away the Good Stuff or Get Ripped Off?

I’ve gotten burned by being a little too optimistic and open at times, especially now that I’ve been in the social media marketing business. I share the good stuff with people, and while for the most part, it pays me back in the end, there have been a couple times where I got ripped off.

Not just taken advantage of. I’ve had revenue-generating ideas stolen because I shared them too early in a negotiation process.

When I first moved to Indianapolis, I was working with a friend, Darrin, at his marketing company, and we were pitching a possible new client. As part of our pitch, I suggested that the owner start a new off-shoot company to hire entry-level employees and train them in his methods. This would end up being a feeder company for experienced employees, rather than have to scramble around at hiring time. Sort of like a minor league baseball team feeding into a major league one.No Burglars sign

It was a pretty good idea, even if I do say so myself. And I was proud of the suggestion, because the owner also seemed to like the idea, and I thought it was going to help us get the marketing contract.

Unfortunately, he never hired us. He never gave us a reason. He just took our proposal, and never returned our call, and was always “busy” when we called him. (My business partner, Paul, calls this the “Indiana No.”)

Fast forward to four years later, when I see the business owner in the newspaper for the brilliant idea “he had” for starting a smaller company for entry-level employees who later moved up to his company. It ended up being very successful company for him too.

How much did Darrin and I get for our idea?

$0.00

Not having learned our lesson that time, a few weeks later, we made another pitch to a local restaurant, including six ideas we wanted to execute for them, and one idea for a radio commercial. After submitting our official proposal, they said they weren’t interested, and kept the proposal.

A few months later when I went in to the restaurant, I saw that they were using five of our six ideas, and had used our radio commercial idea for a guest appearance on a local radio station.

How much did Darrin and I get for these ideas?

$0.00

Painful Lessons Learned

The lesson my friend and I learned in all of this? Give away the good stuff, but don’t give away the secret sauce.

It’s a shame too, because I fully believe in the Chris Brogan model of give away the good stuff. I don’t want to give away a nickel’s worth of free stuff to sell $100 worth of ideas. I want to give away hundreds of dollars of ideas to sell thousands.

Pile of $100 billsOur point was to give away some interesting ideas in the hopes that we would get hired to actually do them and get paid for it.

Did we get hired? No. Should we have gotten the contract just because we rattled off a few good ideas? Probably not.

But it seems to me that when someone pitches you an idea, and you don’t hire that person, you also should not be allowed to steal their ideas, especially when you didn’t hire anyone else to do it either. At the very least, it’s unethical, and the people who do it are skeevy.

So I’m torn. What should I do in the future?

Should I selfishly hold on to my “secret sauce” and only share the information that anyone can find in a book? I do that now when people want to “pick my brain” in exchange for buying me lunch.

Or should I give away any idea that I come up with for a potential new client in the hopes of signing them?

On the one hand, demonstrating some of our ideas could help us win a contract. On the other hand, the people we work with are smart enough to execute an idea just based on a basic two sentence explanation. If we tell them they need milk, they’ll figure out where to find a cow.

If you’re an entrepreneur, marketer, or salesperson, what do you do? Do you trust people and “share hundreds to earn thousands?” Or do you play things close to the vest and give those ideas away only when you’ve got a signed contract in hand? How would you play it?

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Attorneys Should Have Their Own Blog Content, Not Syndicated Content

Attorneys need to approach the use of syndicated blog content with care. Many times, syndicated posts are written as a one-size-fits-all approach, and you can make tweaks and changes as needed. But what if you don’t have time, or don’t know how, to make the changes? What problems could you see if you relied on syndicated content?

Here are three reasons we think attorneys should have their own blogs with their own content, instead of relying on syndicated content.

1. Syndicated content does not perform well in search.

If you buy a copy-and-paste content service, chances are it’s not going to be picked up by the search engines. That’s because Google has a “no duplicate content” rule they follow, meaning they don’t want to see a lot of websites using the same content over and over.

You may hear this described as the duplicate content penalty, but it’s not a penalty. Rather, Google just does not index the content. The Google bots see it and say, “we already saw this back at another website, so we’ll ignore this one.”

One of the primary reasons to have a blog is to rank high on the search engines, and it doesn’t make sense to pay for syndicated content if it’s not going to help you rank in the first place.

(That’s not to say that all content syndicates do this. The better ones don’t. The cheaper ones, not so much.)

2. You can localize your content.

Google is paying a lot more attention to local search, because they’re delivering local search results to their users. Check it out. Go to Google, and do a search for “Italian restaurant.” The results you’ll see will be for the city where you perform the search. That’s because Google can see where you are, and it wants to deliver the results you’ll be most interested in. If you’re in St. Louis, Google assumes you don’t care about Italian restaurants in Jacksonville, Florida, so they deliver the results you’re most likely to be interested in.

To that end, it’s more helpful to write localized articles about your areas of specialty and include your city or geographic practice area in things like the headline and body copy, so Google will know where they should have you listed.

  • Five Things to Look For In An Indianapolis Personal Injury Attorney
  • When Does a Startup Need a Chicago Intellectual Property Attorney?
  • Should I Hire a Florida Attorney to Plan My Estate?

You need to do this so when a potential client does a search online for an attorney, they find your page. Google is not going to return the best-optimized pages around the country. It’s going to show them the results from the pages in their city and/or state. If your site is properly optimized, clients will find you, not your competition.

3. Your Content Can Fit Your Readers’ Style

Syndicated blog content is written one way, and it may not be your style. But, you paid for it, so you might as well use it, right?

Wrong.

If you’re paying for it, you’re presenting your image in a style that doesn’t quite fit with you, or more importantly, may not appeal to your readers.

It’s important that you communicate with your readers in the way they want to be communicated with. And since you know your clients the best, you can best dictate the kinds of topics they want to read, the style, language, and even readability of the posts. You should even be able to decide the best keywords to write about that week or month.

Since you know your readers best, you need to create content that they will find and read, which will ultimately lead to them calling you when they need you.

Whether you write your own blog posts 2 – 3 times a week, or work with a ghost blogging service (which we recommend, given your hourly billing rates; otherwise, blogging will end up being your lowest priority), you need to have content that is geared toward your style, your geographic region, your clients, and can help you win search for your niche and your keywords.

Dear Executives, Social Media Does Not Render Your Employees Stupid

Social media does not make people stupid. It does not make them irresponsible, lazy, or unproductive. Social media will make you money, however, if you do it right.

I talk to a lot of business owners and executives who worry that if they start using social media to market their business, their employees’ productivity will plummet.

I’ve had meetings in the last two days with two different business owners. One has embraced Facebook and blogging fully, the other is worried that Facebook will hamper his employees’ ability to get work done.

The first employer urges his employees to do stuff on social media. Almost requires it. His Facebook page gets dozens of visits a day, which is awesome because they sell such a niche product, the customer base for the entire country can be measured in the thousands.

The other employer says — and rightly so — that they have so much administrative work to do around the office, he doesn’t want their Facebook efforts to distract them from getting their admin work done.

The first employer wants to know how he can do more social media marketing. The second employer wants to know the bare minimum he can get by with.

As Doug Karr says, asking what the minimum you can get by with on social media is like asking how slowly you can drive a race car.

Social Media Marketing is Not About Playing

Facebook lets me see kittehs

ZOMG! Facebook lets me play with kittehs!!

We as employers trust our employees. We trust them to answer the phones and be pleasant to everyone who calls in. We trust them to make travel to other states and make sales calls and presentations. We trust them to take payments from customers and put our money in the bank. We trust them to buy products from other companies. And we even trust them to use computers without standing over them, watching them type every email.

So what is it about social media that scares the bejeezus out of every employer and makes them think that the second they allow Facebook onto their computers, their entire workforce is going to turn into a bunch of 13-year-old girls jacked up on Red Bull and the most recent Justin Bieber sighting?

If you trust these people enough to do business in your name, collect and spend your money, and talk to your customers, then you need to trust them enough to continue to do these things while Facebook is unblocked on their computers.

If you don’t trust them, that’s your fault. If you don’t trust your employees to not screw around, you’re the problem, not Facebook. You hired the wrong people, and that’s a management issue.

Hire people who will get their work done, and make your expectations for social media usage clear from the outset. These are people who can help your company be more profitable, so why not take advantage of that?

Social Media Marketing is About Making Money

The whole reason for a business to be on social media is to make money. Period. It’s not to play Farmville on Facebook. It’s not to pin the latest novelty cake on Pinterest. It’s not to take photos of a rusted out piece of farm equipment on Instagram. It’s to find people who would be interested in buying your products or services.

Every business owner and manager is always looking for a way to make more money and be more profitable. The problem is, many of them are hampered by doing the things that don’t make them money. Doing payroll. Filing claims. Managing inventory. Filling and shipping product orders.

The problem is, payroll, paperwork, inventory, and shipping don’t make you money. Marketing makes you money. Finding new customers makes your money. If you’re a business owner, and you’re spending your valuable time doing payroll, paperwork, inventory, and shipping, instead of generating revenue, outsource them.

Hire a bookkeeping firm to manage payroll. Hire a virtual assistant to file your claims. Hire a $10 hour college student to count inventory and stick orders in boxes. The less of this non-revenue generating work you can do, the better.

Spend the newly found time pursuing new customers. Spend it on Facebook, Twitter, or writing your blog. It doesn’t take long to bring in a couple choice clients to recover the costs of having a part-time employee handle the grunt work that’s actually losing you money. Have them handle more of your non-revenue workload, and find a couple more. You can grow just by having someone else do the heavy lifting for you.

But it starts with letting go of the fear that your employees are going to be struck stupid the second you allow Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn on your company computers.

Photo credit: bjornlifoto (Flickr)

Fast Company Doesn’t Know You Can Calculate Social Media ROI

Fast Company seems to have an aversion to math or basic research. Their latest story, Does Social Media Have a Return on Investment, says that no one is able to calculate the ROI of social media, and that large brands like Audi and Home Depot are just fumbling around in the dark on determining the ROI of social media.

This is complete and utter crap.

People have been able to calculate the ROI of social media for a few years now. In fact, as Katie Paine (@kdpaine) pointed out in the comments section to this article:

This is ridiculous. Back in 2008, Wells Fargo and SAP were calculating solid ROI from social media campaigns. Social media agencies like Organic have been using sophisiticated data analytics for years to predict outcomes.  You stumbled across a few creative types that are allergic to math and haven’t a clue what data is available who don’t care about measurement or  ROI. And if they are using Klout, the really don’t care much about the accuracy either. Other marketers, the smart ones, are embracing all the data and analytics now available and providing solid ROI on a regular basis.

It’s not that hard to calculate the ROI, or to measure anything when it comes to social media. Here are the basic steps you can use to calculate even the most rudimentary ROI of a sales page:

  • Set up Google Analytics on your website. Make sure you put the code on every page.
  • Set up Google Webmaster Tools, and use their Campaign Code Creator.
  • Append any URL you tweet out or put on Facebook with the Campaign Code Creator.
  • Shorten every link you send with Bit.ly, including the campaign code, and send it out. Assign different campaign codes to different messages, tools, and campaigns.
  • Track down the visits that filtered down into visits to the sales page. Total up the sales from those visits. Cross-reference them with the contact data that came from the sales form.
  • Subtract the cost of your campaign from your sales total. That’s your ROI.

And that’s the writer’s method of dealing with ROI. There are entire suites of tools built to answer the ROI question, and professionals like Katie Paine have been doing it for years.

With thinking like this being erroneously spread by Fast Company and writer Farhad Manjoo, it’s no wonder businesses are afraid to spend money on social media. When uninformed media — who frankly should know better, or should have done some remedial research — start spreading bad information based on their own misunderstanding, it not only shows their ignorance of the industry, it spreads bad information to the rest of the business community.

Four Ways to Use Twitter as a Lead Generation Tool

Have you gotten any sales leads from Twitter? Have you ever found any opportunities, whether personally or professionally, from the micro-blogging network?

While some of the social media purists might still gnash their teeth and pound their laptops from the safety of their moms’ basements, anyone who wants to see Twitter (and other social media tools) succeed needs to show their bosses that it can generate business. If you’re in sales or marketing, here are four ways you can use Twitter as a lead generation tool.

1) Connect With People in Your Industry.

Twitter is a great way to easily get connected with people in your industry. Use tools like Twellow (for Twitter Yellow Pages) to find people in your industry, and search.twitter.com to find people talking about your industry keywords. Also try Googling a title and/or company with the words “on Twitter” in the search. So, look for VP of Creative Services on Twitter or Professional Blog Service on Twitter, and see what pops up.

If you’re a TweetDeck user or use Twitter lists, save your industry contacts into their own list, and communicate with them. By keeping them in their own list, you’re more easily able to see what they’re talking about.

2) Build Relationships.

The newbie mistake that many new Twitter marketers use is to treat Twitter like an advertising channel. That is one thing you absolutely cannot do. People don’t want you to sell to them.

Instead, establish relationships. Have conversations with them, retweet them, introduce people, share articles, ask them questions. If they’re local people, or you have a chance to attend industry conferences, connect with them in person. Meet for lunch or coffee, and create that all-important offline relationship. Then, you’re a person, not a handle. You have a face, not an avatar. By creating those relationships, you become someone they’ll trust, especially if they ever need what it is that you do.

But never, ever try to sell anything. Do that in phone calls and meetings, when the time is right, not when they start following you.

3) Establish Your Expertise.

When people have a problem, make sure they know you’re the one to solve it. Answer questions, share information, refer useful articles to them. If you write a blog (you do write a blog, don’t you?), share the useful posts with them. Ask them to comment, and leave thoughtful comments on their blog.

If you’re trying to reach people in your industry, write about topics related to that industry, especially if you can make them useful to the problems your Twitter network is having. For example, if you own a Mac repair shop, and you know a bunch of Mac-owning public speakers, and you know a lot of them are having problems dealing with the new Keynote 09 (which, irritatingly, ruined a bunch of my past slide decks. Thank God for backups), you could write a couple blog posts about how to solve that problem.

Then, forward the article on to them via Twitter or DM. They’ll see that you know your stuff (as well as theirs), and they’re more likely to call you for that problem that can’t be fixed with a few keystrokes, or explosive cursing and an external hard drive.

4) Direct or Facilitate the Conversation.

If you create the subject people are talking about, or steer people to the place where they can find answers, you are helping people figure out they may need your product or service in the first place.

The best example I can give is Apple computers. Before 2001, no one knew they needed a portable MP3 player. No one knew they needed a way to play music on anything besides a portable CD player. No one knew they needed a way to create or listen to podcasts, or that they could even learn through radio shows of random length and scheduling. Once Apple introduced the iPod, people realized they needed this device, and the industry changed.

By directing or facilitating the conversation, you can help people see the pain point they never knew they had, and they will look to you for solutions.

How do you use Twitter as a lead generation tool? Do you even do that, or do you think it’s just wrong and that people shouldn’t do it? Leave a comment, and let us hear from you.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

How To Turbocharge Your LinkedIn Profile

Web pages are useless without traffic, and the same is true about LinkedIn profiles. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for new customers, a job or just more connections, no traffic = no opportunity. Here’s a simple strategy I used to increase the traffic to my LinkedIn profile page from 3-4 people per day to 70-80 people per day (that means 27,000+ visits in a year). Feel free to make it your own:

Step 1: Figure out what your goal is with your LinkedIn Profile.

This isn’t that hard. Your LinkedIn profile is a resume with a couple of places you get to be creative, and there are really only a few practical uses for LinkedIn. Most likely your goal is one of these four: [Read more…]

I’ll Read Your Ad for $250. My New Pay-For-View Pricing

Kim Kardashian annoyed more than a few Twitter users when it was leaked that Kardashian commands $10,000 to send a promotional tweet out to her then-2.7 million followers (now 5+ million).

(Kardashian denies that she receives that much money. Rather, she says she just tweets about products she likes.)

While I don’t follow her, I’m sure that her 5 million followers (minus the ones who aren’t spam bots and people who abandoned Twitter after a month) are looking forward to reading something interesting and not very vapid or shallow. (Yeah, good luck with that.)

How disappointing is it for her fans to learn that their favorite non-celebrity celebrity is only telling you she likes her shoes because someone forked over 10 grand to say so? While marketers think a so-called celebrity’s time and endorsement are valuable, they are also showing they think my time or interest isn’t.

So I have a new offer to marketers who want me to read celebrity endorsements and social media marketing messages: I will read anyone’s tweet, watch their commercial, or read their marketing copy for a fee.

That’s right. You can pay me to absolutely look at, read, watch, and consider your product. Think of it as a personal endorsement. After all, my time is valuable. Time I could spend working or being with my family is instead interrupted by you and your spokespeople trying to get me to buy something. And I do my best to ignore it, hide from it, or block it completely. So you come up with something new and creative, which means I have to do something new and creative to avoid it.

So how about you pay me instead? If you pay me, I will read whatever you put in front of me (except for that damn Kay Jewelers ad where the brain-addled woman is afraid of a thunderstorm). Rather than spending $10K on someone who is famous without actually doing anything useful, spend the money on me, and I will read or watch to your heart’s content.

According to my new Pay-For-View pricing schedule, I will:

  • Read any celebrity advertising tweet for $75. Any non-celebrity advertising tweet is only $25. (Hey, if you’re forking out $10,000 because someone is famous, chances are I find them annoying. So the extra $50 is for the wear and tear on my soul.)
  • Visit any company website for $150, and spend 10 minutes on the site, plus additional charges for any of the following:
  • Watch any video less than 5 minutes in length for $200. For videos longer than 5 minutes, it’s an additional $75 per minute.
  • Read any marketing copy, up to 750 words in length, for $150. Since I can read 750 words faster than you can say it in a video, I’ll cut you guys a break on the cost.
  • Also, any marketing surveys, registration forms, or instances where I have to give you my personal information is $100 plus a $25 per minute processing charge (minimum 5 minutes). I had originally considered charging a flat fee per information field (i.e. mailing address, phone number, etc.), but the rate sheet ended up being three pages long and still required a lengthy explanation.

Now, these prices are actually fairly reasonable, and I feel completely justified in charging them. After all, my time and consideration are valuable. I have a job, a family, and disposable income. I’m not easily swayed by celebrity endorsements, and will go out of my way to avoid most commercials and marketing messages. In short, you’re spending all that money to get celebrities to reach me, and I’m going to support you (and them) by spending my money. The least you can do is support me for spending my time thinking about you.

Kim Kardashian may be on to something, and I have to give her credit for helping me stumble upon the idea. As a thank you, I will read her next three promotional tweets for free.

No guarantees I’m buying anything though.