The key to pushing social media jobs is teaching businesses how they can use social media to make money.
So take a crack at it.
Thoughts? Suggestions? Write a good one, and we'll publish it across several networks. Be sure to leave contact information if you're a consultant or want to get hired.
Update: Feel free to promote your business and contact info at the bottom of your post. But only if it's good. Spammers get deleted without warning. What Nathan did is A+ material, but I'll leaving anything that's at least a gentleman's C up.
I think I went a little overboard....but I had fun doing it.
Who doesn't love food? I love great food, so I'll take a jab at catering. I would suggest "A passion for delightful food" or "delightful catering" as the core name or branding. I assumed the caterer was in Chicago for the sake of simplicity:
Blog + Flickr + Facebook + Ning
• Blog would look and feel like a photoblog, but with comments.
• Visually explosive: Probably would hire someone to take awesome photos of food and people eating the food at one event to ensure the photos were available and very professional.
• These photos would also go in a flickr photo stream which would be linked to a widget on the blog
• Consider collaborating with a photographer on the blog and even events to avoid $200-300 event photography fee.
• Amazing wedding pictures if possible as well as other event pictures (ie user created content) This would also help with search engine optimization without too much work.
• Interviewing event planners and wedding planners on the blog.
• Also before events like weddings could get the "wedding story" and post it on the blog after the event. With the right funny and quirky questions this could be great.
7 Other Fantastic Blog Topics for the Social Media Connected Caterer
• 10 Great foods for health
• 7 Tips for wedding planning in Chicago
• 7 Tips for event planning in Chicago
• A buyers guide to catering
• New food experiments and product offerings on the blog
• Blogging about reality food shows--perhaps even reproducing some of the food and blogging about it.
• Food branding. How does great food make a fantastic event.
• The history of ethnic food or particular food traditions or the locale.
• Their passion for food and particular varieties and specialties.
• How they got into catering
• Perhaps blog about the connection of Chicago to food
• Could include blogging about various Chicago events and celebrities (although the caterer would have more than enough to blog about already with only event, wedding, and food/catering related content)
• The goal is to have 6 or more pieces of flagship content that users could help make event and catering decisions and might even link to.
• Example menus and perhaps dream menus.
• Could have Threadless like voting on user generated content like "my dream menu(s)" or "my dream wedding menu" The winner(s) would receive free entry to the real world tasting events.
The core focus of the blog: Food + Fabulous Events + Passion + Fun
Other Social Media Marketing Splashes • Social Networking Groups:Facebook fan page of past clients and event planners who have used you.
• Social networking Community: Ning community for "Chicago event and wedding planners" or perhaps "Chitown wedding and event planners" There is the option to create a Linked in Group of event planners in--this would be a great way to connect with all the event and wedding planners in the area who were online.
• Widgets + Syndication:Blog feed and Flickr feed would be on the Ning community in widget form. Ability to share food recipes and event planning tips in the Forums.
• Influential Engagement: Beyond the interview and real world events, i would of course have them check out influentials via Alltop and Technorati in addition to tracking news via Google reader, Google Alerts, and/or Filtrbox.
• Social Media Link bait and List Bait: Everybody who joins the Ning community or the RSS feed (which would be available via email and mobile) gets 12 free recipes in e-book form. Alternative, could get top 12 event planning tips or wedding planning tips.
• Public relations/traditional media: Offer to do a tasting for the local midday show on all the television networks.
• Online PR Tactics and Strategy: Release about upcoming events as well as the special tasting events. Also releases about the caterer using social media. Food meets high technology. Could talk about social capital, citizen journalism, food reality shows, american dietary habits or local social media events as a hook.
• Real World Events and Networking: There's nothing like bringing the social media application into the real world. Host tastings and own events in conjunction with winery or other event planning professionals. This might be a great opportunity to get reviews and testimonials about the food.
• Real World Events and Networking: The home run may be catering part or all of a social media event like Podcamp or Barcamp. If you only did the dessert and it was amazing and people knew it was your company, that could be a big win. Offer the ability to review food on your blog.
• Tracking Return on Investment: An online only coupon to track web conversions.
• Contest Marketing Splash: A weekly new recipe to try and for the audience to create and review. Best review gets a free e-book cookbook.
• User Created Content: Half user created recipe book. A contest or nonprofit tie in surrounding it. This is a way to literally "kick it up a notch."
Join the Conversation: Re-Mix My Ideas
What would you add to the mix??? I underplayed video as an option--there are a cornucopia of options in the video space. I can't wait to see what other folks bring to the table in these really fruitful areas.
Who is this Curious Character?
Forgive the accidental pun, but this is just a taste of what I do. I'm Nathan Ketsdever and I consult with forward thinking small business and non-profits about how to leverage new social media tool and ethical search engine optimization for business sales success. I would love to talk to you or your company about social media or search engine optimization at (615) 594-2095, nathanketsdever [@] gmail.com , or shoot me a direct message on Twitter. Have a great day!
Nathan, I like the way you've laid out this plan. Very complete and lots of great ideas. I hope you don't mind my playing devil's advocate for a minute.
So, if I'm the caterer client, looking at this as a proposal, I have a few questions.
1. Wow. This looks like a lot of work. I assume I can pay someone to get me started, but how much of this will I actually have to do to get these things rolling?
2. For that matter, what kind of ongoing investment of time and resources should I expect? How often am I going to have to write in this blog? What do I do if people comment on it? What about the Ning thing? How much of my time is this going to take up? Because, of course, I also have to make 400 lemon tarts by Saturday at 2pm.
3. If I create these things, how will people find them? How am I going to get the word out? What happens if I invest all this time and money and no one shows up? Or, equally likely, people show up, but they're folks who are not particularly useful to my catering business here in Chicago? Am I going to have to do direct mail? Send email to my client and supplier list? How many? How often?
4. How much time do you think it will take for me to see some return on the investment in these social media projects?
5. Should we roll out this social media effort gradually? If so, what should I do first? Second? What on this list is likely to show the most immediate results?
6. Isn't there some research and/or "listening" component we need to do first, to figure out what my competitors are doing with social media, what content my suppliers and wedding-planning partners might actually find useful, where brides and bar mitzvah parents are hanging out online and asking questions I might be able to answer? Isn't there a way to do some of this without reinventing the wheel?
I realize, Jim, that extending the dialogue this way might not have been your original goal for this discussion, and if so, I apologize. But I bet when we consultants make really excellent and thorough proposals like Nathan's to businesses that have not yet entered the social networking realm, these are the kinds of push-back questions we're going to get.
Excellent, excellent response Erika. The questions you bring are the meat of the idea (although I do like the lemon tarts). I think Nathan's proposal would not work for a small or even mid-sized caterer, but someone who had a marketing budget and director would be a good fit.
The questions you asked are what clients ask me, and far too often "social media" projects are launched without these questions being asked, which is when people turn to "transparency and mindshare" as metrics.
The one question that matters - is this going to make me more money than something else I could be doing? If your social media plan doesn't answer that question, then you're going to have a tough time selling (or justifying any expense).
In niche food related social media news: Open Sourced Food recently launched--also one of the Tech Stars Startups I believe has a social network for food called oddly enough Foodzie that sells higher end niche food via a social media portal. Somewhat Frank interviewed them a while back.
Random Ideas in no particular order ...
1. Online retailers - create a Twitter account feeding your latest specials, discounts, product reviews and closeouts.
2. Auto dealers - create Ning-based social networks focused on particular makes and models and invite your customers who've bought those models to join to interact with other owners, swap tips, arrange rallys and so forth
3. Banks - my bank has an affinity program, I earn points every time I use their debit card. Set up a blog and twitter account which updates me with new premiums available or provides me discounts to local businesses who accept the card.
4. Restaurant - follow me on Twitter and I'll send you a coupon for a free meal, drink or order of fries. Tuesdays are slow? Feed a Tuesday only twofer offer through my Tweet feed.
5. Caterers - create a blog or use ning to setup a network of people with a focus on providing entertaining tips, food prep ideas, party planning and, obviously, promote your services when "you" want to be a guest at your own party, etc.
6. Real estate - wow, set up a blog, supplement it with Twitter feeds. Latest listings or reductions on the market, Current loan rates, advice on getting financing, links to local resources for plumbing, electrical, handyman, remodeling, etc.
7. Sponsor a social network for local remodelers where they can trade advice, get discounts on building materials, take webinars or view tutorials on wiring, plumbing, electrical, etc. techniques. (Why a remodeling network? Have you ever noticed how many homes have been newly remodeled and then sold. Owners tried to fix their unhappiness with home and realized that a new kitchen or upgraded carpet wasn't the issue.)
8. Bookstores - provide a forum for buyers to discuss what they're reading and solicit opinions from other members about what to read next. Add a recommendation engine like Amazon has that gives advice on what to read next. Create virtual book discussion clubs which organize online and offline events. Create a community around your store using social media.
Finally, participate in social media and observe what others are doing and consider whether that would work for you. Ask the people doing it for advice and whether it was worth it. Mainly just do it. The cost of using social media can be incredibly inexpensive requiring mainly a bit of creativity, a sense of adventure and the willingness to invest your time, talent and passion.
You'd think that with Linkedin and Facebook and all the Monsters out there, that someone would have created a great career site, where I could network, meet and interact with intelligent career counselors, and build/maintain my resume in one single spot. But most of these are either simple rolodex's with no real relationship-building capabilities, or "job boards" that list jobs that mostly don't apply to me. It seems to me that there's a huge opportunity to use social media to bring people in similar fields together, and provide an amazing peer-support networking site that will be with you throughout your career changes.
I know that LinkedIN and others must be going in this direction but I don't see it yet. One of my clients is a large HCM firm that is building precisely this, so I think we can expect some interesting stuff out there soon.
Michael, Jibber Jobber is a great site for jobseekers. It does what you are talking about. The owner, Jason Alba, built the site several years ago to help him find a job, and he's actually in it to help people.
Chris Russell, who used to own this site, also has great information at SecretsOfTheJobHunt and his JobRadio.fm are great sources of information.
NetShare is a network and advice site for executives. I know the owner, Kathy Simmons, and they do good work.
In terms of sites that offer career counselors, Monster and CareerBuilder have these, and LinkedIn and Facebook have hundreds of groups covering the issue. Some offer good advice, some bad, but everywhere in social media, people of good faith are looking to help each other, whether its Twitter users passing jobs to each other, or social networks like this one that exist to help people find jobs in their industry.
The major problem is jobseekers are only jobseekers until they find work, and tend to be in panic mode during that time. They aren't interested in networking - they're interesting in you getting them a job. And "intelligent career counselors" is usually code for "failed recruiter." That may seem harsh, but what career counselor is going to match what I know about employment?
I've been a headhunter for 10 years. I've given advice to hundreds of people on how to find jobs. I can count on my hand the number of people who listened (they got great jobs). The others look at you, pretend to listen, and wait for to you to tell them that yes, you really do have a magic pot of jobs for them, and their persistence is why you're going to reveal it to them.
Career counselors, like advice columnists, are too far removed from the action to be of use. I got my start writing for Recruiting.com and tearing into the horrible employment sections of newspapers. If your venture has better people, I'm all for it. I've yet to see it. People who know how to get folks hired are getting paid for it.
"Furniture dealers" as a blogger category is often perceived as a tough sell on the potential gain from blogging, so naturally, I will address that topic.
As with any marketing endeavor, it all starts with a plan and the plan begins with "Who?". In the case of furniture, it's probably several demographics depending on the niche' of the particular company. This hypothetical furniture retailer will be a high-end retailer of big ticket pieces purchased by 7-figure households.
Blogging Builds Your Community
First and foremost, blogging is NOT a sales tool. It is a communication tool, and it should be used to the greatest extent, to build COMMUNITY. Now, that isn't as bad as it sounds for people looking to make money from their blog, because the biggest law of the consumer is that they BUY ONE TRUST. They buy from their community. The radio industry is the GENIUS of this concept, and this human need (to belong to a community) is the reason that people put a sticker on their car advertising that they listen to 106.7 FM. There is fascinating information about this solid phenomonon at one of the best blogs on radio I have ever seen-The Portland Area Radio Council.
Critical concept: you don't SELL on a blog, you SERVE.
You serve information, you serve resources, you serve your COMMUNITY. Doing this day in and day out builds trust. Trust affords you the privledge of being referred to and having business sent to you by your volunteer "ambassadors". There are hundreds of thousands of potential ambassadors out there ready to send you business. In the case of furniture, let's think of where your customers are and from WHOM they take advice. Some possible scenarios might be:
Your customers are ready to buy new furniture because:
1. They are buying a new house (REAL ESTATE PROFESSIONALS, MORTGAGE BROKERS, ETC)
2. They suffered a loss of their existing furniture (INSURANCE PROFESSIONALS)
3. They are downsizing and need different furniture (FINANCIAL PLANNERS, REAL ESTATE PROFESSIONALS)
4. They entertain a lot and have a need for new furniture often (EVENT PLANNERS, CATERERS)
5. They are remodelling and need a new "look" (REMODELLERS, CONTRACTORS)
6. And most importantly: Your existing customer base who purchased from you in the past-keep serving them with information on furniture care and online support and problem solving ("how do I get the water-ring out of my finish?")
I could go on and on but we have to target, so let's stop there. These "communities" of professionals all have "hangouts" where they congregate either virutually or in person. Find them with your message, and serve THEM. They know where your clients are. They work with them every day. The power of a trusted advisor telling someone "I have the perfect company for you to get your furniture from." is FAR more powerful than you telling them yourself, "I am the perfect company to get your furniture from."
The Magic Ingredient
Focus on serving these communities, giving away information and support that is relevant to them in some way, and do it on an ongoing regular basis. Use your blog to stay in touch with them, and this will build the magic ingredient needed: TOP OF MIND AWARENESS. This is the proven marketing truism that if you aren't in the top 3 companies that come to mind when someone gets up one morning and says, "Let's buy furniture" then you are not being considered. Generally, people don't decide to go buy a dining room set and start researching companies... they simply get in their car, put it in drive and GO to the top companies they know of. They don't know WHY they know of them, they just do. This is TOP OF MIND AWARENESS and it is POWERFUL. It also takes maintenance, this is why you hear the same radio commercials day in and day out. You may never buy $99 diamond earrings, but on that faithful Valentines Day eve, and you forgot to buy your gal something... you are going to jump in your car and GO. Where are you going to go? (Name three jewelry stores in your head and you will know what I am talking about). That is where you are going to go.
Your Blog Builds Your Community
Post on blogs where your target community members are. Serve them, think about what matters to them, and be their resource on furniture issues. Maybe you are contributing to a discussion on preferred finishes, or participating on expert advice on how to shop for quality and spot bad workmanship, or provide a list of questions you should ask YOUR furniture dealer. Be the providor, the expert, the go-to-guy. Be VISIBLE. When they need your product, they not only think of you, they trust you, they feel they know you and they refer business to you.
Good reply, Theresa. It's very difficult to get the message across that blogs don't work well for direct selling, and owners/managers don't like to spend money on things they can't directly relate to sales.
The problem of course is that what it takes to sell is a mixture of advertising, and your online presence is a major factor in the research people do before buying. Writing a "salesy" blog doesn't help you sell, as people won't spend much time reading. Writing a community blog takes more effort, and the effect isn't always clear, but that's often because metrics and analytics and landing pages and the rest of online marketing is so poorly done.
Twice as many people read a car dealer's website as look at his newspaper ads, and yet the money spent on the newspaper ads dwarfs the total online spend. The same is true for most industries now.
The problem is the people who retail dealers trust to buy marketing and advertising from don't know social media, and and those who know social media don't understand how retailers sell.
i could not agree more with jim's statement "blogs don't work well for direct selling."
but blogs...social media as a whole for that matter...are very much about "selling". building relationships is absolutely a form of sales. it takes longer. it's harder to measure. but in the long run, building relationships can be a hugely beneficial selling tool.
i think as a group of social media professionals, we can do each other a great service by discussing this thought in detail. the more we pitch the value of social media to the business world, the better prepared we each need to be to properly defend it. as a group i think we can probably brainstorm a great many answers to these types of question. the result could be that we each will be better equipped with plenty of bullets for when these conversations come up (and i guarantee you they will.)
a great blogger is like a great dj
i came to social media from the radio industry. a lot of my references will be from that industry and how it relates.
if you listen closely, you'll realize that radio djs are always selling. they might be selling a song or a product or a promotion or a station position...whatever. they are always selling. a great dj is the one that is selling you something without you feeling like you're being sold. he does this by creating long-standing relationships of trust.
howard stern is a fantastic example of this. he is known for many things, some good and some bad. but few disagree...stern is an incredible (and influential) interviewer. a-list celebrities allow themselves to be tortured by howard because they know the result will be more cd sales or movie ticket sales or more whatever it is that they are promoting at the time. howard doesn't sell by telling his listeners "buy this". he sells by sharing the power of the relationship he has built with his audience over time.
the selling power of social media is in the relationships
jim durbin has given us a good example of what i'm talking about with jobsinsocialmedia.com. jim is a social media headhunter. he makes money by connecting a company with a well-fitted employee. this site is a social media sales tool for that end (but not a direct sales tool in the traditional sense.) jim isn't beating his users over the head with repeated positioning statements in order to get them to buy a product. instead, he is fostering the building of relationships which may or may not payoff someday in the future. sure, we can tell each other about jobs on this site. sure, he may find a few new stars here. but the ideas we share and the connections we make could prove to be much longer-lasting and more valuable than a simple job lead (thus a reason to continue participating in the network even if we aren't looking for work.) the network grows exponentially when you add the viral aspect of each of us taking something from our conversations here and sharing them with our individual networks (as theresa baker did with her recent post @ www.theresabaker.com. excellent post theresa!). as the network grows, so grows the selling power of the relationships.
we as social media professionals get this...
but how do we build a story to explain this power to those that don't
it's funny, i got a telephone call halfway through writing this response. one of the questions i was asked on the call was "how do you measure success in social media?" the irony made me laugh.
i'd love to hear each of your thoughts along this line because i'm constantly being quizzed on this and i'm constantly refining my answers.