Tech Terms are Prevalent but Still Misunderstood

January 27, 2014

Every company and every industry has its own ubiquitous acronyms and terms, some of which cross over into other arenas. Information technology is one of the few industries that seeps or creeps into most, if not all, organizations regardless of industry, as well as into our personal lives. Fifteen years ago, I wrote a user manual for my colleagues, explaining new technology. Chapters included:

“What is the world wide web?”

“What is e-mail?”

“How to use e-mail.”

Of course at that time we all had analog mobile phones, which seemingly weighed about 5 pounds.

In the last five years or so, social media has become pervasive. During that time period, I spent countless hours defining social media, explaining its uses, and simplifying its purpose for both colleagues and friends. Texting (in the personal arena) and Twitter (in the personal and business arenas) have been the most confounding across the board. For example:

“What is texting? And why are all the kids using it?”

“I don’t get Twitter. It doesn’t make any sense.”

“I don’t like Twitter because I don’t want to be limited in how many words I can use.” (This one always makes me laugh. Most people would be surprised at how much you can convey using only a few words.)

Three or four years ago, I entered the world of SEO and SEM. At that time, these terms were fairly common, especially SEO, but only amongst the techies. The use of either of those terms outside of technology circles would prompt confused looks and raised eyebrows. No one else knew those acronyms stood for Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing, or even if they did hear or know the full terms, they weren’t the least bit interested.

Now, SEO and SEM are the new keywords; their mention becoming more and more prevalent in business marketing conversations. Business owners and executives know that these processes, if implemented correctly, can help grow their company. However, the use of SEO and SEM is much more complex than simply using keywords, counting views or click-throughs, or looking at your search engine ranking. Yes, all these elements are important to measure, but the latter two are merely basic indicators as to whether additional analysis, testing, and marketing is necessary.

In talking recently with marketing executives at a large national corporation about this topic, I was confused as to why we seemed to be in disagreement. Finally it dawned on me that they were talking basic SEO, as outlined above, while I was assuming they were well beyond that and I was talking about conversion rates and competitors. This illustrates that while these terms may be going mainstream, there still exists much confusion and misinformation.

I’m tracking this with enthusiasm to see where the trend takes us. As a professional communicator with a lifelong love of technology, I can’t wait to see what’s next.


A Simple Social Media Strategy

January 24, 2013

What is your social media strategy? Do you have a social media strategy? And is it working?

My last post addressed the growing popularity of Twitter and the need to determine which social media applications may be right for your company. However, for those relatively unfamiliar with the social media landscape, the idea of online marketing can be somewhat daunting.

Perhaps you’ve started a blog and don’t have any comments. Or you have a Twitter handle but no one is following you. Most likely, you told your colleagues and friends about your online presence and asked them to follow you, so you do have a handful of followers. Now what?

Put yourself in the mindset of your customers. Why are they interested in your company/products/services? What will draw them in? What will retain their attention?

Blog. Post. Tweet.

Engage. Interact. Network. Join.

First, provide information in your area of expertise.  For example, if your business is home restoration, outline steps for consumers to take when a disaster occurs. A financial services company can provide tips for retirement planning. A massage business might focus on the benefits of drinking water.

Once you determine what type of information to present, think about your tone. Social media tends to be more informal than business writing, so you want to sound knowledgeable, yet friendly and helpful.

Ask questions, offer contests and deals, provide open-ended discussion points, ask your customers about their experience(s) with your organization and what you can do to improve — all in an attempt to ENGAGE your customers. The key is interaction. People become more engaged when they can voice their opinion or offer information in return – when they feel they are being heard. The days of presenting your information to customers in a vacuum are long gone.

Join groups, post comments on other blogs, participate in discussions, and become a part of your online industry community. Follow people on Twitter and FaceBook who may be interested in your products/services. They all won’t follow you back, but many of them will.

Lastly, integrate your online efforts with your other marketing – publications, advertising, media outreach etc.

The bottom line is this: Your online interaction is directly proportional to the amount of success you will experience with online marketing efforts.

 


Are You Still Behind if You Don’t Tweet?

September 4, 2012

If you feel like your company is behind everyone else in utilizing technology, you’re not alone, and chances are you’re not as behind as you think.

Twenty years ago, it seemed as if every company but mine had a web site. So I created one. From the kudos I received, I realized we were right in the flow, we weren’t behind at all, that was just my perception. When I publicized the new web site, I unintentionally perpetuated the notion that EVERYONE (except you) had a web site.

Now the onus has shifted to Twitter. So many people tell me they don’t like Twitter, don’t understand it, and even think it’s stupid, but they know they need to get their company on there, because EVERYONE tweets except them.  You are not the exception, although in another year or two, you likely will be if Twitter sticks around. (Some people will disagree with that last statement and insist that you ARE way behind, and they’re entitled to their opinion; I just don’t agree with that yet.)

So figure it out. Dig into Twitter and start using it. Take a class. Do research. Ask other people how it works. I began using it simply because I didn’t understand it and wanted to know what it was all about and why it was becoming so popular. To my amazement, I became a big fan.

I offer the same advice for all the other innovations out there, way too numerous to name here. I started to list some but then realized it would be impossible to list everything and I’d likely leave some out – like the one that just launched yesterday that I haven’t heard about yet. Don’t forget about the industry-specific applications and groups either.

As you integrate Twitter, FaceBook, a blog, other applications and social media into your company’s communications, remember that integrate is the key word. Your communications vehicles, modes, programs, plans – whatever you call them – should all work together. Your publications, press releases, web site, blog, speeches, Twitter and FaceBook accounts, keywords, conventions, events, outreach, etc. should be publicizing a consistent message or messages. They should reflect your company’s philosophies and goals, and enhance your reputation. They should be integrated throughout the company programs, so every employee and every endeavor is aligned.

This is a really exciting time for those of us in the marketing/communications field. After all, effective communication is all about building relationships, and there are more ways to do that than ever before.


The Grammar Battle

August 13, 2012

I bought my smart phone about a year and a half ago and swore I’d never adopt the abbreviations and made up words that are becoming so prevalent. As a writer, grammar is of utmost importance to me. Typos and misspellings make me crazy. Well, it took about two months of texting before I gave in to the shortened lingo. It’s just so much easier and faster to type LOL, OMG, what r u doing 2nite…

That said, there continues to be a debate (at least among certain age groups) about how we are losing our grammatical and communication skills. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but our modes and means of communicating are certainly changing. I do know that if you’re online at all, there’s a new kind of peer pressure to accept this new kind of “grammar”.

Some days I like it, some days I don’t. However, I have brought my grammatical pet peeves with me to the online world, and outline some of them here. Unfortunately, I now see/hear these in the written word as well as on TV and radio commercials, which makes me think that proper grammar is becoming extinct.

*It’s. Contraction. Stands for “it is”. It is blue. It’s blue.

*Its. It is a pronoun and replaces a noun. What is its name? Its name is irrelevant.

*There. Adverb, adjective, noun or pronoun. Denotes space. There you are. He went over there.

*Their. Pronoun. Possessive. Where is their car? Who are their relatives?

*That v. Which

If you can drop the clause without changing the meaning of the sentence, use which and set it off with commas. If dropping the clause changes the meaning of the sentence, use that.

Pizza that’s less than an inch deep just isn’t Chicago-style.

Pizza, which is a favorite among Chicagoans, can either bad for you or good, depending on how much of it you eat.

If you remove “that’s less than an inch deep” from the first sentence, it becomes inaccurate. If, however, you take out the clause “which is a favorite among Chicagoans” from the second sentence, it still makes sense.

(Example from the Chicago Manual of Style)

Last but not least, could we please remove the words “like” and “you know” from our vocabulary? You know, like, that makes me crazy.


Build Communities Online and Off-line for Successful Public Affairs

May 16, 2011

Communities. Interactions. Relationships. These are the basic tenets of social media.

These are also the basic tenets of a good public affairs plan. Are you implementing these strategies in all your company communications? You should be.

Once you define your message(s) and your target audience(s), you need to build relationships and create communities. It’s easier than ever to do this through social media. But don’t forget about more traditional communications methods like a phone call and an in-person interaction.

Building relationships has always been the key to a successful public affairs program. I’ve never understood the reasoning behind sending out masses of press releases and hoping for some coverage. Instead, I’ve always called, faxed or visited journalists, and set myself and my staff up as resources. Then, when I’m looking for coverage of something in particular, I can contact the journalists I already know. This strategy has always worked.

To understand customers’ needs, we used to conduct surveys and hold focus groups, not to mention simply picking up the phone. I’ve never assumed to know exactly what customers want, without using tools like this.

Then along came e-mail and web sites – much easier ways to communicate with journalists and customers. Now, I can e-mail, blog, text, or comment, in addition to calls or visits.

The advent of e-mail, websites and the subsequent online communities, such as FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube, has made this process much easier. It has also propelled the idea of building communities to the forefront of companies’ communications plans.

It’s about time. I’ve been spouting this philosophy for years, much to the consternation of some former bosses and colleagues. Perhaps now they get it.


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