Businesses all too often find themselves pulled by powerful gravitational forces into the black hole of “quarterly prosperity at all costs”. The vision becomes about paper profitability, and the true core value is lost in the mists of market competition.
 
A great business is, however, always tied to a great community, great innovation, and great people. Without those ingredients, the heart of a brand fails, and all the remnant frantic activity is little more than life support, performed on a gradually failing entity.
 
No matter the size of your venture, be it a startup or multinational, always remember your people, your vision, and your community are your core.

Here’s vibrant proof that some folks still don’t understand social engagement: McDonald’s (@McDonalds) mucked up a social conversation on Twitter recently, and then their own social media director, Rick Wion, demonstrated an embarrassing lack of awareness, when he tried to explain the whole thing away. One particularly shocking phrase stood out for me: “…With all social media campaigns, we include contingency plans should the conversation not go as planned…”.

How many times do I have to say this
?! Social Engagement is NOT a “campaign”, it is a commitment, and sometimes commitments require weathering rough spots in the relationship; forging through together; learning to listen as much as talk; and – should some control be necessary – controlling in an invisible manner that can never be resented. By admitting that (a) McDonalds continues to desire control of the social media landscape within which it operates, and (b) it considers Twitter conversations as nothing more than advertising campaigns, their Social team has exhibited a McRoyal lack of awareness, with cheese. That the brand thinks it can openly control social engagement initiatives, and then impose “contingency plans”, when the outcome doesn’t match their projection, demonstrates not only a lack of experience, but a mentality that will consistently fail to leverage the potential of social engagement, until said mentality changes. A good social strategy is a responsive and flexible one, not a rigid and controlling one.
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So, let me repeat: As I first said in 2007, and have repeated each and every year since: Social Engagement is a COMMITMENT to connection and bidirectional relations. It will not work to its full potential if it is treated as an advertising or product marketing CAMPAIGN tool. Gone are the days when you could blatantly push or pull the consumer in one direction or another, without any regard for their own instincts. The power of marketing has transformed in to one of influence, rather than impact. That’s not to say you cannot use social tools to support, and even push forward, certain marketing campaigns.  It’s simply that there are too many variables at play within the social ecosystem for a brand to want to control things all the time. How long would you stay married to a spouse who was *always* and obviously controlling? “Leveraged influence” and “moderated transparency” are the buzzwords today.
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“…All right stop.
Collaborate and Listen.” – Vanilla Ice

Moderated transparency
One must be prepared to let the consumer peek behind the curtain a little more than previously, and even fiddle with some of the levers. A smart brand will create levers with which the social community can interact:
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Leveraged Influence
A brand should always have a vision and an objective, and all strategies and actions should be manifest and pursued within the context of the brand objectives. Properly managed social engagement can help to strengthen the brand vision and more effcieiently attain the objectives, both internally and externally:
  • Inspire employee and consumer evangelism and sharing
  • Challenge dormant employees, distributors, and consumers to reengage
  • Educate and redirect potentially hostile influencers
  • Instill brand values without imposing them
  • Crowd-source creative opportunities at little to no-cost
  • Empower stakeholders to truly feel a sense of part ownership in the brand’s success
  • Boost ROI
  • Advertise incrementally (no need to invest tens of millions if there’s no pick-up whatsoever)
  • Blend resources (social brand engagement is not just about marketing, it’s about engaging (thus the term!) the whole ecosystem of stakeholders in a manner that brings them closer together, and able to more effectively enhance the brand value. It could be a matter of activating a previously dormant employee population, creating a more tight-knit community out of a global sales force, or bringing end-users closer in to the fold, so that an offering can benefit from their insights, and presell itself in the process.
  • Year-round presence – social engagement is a full-time enterprise, thus the need for commitment. However, while a conventional marketing campaign requires aggressive “full-bore” tactics, a social strategy can be far more leisurely, and thus far more manageable. The community will hold the brand up alongside the social team, so long as everyone is playing well together.

Oh, and one more thing…social engagement brings humanity and humor back in to the mix. That’s never a bad thing.

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I was recently invited to participate in a webinar with a variety of colleges and universities around the country and, despite the fact that I was seriously in need of more green tea, I managed to spend a good hour answering some very good questions exploring marketing careers in today’s economy. It starts off kinda dry, but as the tea kicks in it warms up nicely!:

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Historically, small businesses founded during periods of market malaise grow to become behemoth multinational empires. At least, that’s what the track records of the likes of Microsoft, GE, IBM, GM, Disney, and even Apple would have you believe. Whether it’s because a recession throws a marketplace in to clearer and sharper relief, and identifies gaps that can be filled by innovators…or the simple possibility that it is perhaps less challenging (in the short term) to start one’s own business than to get a job when companies are reluctant to increase their workforce when their revenue projections are so shaky.

Whatever the reasoning, small businesses seem to appear by the legion during economic downturns, and the challenging economic times we are currently experiencing are no exception. Starting a small business is but the first step, however, in a very long and often unpredictable journey to success.  Advice abounds for these self-starters. Some of this advice is spiritual, some aspirational, some inspirational, most destined for the remaindered bin (or today’s e-book equivalent thereof).

It is refreshing, therefore, to come across a book that offers little by way of cheerleading, and a lot by way of practical and actionable advice. Susan Wilson Solovic and Ellen R. Kadin have recently co-authored a small biz startup guide entitled “It’s Your Biz” (Amacom, 227pp), and much of it is well worth the reading. If you are thinking of, or in the process of, starting up your own business for the first time, you would be well advised to skip all those feel-good tomes designed to raise your consciousness or karmic frequency, and instead study the experienced advice of these women, who will help you raise your eyes to see the road ahead, and guide you around many of the potholes thereon.

I have two quibbles with the publication:

a)      Resources are cited in a manner that leaves little room for the inevitable evolution of information sources in the 21st century. Sites come and go, new resource offerings crop up on an almost daily basis. The authors are handing out free fish, as much as they are teaching the reader how to fish. I would prefer if they would perhaps challenge the reader to find the resources for themselves. Perhaps providing pointers and search tips, instead of direct links; hints and clues that will not only yield resource opportunities, but empower the conscientious reader to seek out emerging resource opportunities not available at time of publication. Gamefication is a deeply embedded convention in today’s marketplace. Why not apply a little of that methodology to the book, and integrate a layer of interactivity in to the publication?

b)      Yet another “expert” has mistaken product marketing and sales support for strategic marketing. So long as marketing is seen as little more than a support activity, the sole purpose of which is to drive and support sales, organizations will only realize – at best – 50% of the value of this practice area. Marketing is a complex undertaking that –when successful – manages to connect an offering (product, solution, service, or brand) with one or more markets, in a manner that delivers exponential returns to all stakeholders. These returns are not purely fiscal, but also relational. Marketing has the potential to turn customers into salespeople, employees into evangelists, and brands into currency. Today’s social economy requires that business ventures recognize the new and very collaborative relationship they must foster with their clients and customers, in order to survive and thrive. Today’s marketing strategy is all about commitment, and far less about campaigns.

Extant these two quibbles, I am impressed with this guidebook, at least as a solid “get your head on straight” introduction to the basics of business building. This is not, as the book’s cover would have you believe, “the complete guide to becoming your own boss”, but rather the initial guide to the planning, preparation, and perseverance required to start a small business. Reading this book will not guarantee you business success, but it will assuredly get you in the headspace necessary to evaluate whether you are prepared to undertake the adventure.

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My friend, Mike Brown recently posted a short piece on his own blog, entitled “Who is creating social media content in your organization?”, exploring where the departmental responsibility for social media (or “social engagement”, as I prefer to call it) lies within an organization. I added a comment to the posting, which drew some very flattering responses via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and email – so I thought I’d post my comments here below (as much to remember what the heck it was I wrote, as to keep the conversation going!):

Perhaps above and beyond the obvious impact Social Media is having, in terms of offering new opportunities for brand evangelists to introduce and moderate their platforms in existing or new constituencies; for product and solution marketing teams to try and launch “campaigns” via new channels; for corporate representatives – be they CRM, legal, or otherwise – to try and cautiously bring their brand and offering connection closer to the end-user, in response to an increasing demand by consumers and clients to participate in the valuation of offerings, further up the value chain….above and beyond these and other immediately evident opportunities, benefits, or enticements (presented across the still primordial social engagement landscape), there is growing one even larger opportunity that has been only tangentially addressed here, and deserves to be directly examined:

Instead of attempting to qualify which existing department should or does own or lead social engagement activities, within traditional corporate infrastructures and silos, the real question of deepest worth may be “has the advent of social engagement, greater organizational transparency, transversal responsibility for failure and success alike, and deeper demands from every part of the process (including consumers) for collaboration in development, innovation, productization, distribution, and iteration (breathe here) created not just an opportunity, but a demand, for organizations to review their org. charts, and functional infrastructures, in order to best respond to and manage new models and ecosystems in customer and client relationships, product sales and management, and other aspects of B2B and B2C business?”.

Perhaps the answer lies not in shoving social media activities into one or the other pre-existing pigeon hole, but instead taking this opportunity to stir the pot more than just a little, and take some time to divest ourselves of 1950’s functional structures..?

This is the moment to loosen our grip on the past and present, and see this undeniably disruptive practice of social engagement as a chance to reinvigorate and possibly reinvent the way we manage innovation, human resources, market penetration, customer service, and so much more. Let’s not get carried away with a presently rather shallow tide, but let’s recognize that the tides have nevertheless shifted, and the currents are moving in compelling new ways which will certainly change the landscape. Where your ship lands depends on how well you learn to navigate these currents and tides, and how efficiently you reassign your crew.

My fundamental suggestion is that corporate and organizational models are ripe for transformation, reflecting massive evolutions in internal and external communications, operations, personnel management and education, marketing, and customer relations – to name but a few areas that are both deeply impacted by and – in turn – heavily influence hierarchies and processes within organizations. The way social engagement permeates an infrastructure could prove invaluable in effecting valuable transformation: watch the practice as it flows through the organization: something akin to a corporate blue dye (BDT) and modified barium swallow (MBS) test! Should Marketing and Communications continue to be lumped together (“MarCom”)? Is the skills set of Marketing best maximized as a Sales support function, or is there a more strategic opportunity therein? Should Communications really be a satellite support function, activated only whenever a Business Unit or other department determines there exists a need to “push” information outward, or is more potential just itching to manifest itself? The communal nature of social engagement gives organizations the priceless opportunity to move beyond legacy charts, developed to manage the 19th Century industrial revolution. Several revolutions have taken place since then, and this latest one – effectively disrupting how we connect, communicate, and transact with one another – presents an opening that should not be overlooked.

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Too many startups are still pursuing strategic trajectories designed to afford them “quick exits”. While this has a valuable place in the larger marketplace (letting the larger companies focus on developing strong positioning and wide platform user bases, while the smaller and more nimble entities can innovate and then be acquired), the two models need to be far more interconnected than they are, as a matter of course. The “quick exit” dynamic of business building needs to be better contextualized, so one can only hope that the new breed of startups (emerging in the wake of mass executive level layoffs and payoffs) will begin to think and operate a little more like the old: let’s apply some focus on growth; let’s connect our endeavors in mutually supportive allegiances; let’s recognize the complex value of the ecosystem as a whole.

Let’s build our businesses as if they were meant to last forever. What we choose to do at any point along the way should be as a result of opportunity, not necessity or pre-ordained and inflexible design :

I may disagree with one or two of the recommendations made here below by Derek Markham (for instance, promoting a website as the number one green marketing solution is somewhat “last year’s thinking”, when one considers that website-based interactive communications is experiencing a fast rate of decline, as application-based (mobile, desktop, TV, etc) interconnectivity ramps up exponentially), but the overall message and insights are impressive and worthy of sharing. As ever, your thoughts and comments are welcomed!

25 Ways to Go Green Marketing, Without Blowing Up Your Marketing Budget

Marketing might seem synonymous with advertising, leading some green business owners to run out and get print ads in industry magazines or local newspapers, print up a bunch of postcards or flyers for direct mailing by mail, or perhaps even lease a billboard. While some of those might work for some businesses in some markets, there are ways for businesses to use green marketing to increase their reach without investing large amounts of cash.

 

Don’t Blow Up Your Marketing Budget, Green It Up Instead With These 25 Green Marketing Tips:

  1. Take your marketing to the web with your own website: The internet has radically changed the landscape of marketing by enabling business owners to have a virtual home for their paperless advertising – their own website. For only a minimal investment of money, your green business can have its doors open 24 hours a day.
  2. Use geolocation apps to reach local customers: Reaching the right customers at the right time is a key component of any green marketing campaign. Use popular geolocation apps like Gowalla or FourSquare to boost the effectiveness of your paperless advertising programs.
  3. Pursue social media marketing: With the huge surge in social networking and bookmarking, your business can take advantage of the new media landscape as a part of your paperless advertising efforts. Set up social media profiles for your business and start making connections to customers, suppliers, clients, and your competitors.
  4. Choose a green web host for your site: All hosting companies are not created equal. Does your web host use renewable energy purchasing? Do they buy carbon offsets? It might mean paying a little more to know that your web host is as green as possible, but any extra above the normal rates can be considered part of your green efforts and used in your marketing messages.
  5. Offer a digital mailing list option: If you use direct mail to reach current customers, create a digital version and offer that option via email to all new and current subscribers.
  6. Clean up your mailing list: How often do you update and clean your mailing list? With so many people on the move each year, you’re bound to end up with duplicate or wrong addresses, which translates to wasted resources during mailings. Use a service or software to regularly clean your list, and make it easy for customers to update their contact information with you. The potential savings here for businesses with large lists is quite high, especially when considered in conjunction with having a digital mailing list.
  7. Offer digital downloads of marketing assets: Make digital versions of all of your marketing materials and be sure they’re easy to find and download. An electronic version of your catalog can be easily shared by customers, and can be updated much quicker and cheaper than a printed one. Plus, it’s virtually cost-free if you already have the files ready to upload.
  8. Upcycle your advertising materials: Look into upcycling or repurposing your advertising and marketing materials, such as having your old billboards turned into shopping or messenger bags. Use those products as great green swag for events or contests.
  9. Green your giveaways: What kinds of gimme items do you pass out? If they are meant to be disposable or only single use, it just creates more waste. Products such as cloth shopping bags with your logo are not only a useful item for customers, but they serve as mobile billboards for your business. Consider the environmental effects of your promotional items before committing to them, and instead of giving away four throwaway items each year, focus on one quality free item.
  10. Use a green printing service: Going truly paperless isn’t really an option for most businesses, so when you have printing jobs, choose an eco-friendly printing service. What kind of recycled paper do they offer? What kind of inks do they use? Are they powered by renewable energy?
  11. Choose 100% recycled content paper: When printing promotional flyers, mailers, business cards, brochures, or other paper products, opt for a paper stock made from 100% post-consumer content. Not only is the cost only a little more than other paper choices, but recycled paper only uses half as much energy to make as virgin pulp. To make up for any extra cost, consider printing only what you need, or print fewer than your usual amount and make it clear that a digital version is also available.
  12. Go with green clothing: Do you have company t-shirts or uniforms? Make the choice to have them produced from organic cotton or an alternate fiber such as hemp, bamboo, or even recycled PET bottles, and let people know why it’s better for the planet.
  13. Get green certification for product: Does your product qualify for a green label? Get it certified and add the certification logo to your marketing materials, along with an explanation of what it means to your customers. Do some research to find out which certifications would be best for you, instead of taking on the cost and paperwork for labels that your customer doesn’t recognize and understand.
  14. Set goals and document your green progress: Public accountability can add loads of credibility to your green marketing, so assess your business’ current “state of green” and set goals to further your sustainability efforts. Track your progress on your website and in mailings to share with your customers.
  15. Rethink your packaging: Does your product even need packaging? In general, the less packaging you need, the cheaper it is on a per-unit basis, so losing the packaging might be a savvy financial decision as well. If it does need a package of some sort, can you continue to make it greener? Packaging that can be repurposed or recycled adds to your green credibility, and if you can use 100% recycled materials, you’re doing even better. Make a point of informing your customers of these points.
  16. Green delivery: If your product gets delivered to customers, how can you lower the environmental impact of the transportation? Alternative fueled vehicles or bicycle delivery are two ways to address green delivery of products. This may not be a viable option in some areas due to availability or a big cost difference, but for those with the option, it can become another selling point for your products.
  17. Send electronic proofs or use bicycle courier: Does your business have a need for sending documents across town on a regular basis? Bicycle courier service is quick, green, and usually cost-competitive with other delivery services. Or consider using all electronic proofs instead of physical copies.
  18. Eco-friendly business cards: Even if you choose recycled content paper for your cards, what happens to it when someone no longer needs it? Print your business card info on seed packets or paper containing embedded seeds. Print something extremely useful on the back, like a reference chart for your industry or niche, so it gets kept and used. To offset any cost difference, don’t print thousands of cards that will get tossed away, but instead print fewer ones of higher quality and impact.
  19. Feature your green efforts prominently: Use your environmental efforts as a selling point in your advertising, packaging, and other promotional activities by featuring them along with any green certification you’ve qualified for.
  20. Join eco-organizations such as 1% for the Planet: Partnering with environmental stewardship organizations and pledging a percentage of your profits to support them can help to further your company’s commitment to preservation and conservation. Joining one of these instead of the usual industry associations or chamber of commerce might be a better use of your money, especially for your company’s green image.
  21. Follow the guidelines for environmental marketing claims: Are your green marketing claims valid? Make sure you’re not trying to greenwash, and that you’re within the FTC guidelines for environmental marketing claims.
  22. Make the green aspects of your product easy to understand: By being clear about the eco-friendliness of your product or service, you’ll give customers another reason to choose your business over a competitor.
  23. Join a local living economy group: Band together with other local independent businesses through organizations such as the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) to help build lasting, profitable, green partnerships. Local networking can pump up your green marketing at the cost of time, not money.
  24. Use digital coupons: With the trend toward going digital in many media outlets, digital coupons are an eco-friendly way to give discounts and promote your products without having to print and distribute any paper products. Mobile advertising is also rapidly expanding with the rise in smartphones, so mobile coupons can give potential customers a reason to shop with you, right from their phone. And as with most things digital, the easier it is to share with others, the farther your reach will be with these types of promotions.
  25. Ditch print advertising: Do you really want your business associated with media made from dead tree? It’s also much more expensive than digital advertising, so try banner ads, PPC, or Facebook ads. These options offer better demographic targeting, with near-instant campaign metrics at a fraction of the cost of print.  Split & multi-variate testing allows you to fine tune your ads and landing pages. Don’t forget directory listings as another form of online advertising. Be sure to get listed in green business directories, as well as local directories, like Yelp, Best of the Web Local, and local search listings. This will boost your local SEO for your green business website.

Going green with your marketing isn’t necessarily about a huge change in your current campaigns – taking your marketing efforts green doesn’t have to be a one-shot approach. By implementing just a few of these green tips on a regular basis, the budget for your marketing campaigns won’t get blown up, and the cumulative effects on the environment can further be used in your marketing messages. Coupled with the huge leverage available to businesses in the digital sphere, going green with your marketing just might be the key to jumpstarting your business’ sales, no matter what the economic forecasts might say.

Derek Markham is a writer, a father, a WordPress addict, and social media butterfly who loves to share what’s new and interesting in his world in under 140 characters.

It’s been quite a while now that “gurus”, “pundits” and “experts” have been bandying about the term “Social Media”, proffering it as the catch-all for market penetration and business success, without honestly having any sort of traditionally measurable proof of merit in hand.

There’s no question that Social Media is an exciting activity sector, promising diverse new and enhanced points of connection with customers and clients. Quite how those connections will translate in to the type of metrics favored by traditionalist CFOs and shareholders is still under debate.

While the aforementioned experts continue to find ways to align this new engagement paradigm with traditional Cost/Benefit analysis modeling, I suggest that such ROI measurement is perhaps something of a fool’s errand, (1) because marketing has never been measurable in the manner that so many companies historically demand, and (2) because the commitment required to successfully maximize the potential of today’s emerging platforms and tools for customer engagement is far less measurable than ad or PR campaigns have been, in the past.

Social Media is more than a marketing campaign ecosystem, wherein one might deploy emerging product offerings or test possible brand evolutions. In fact, I would love to get rid of the term “Social Media” altogether, because it brings with it an unfortunate sense of frivolity that has been compounded by the visible (yet relatively small) part of social media, known as Social Networking (domain of Facebook, MySpace, Youtube, et al).

From a business perspective, the notion of “Social Media” stinks too much of an ongoing teenage chat session, with no goal in site.  Many social media gurus will argue that this is quite so, and crucial to a business’s success in the 21st Century. While I strongly concur that engaging in a more open and collaborative dialog with consumers and users is an imperative in the contemporary marketplace, I also feel strongly that there exist few businesses that can afford to invest time and money in open-ended discussions with their prospects, “just because”. In the end, a business has something to sell, and its activities should be focused on this goal, as well as the post-sales services necessary to ensure the new customer becomes a de facto account executive for the brand. Smart marketing is a strategic endeavor, managed at the C-Suite level, and designed to position a company’s offering(s) as impactfully as possible, with the ambitious objective of turning salespeople into customer relations advocates.

By all means let’s call it “Social Media” when we’re reconnecting with old High School friends and sharing photos with cousins across the world.  With respect to B2B and B2C connections, let’s expand the term, and call it “Social Engagement”. That is, after all what it’s about, isn’t it? The more measurable activity is whether and how we might engage with and activate our end-user community to become partners in the enhancement and advancement of our brand (and its varied offerings).  In some instances this will be sociable (Facebook Pages, Twitter feeds, comments threads, etc), in others more buzz marketing oriented (viral branded content, competitions, internal communications, polls, etc), and in yet others wholly functional and tactical (SEO, brand monitoring, bookmarking, corporate HR, medical resource sharing, media asset management, and so on).

There’s a lot we can do with the tools, platforms, and channels available to our businesses today, but we need to think of our Social Engagement strategy as more than “getting on Facebook” or “starting a blog”. It is a commitment – both online and offline – to connecting with our users, employees, and clients in a more dynamic and potentially rewarding manner than ever before. It is a far more organic and open-ended engagement than we are used to (and perhaps comfortable with). However, it still merits careful strategic forethought and measured management.

To begin, despite that fact that she uses the term I have renounced above(!), I am thrilled to introduce our latest contributor, Pam Dyer, a marketing consultant from Seattle. Her article below offers up a dozen arguments in favor of Social Engagement in the online space. I know that you and I could together come up with an additional 12 reasons, specific to your particular situation, so and I therefore challenge you to make your own list of 8 more, just for the fun of it (and DON’T limit yourself to online opportunities). With 20 compelling reasons to activate your “Media Engagement” endeavors, you will soon be leveraging a previously confusing array of ever changing networks and tool sets, in service to your brand and, more importantly, the long term health of your business.

Social media is fast becoming an essential part part the marketing mix for brands. Companies are increasingly using social tools to monitor conversations about their products, competitors, and industry, and engaging with their customers to build strong relationships. According Forrester Research’s most recent Interactive Marketing Forecast, social media marketing will grow at an annual rate of 34% -– faster than any other form of online marketing and double the average growth rate of 17% for all online mediums:

And new research from Access Markets International Partners shows that almost 70% of small and medium businesses actively use social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to promote themselves. But simply posting what your CEO had for lunch isn’t going to help much with your branding efforts — it’s important to strategically use social media tools to increase exposure and reach your target audience.

Here are 12 compelling reasons to use social media to help grow your business:

1. Own your brand’s social presence: If you don’t create official channels online, it’s only a matter of time before your fans do it for you and create their own profiles and communities around your brand. It’s important to claim your brand name across all the major social media platforms. Here are two sites that will help you do this:

  • KnowEm: KnowEm has the highest number of sites (over 350) available for checking username availability. Simply by entering your desired username, you’ll be able to find out instantly if it’s still available. KnowEm also offers paid plans, from just signing up and registering you at 150 sites, to a full-featured plan which also fills in all profile details, complete with pictures, at 100 to 300 different networking sites.
  • namechk: Covering 72 major social networking sites, namechk is simple, fast, and easy to use. If your desired username or vanity URL is still available, you simply click through each one to claim it. If your brand isn’t consistent across the Web, namechk can help you by determining which usernames are still available on a number of the most popular sites.

2. Look like you “get it”: Your target audience is becoming more shrewd about leveraging social media sites as an integral part of their daily lives. If you want to appear relevant and in-step with the latest advances in technology, your potential customers will want to see you on these sites as well. If you don’t have a presence, you appear as if you’re not very savvy.

3. Brand recognition: You need to go where your customers are, and they are increasingly spending a great deal of time on social networking sites. Using social media enables your company to reach a huge number of potential customers. Getting your name out there is incredibly important — studies suggest that people need to hear a company’s name at least seven times before they trust and respect it enough to become a customer.

4. Take your message directly to consumers: Social media tools enable you to directly engage consumers in conversation. Be sure to build trust by adding value to the community consistently over time.

5. Increase your search engine rankings: Social media profiles (especially those on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) frequently rank highly with major search engines. Creating keyword-rich profiles around your brand name can help generate traffic for your both your social-networking sites and your company’s Web site.

6. SEO benefits: Many social media bookmarking sites use NOFOLLOW tags that limit the outbound link value of posts made on their sites, but there are still many leading sites that allow DOFOLLOW tags — including Friendfeed, Digg, and Mixx. You can also benefit from posting to bookmarking sites that use NOFOLLOW tags if people read your posts and link back to your Web site.

7. Social media content is now integrated with search results: Search engines like Google and Bing are increasingly indexing and ranking posts and other information from social networks. Videos from popular sites like YouTube can also be optimized for indexing by the major search engines.

8. Brand monitoring: Having a social media presence gives you a better understanding of what current and potential customers are saying about your products and services. If you actively monitor social conversations, you have the opportunity to correct false or inaccurate information about your brand and address negative comments before they take on a life of their own.

9. Generate site traffic: You can create additional traffic if you regularly post updates on social networks that link back to your Web site. Social media bookmarking tools like Digg, Reddit, and Stumbleupon can also generate additional traffic to your site if you create frequent articles and blog posts.

10. Find new customers through your friends: You shouldn’t neglect your personal social media accounts as potential avenues to promote the activities of your business. Posting regular updates relating to your business and activities can remind your friends about what your company does and influence them to use your services or make referrals.

11. Find new customers through your company profile: Your company profile is a great opportunity for you to post regular updates on your activities and about important news and trends in your industry. This will attract the attention of new customers interested in your industry and increase your reputation as an expert in your field. It’s important to post regularly if you want to increase your followers or fans and convert them to potential leads.

12. Niche marketing: Social media enables you to reach very specific subsets of people based on their personal preferences and interests. You can create unique social media profiles to target these audiences or create strategies based on addressing individual interests.

Pam Dyer has 14+ years of MarCom experience, in-house for a number of years at Northwest Nexus and Winstar, and now as a consultant.

Tim Gibbons is a multiple award-winning producer, director and writer. He recently “penned” an open letter to the neophytes in his industry, yet I felt the advice proffered applies beyond the celluloid walls and media moat that still comprise the “Entertainment World”. The wisdom offered will benefit any startup or new strategic alliance, despite the lofty images that may dance in our heads of multi-billion dollar IPOs and handsome buyouts:

Along the way in this business, I’ve partnered up with various people for various projects.  Most of them were already in the business, but occasionally I’ve found a project that involves someone outside the industry.  Generally, it’s an author or expert or someone with a real interesting life story.  I make a deal with them for their book/life rights/story/whatever, and then we work on it to develop a pitch.  Sometimes we agree up front that they will come on in some kind of producer role — this is generally when I feel they bring an authenticity or weight to the project that the network/studio/buyer can’t do without.  Now usually everything goes OK, we either sell the project or we don’t.

And then, sometimes it doesn’t work out.  It’s often the wannabe producer that upsets the applecart.  People seem to get it: the buyers don’t know them, they have no track record, they’ve never been in the business, they’ve never sold anything.  Oftentimes, the buyer doesn’t want anybody from the “outside” attached to a project.  It’s bad enough walking in with a partner or two, but it often seems like a really bad idea to attach someone who’s not in the business.  The buyers don’t know them, don’t know what thing bring to the party, as it were.

Everyone usually agrees upfront that they’ll take a back seat, go along for the ride, see what they can learn about the business, make a little cash along the way.  After all, it’s their first time at doing something in the business, and from my viewpoint, and they should be happy with just getting some interest in their project.  I explain that not everyone who comes to Hollywood for the first time ends up walking away on their first project with a million dollars in the bank and a three-picture deal.  I explain that it’s particularly hard to get the studio to agree to have them involved in a meaningful manner, as a writer or producer or director.  The studios don’t trust people they don’t know, and what they are buying when I walk in the room with a new project, is my track record of having delivered a lot of shows.  All that being said, I try to be honest and fair in making a deal.

Oftentimes, though, the trouble starts at the beginning.  The person, even though I suggest they find a reputable, experienced entertainment attorney, somehow ends up finding some attorney who doesn’t have much knowledge of the business, or used to be a player 2o years ago (and hasn’t kept up with current trends), or has nothing to do with entertainment law at all.  So then the dealmaking process becomes difficult.  I usually bail at this point, as this does not bode well for the future, if, we’re so lucky as to sell the project.

Anyway, we usually get past that stage and they have a contract, an established producer who can hopefully get their project sold and made (me) and someone who cares about the show (also me!).  And then we work on it, sometimes for many months (or several years), developing it, working it into something the studios or networks will want, sometimes attaching talent or directors, and then we go pitch it.  And pitch it and pitch it.  Although I have sold projects “in the room” as they say, meaning the buyer says they want it right now, before we go anywhere else, more often than not, we pitch and pitch — on one project I sold, we pitched it about 40 times before it got bought.  Oftentimes it doesn’t work out and the project eventually dies.

But sometimes, in that magical world of Hollywood, it all comes together and a buyer wants it and we move forward into dealmaking…  And this is when the most civilian problem usually occur — the civilian, in their six months in Hollywood, has talked with a lot of people and has heard all the stories (of the extremely rare events that do occasionally happen) — a million dollar script sale; the waitress who worked with a big producer and is now making (20 years later) $4 million a year as a writer; the unknown first-time director who held out and got to direct that big studio movie as his first film; the nanny who now makes $20 million a year… and all of this sounds astounding compared to the “bad” deal they now think they have with me.

Anyway, the call comes in, sometimes directly, most often from their lawyer to mine, that they are not happy with the current deal.  They’d like to renegotiate.  Or sometimes it happens in the negotiations with the network/studio… the civilians wants some outrageous amount of money or some unobtainable/unjustified credit and/or position.  And they continue to demand more and more and more… and eventually, even though I’ve talked with them, and my attorney and agents have talked with all of their people, the deal just falls apart because the network/studio does not like being held hostage — they’ve got 20 other projects they can switch their attention to.  And then the project is dead.  And it’s a shame, because ultimately, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere with a project I didn’t think was cool, sellable and amazing.  It could have been a good show.  And usually, later, the civilian who walked away from the deal because they thought they could do better, ends up getting nowhere with their project.

So a word of advice — if you’re new to the business, don’t expect to get rich and famous from your first show — be in it for the long haul.  Certainly take care of yourself — there are bad people out there — get a good lawyer, and feel comfortable about moving forward with whomever you’ve teamed up with.  But in the end, be reasonable and level-headed.  Trust me, you’ll get much farther along, and will no longer be a “civilian”.

To read more of Tim’s musings, visit his site here.