Social media isn’t free advertising

I regularly run into small business owners that want to do social media because it’s free advertising. In some ways, the statement that social media is free advertising is free is true, but, in reality, it isn’t.


Effectively using social media for your business requires strategy

Effectively using social media for your business requires careful planning and strategy. Often, people create a Facebook page or a Twitter account for their business without putting much thought into it. Although you may gain some “likes” or “followers” that way, it’s not the most effective way to build your brand and sell your product or service on there. In order for your social media strategy to turn into a brand-building/selling advertising tool for you, you’ve got to create an effective strategy behind it


There are a  lot of great books and online articles on how to do this, the top one I recommend is The New Rules of Marketing & PR



I’ve yet to see an effective social media strategy that doesn’t require careful planning and writing/designing posts and monitoring and responding/interacting in a timely manner. It is a conversation, after all, and how would you feel if you walked up to a customer service counter and had to wait there a week for a response?


Effectively planning, designing, writing, monitoring and interacting on social media takes more time than most people think and that’s where you find the “cost” of social media. Places like Facebook and Twitter may be free marketing and advertising tools, but time=money and, to utilize these tools right, you’re going to spend a lot of time working on them.


My advice

My advice to be effective but not have social media eat up all your time is to start with one platform, research and develop an effective strategy, and implement it.  After that is running well and you have a good feel for the amount of time it takes to maintain and continually improve it, move on to one or two more platforms.

Marketing music via the Internet, an ongoing evolution

My friend and I spent our Friday evening this past week at a Straight No Chaser concert in Houston, TX.  Their performance opened with a video of how to enjoy the concert. During that video, they made a point, at least twice, to encourage people to take photos and videos of the performance and post them online (tagging, hashtagging, etc. them of course).  Then, during the performance, they took photos of the crowd and asked us to go on their Facebook page and tag ourselves They explained that they had a limited marketing budget and social media was an effective way to get their message out.

Considering that the popularity of Straight No Chaser began when one of their members posted a video of them on YouTube and it went viral (see video above), it’s not shocking that this group has embraced social media and the online world as they have, but it is quite unusual.  Over the years, I’ve watched with great interest as the music world struggles to find the perfect balance with the online world. As it stands now, most musicians seem to tolerate online videos and photos of their concerts and some will even ask you to tweet your experience using a hashtag. But Straight No Chaser has taken it a step further by asking fans to actively post videos of their performances online.

Do I think it’s a good idea? Yes. People go to the concerts for the experience and to hear the music live. No video is going to overcome that thirst for the experience.  But is it good for all musicians? I’d say yes, but would love to hear your thoughts.

On another note, I chose NOT to take photos and videos during the concert because I wanted to just sit back and enjoy the experience. For more on my thoughts about this, read: Put down the camera and enjoy the moment.

Effective marketing talks went well, thank you to all my supporters

Last week, I presented an Effective Marketing talk, which includes references to the Broken Windows Theory, to the Tomball Rotary Club and the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce. Both talks went very well and, because of those, I’ve received several requests to come and do additional speaking on marketing.

I would like to thank everyone who came to these talks (approximately 320 of you!), promoted them ahead of time by publishing them in their newspapers and websites, promoted them via social media, sent good vibes and prayers, came up before to wish me luck, came up after to tell me how much they enjoyed it, sent cards and emails of congratulations, and helped in some other way (took photos, set-up technology for me,  put-out my materials, etc.).

I’ve also received several emails from business owners and marketing managers telling me how they’ve incorporated the things I spoke about into their organizations and the results they’ve seen from doing so. These emails inspire me and I’m grateful for those who send them.

Thank you again!

– Nicole

Nicole Finkbeiner speaking at the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce.
Nicole Finkbeiner speaking at the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce.
Nicole Finkbeiner speaking at the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce.
Nicole Finkbeiner speaking at the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce.
Nicole Finkbeiner speaking at the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce.
Nicole Finkbeiner speaking at the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce.

Brand hijacking Abercrombie & Fitch by a “brand readjustment”

A couple of years ago, one of my Michigan State University professors, Dr. Keith Adler, introduced me to the book Brand Hijack: Marketing Without Marketing. Ever since then, I’ve enjoyed finding examples brand hijacking in modern culture. For those unfamiliar with the term, Brand Hijacking refers to a group of consumers take over a particular brand, make it their own, and attach meaning to it.

There is a video circulating the Internet and talked about all over the news about a guy who is attempting to hijack the Abercrombie & Fitch brand.  If you haven’t seen it already, check it out!

How young professionals buy gifts

It’s Thursday night at 10 p.m. and I just found out that  my friend’s birthday is on Monday (not shocking, I’m horrible with important dates).  I decide he needs a present.

Gift-giving as a young professional can be a challenge for the following reasons:

  • My young professional friends, because of jobs or just looking for a life change, are scattered across the country and the globe. Mailing packages is slow and expensive.
  • Many of my friends are located in major metropolitan areas and, thus have small living arrangements. Material gifts (decorations, etc.) are not a good thing to send someone with only 600 square feet to work with (unless you are an IKEA guru of course).
  • Many of my friends are single and very professionally successful. They can mostly buy whatever they want themselves.

This particular friend lives in Miami, (side note: if you are beautiful, single, independent woman in Miami, I have a guy for you!).  So, how do I make sure he has a present from me on his special day?

A plate of an assortment of baklava
Photo from Flickr: Bitman

Purchase a gift the way many young professionals do these days:

  1. Conduct a Google search to get the address of his office (note: had I not known the name of his company, I would have checked his LinkedIn profile to get it).
  2. Type in his office address into Yelp and search for food nearby (I’ve found that food delivery is a great gift for my guy friends). Sort the results by distance from his office.
  3. Discover that there is a baklava place right down the road from him. This happens to be his favorite treat. Read the online Yelp reviews and they are very positive.
  4. Click-through to the restaurants website, which is actually, a food delivery ordering site.  Perfect!
  5. Order a good amount of baklava, select Monday at 11 a.m. as the delivery time, add extra tip to encourage safe and accurate delivery, write-in notes recommending they call him ahead of time since he won’t be expecting it, and pay via debit card.
  6. Receive a thank you text from him on Monday.
  7. Feel like a good friend for getting him something he will enjoy.

Lessons from the NCMPR community college marketing conference

This week, I was at the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations (NCMPR) professionals for community colleges conference in Chicago, IL. Below are some of the main take-aways for me:

– If you can’t be number one in your market, redefine the conversation to give yourself an advantage. For example, McDonalds is number one in the fast food market, but Subway launched into the number two spot by arguing that fast food can, indeed, be healthy.

– When building new locations/buildings or renovating spaces, include environmental branding elements (wall murals, architectural elements, vending machines, etc.). Work with the build team from the beginning to incorporate these elements into the design.

– If people have a need to design marketing pieces in programs such as Publisher and Word, consider creating branded templates in these programs.

– Like the powerful poverty simulation workshops, is there some simulation you can do to get a better understanding of what your customer’s experience?

– “Advertising is paid for, public relations is prayed for.” – Dominic Calabrese

– According to a panel of five non-traditional students, the best way to position community college education is as a “career tune-up.”

– Utilize, to a greater extent, opportunities where parents are bringing their children to campus to also talk with the parents about education for them.

– Not responding to a social media post is like hanging up on [your customer] in front of a baseball stadium full of people. – Dave Kerpen, Likeable Media. He also emphasized that responding to positive social media posts is just as important as responding to negative posts.

– Engage with high school influences via social media, such as the football captain or the class president. They are most likely to pass your message along. – Dave Kerpen, Likeable Media.

– Use social media to “surprise and delight” your customers. – Dave Kerpen, Likeable Media.

– Social media is like a cocktail party. Not all of your conversations are going to be perfect as they aren’t in real life, so if you have a typo, don’t worry too much about it. Just keep going. Similarly, you can’t start off meeting someone at a cocktail party by trying to sell them right away. Develop the relationship. – Dave Kerpen, Likeable Media.

– I work in one of the best fields in the world with some of the most amazing people I can think of. For those of you I saw at the conference, it was a delight. I hope to see you again soon.

Twitter, a good marketing tool?

I know I’m picking a fight on this one, but Twitter may not be the best marketing tool for your business or organization. I know this might strike you as odd. After all, you hear about Twitter everywhere and you see the Twitter logo everywhere, but here are my main arguments as to why Twitter might not be for your business or organization:

  • As of December 8, 2010, only 8% of the population was on Twitter.  For rural areas, including the one I live in, the actual percentage is much smaller.
  • In addition, Twitter has a large number of accounts, but not a large number of active users.
  • Twitter may not cost you anything when you are considering only actual dollars in advertising spending, but it does cost you in time. My general rule of thumb is that you should be updating Twitter 4-5 times per day. But, honestly, I fall short of this rule a lot because I simply don’t have the time to devote to updating Twitter plus doing other things I need to do. So, you need to ask yourself, do you really have the time to devote to this medium?

So think of it this way, what if your marketing manager came to you asking you to allow him or her to spend 30-60 minutes of their 8 hour day each day on a marketing program that would reach less than 8% of your market and in a program that very few of those users are actively engaged with? Would you say yes?

Twitter everywhere!

Undeniably, the average person hears about Twitter a lot.  But here’s my theory on why:

From my experience, the top four types of people/organizations that use Twitter are:

  • The media
  • Celebrities
  • Public relations/marketing professionals
  • Politicians

In comparison, in my opinion, the top four types of people/organizations that influence what we see/hear about are:

  • The media
  • Celebrities
  • Public relations/marketing professionals
  • Politicians

So, in following that rationale, doesn’t it make sense that, even though the actual number of people in the US that use Twitter is small the average person hears about it quite often since the people who influence our media the most are those that use it?

A good marketing tool?

So is Twitter a good marketing tool for your business or organization? Maybe and maybe not. What it really depends on is who you are trying to reach. Many businesses, such as food trucks in urban settings, have been very successful using Twitter to promote themselves. However, other businesses may not have that luck. My advice would be to critically look at your target market and their media habits. If you are targeting a group that, in large numbers, is actively using Twitter, then it may be worth using as a marketing tool. However, if your target markets aren’t using Twitter, then you might be much better off spending your time (which is money) someplace else.