Life Before Google, Courtesy of a 1997 Telephone Book

Jan 28th, 2013No Comments

While organizing and decluttering the house, I unearthed a bit of a relic – not Antiques Roadshow-worthy, but historically interesting from a high tech angle.

It’s a 1997 phone book from the San Francisco Bay Area cities of Palo Alto, Mountain View and nearby Silicon Valley areas in Northern California. I lived there during part of the 80s and 90s.

Before heaving this brick of a book into the recycle bin, I thumbed through the listings looking for today’s Silicon Valley giants. What I found instead was a blast-from-the-past reminder of how much life has changed in the last 15 years, simply from an information retrieval point of view.

In other words, I remembered what life was like before Google and other search engines became essential to our daily lives.

Before Google, you perused an encyclopedia to find, say, the GNP of Canada or the capital of Vermont.  If you wrote a report for school, you hiked to the library and squinted at a card catalog or microfiche, and asked a sympathetic librarian for help.

Yellow pages exampleBefore Google, if you needed to find a plumber or a restaurant or the State Bar, you looked in the yellow pages. The phone book people (who are they, anyway?) began making a big phone book for your home and a smaller one, presumably for your car, so you could take it with you everywhere.

The phone book was a go-to source for tons of information, not just addresses and phone numbers. It had city, airport, campus and stadium maps, first aid tips, and a calendar of local events for the year.

Talklines in the Bay Area

Talklines were a "dial-a-topic" data dump.


For the truly inquisitive, the phone book listed Talklines, a kind of dial-on-demand information spiel for topics ranging from parenting to stain removal to auto repair. You just called and listened from the comfort of  your home.  (There were practically no mobile phones, and cordless phones were just getting popular.)

The most shocking part of this phone book was the listing of all known websites in the area.  Three whole pages were devoted to the URLs and email addresses of these early adopters of websites in the Silicon Valley. They were listed under “Internet – Web Sites” (right after Interior Decorating and before Investigators).

1997 listing of Internet websites in the Bay Area

1997 yellow pages listing of websites in the Bay Area

This was what life was like before Google, in the stretch of land that is now Google’s (and Facebook’s) headquarters.  Words like SEO, PageRank, keyword optimization, AdWords, link building and black hat tactics had yet to become part of our internet vocabulary.

We didn’t know it, but getting the information we needed was a very slow, very manual process. People relied on phone books like this ancient artifact, and books, newspapers and their friends and family to keep them up to date and get their questions answered.

Life was simpler, but not easier.

Do you remember life before Google?


‘Tis the Season to Shop With Mobile Apps

Nov 30th, 2012No Comments

Mobile shopping apps are all the rage this holiday season, designed in part for retailers to combat Amazon and the “showrooming” problem.  Determined to get my holiday shopping done early, I put some mobile shopping apps to the test.

I downloaded several of the apps I had read about, including RetailMeNot, Macy’s, Target, shopkick and Google Shopper.  Pressed for time and on a mission, I zeroed in on the easiest-to-use app, RetailMeNot, and the apps for two stores I frequent, Target and Macy’s. Here’s this shopper’s scoop:


RetailMeNot was my favorite discovery of the evening – the app is so clear and easy to use and it showcases great deals. I actually rearranged my shopping plan when I saw a 20-30% off deal at Old Navy, and walked away with stocking stuffers and jewelry for some teens and ‘tweens on my list.

mobile shopping with RetailMeNot app


Target’s app is quite full-featured.  It’s a meaty app that’s primed for an ongoing relationship with you, with features such as passport, list making and gift card balances.  But I just needed a few gifts on my list quickly, and I had great luck with the (searchable!) Weekly Ad list and mobile coupons.  Die-hard Target customers are very familiar with the Weekly Ad circular: it’s plastered all over the walls of each entrance and included in local newspapers.  Having the weekly specials searchable, separated by category and at my fingertips was a convenient time saver.

mobile shopping with the Target app


I was excited about Macy’s app, because I had read that one of its features was that it rewarded you with extra coupons the longer you stayed in the store.  That did not happen with me – perhaps that was only a Black Friday promotion.  I asked no fewer than five salespeople, and they weren’t familiar with the feature, let alone the app.  But I feel good that I did save 25% because of this in-store app.  If I had scoured the newspaper, which is what I used to do, I would have gotten the same deal but at the cost of more of my time.

mobile shopping with Macy's app

Are these apps one-hit wonders?

I was very pleased with these three apps – I will use them again and again.  Because I frequent both Target and Macy’s, I plan to dig more deeply into their apps and become a smarter shopper.  If you have a favorite store, be sure to check out its app to see if it works well for you.

RetailMeNot is going to become part of my out-and-about schedule:  Got an errand to run? Check RetailMeNot first to make sure I’m not missing some great nearby deal.  What a time saver, compared to pouring over newspaper ads!

Have you tried any shopping apps this year?


The Best Digital Marketing Podcasts (And Why)

Nov 25th, 20124 Comments

The best digital marketing podcasts are both entertaining and full of useful information. Listening to them makes your commute whiz by in a blur of productive learning. Each online marketing podcast below is informative and interesting, and produced on a regular schedule.  (Consistency in podcasting is a big challenge, as there are a number of good podcasts out there with spotty schedules).

As a bonus, each podcast has supplemental web-based resources you can dive into when the material covered deserves more than just a cursory listen.

Best digital marketing podcasts1. Marketing Over Coffee with Christopher Penn and John J. Wall (weekly, 20-30 minutes long)

I enjoy listening to these two because they’re both extremely knowledgeable and simpatico. Imagine Siskel and Ebert if they had liked each other. John Wall acts as host, everyman, color commentator and well-informed straight man to Christopher Penn’s nerd-in-the-know.  They discuss everything from analytics to SEO, email marketing, mobile, PPC, social media and copywriting.

What’s great: Wealth, breadth, and depth of information; supplemental LinkedIn group; helpful links on the website; video accompaniment when necessary for demos.

Heard often from Christopher:  How valuable Google Analytics is, often with quick demo examples.

Heard often from John:  How important mobile is; quirky, often-in-jest transition to sponsor promo; “I’ll throw the link on the website”.

Deserves an award for:  Best Digital Marketing Podcast, Best Social Media Podcast, Best Host and Co-Host Repartee, Best Podcast Titles

2. Social Pros by Jay Baer of Convince and Convert (weekly, 25-35 minutes long)

Jay Baer must have had a 2012 new year’s business resolution to create a successful podcast, and that, he did – with Eric Boggs of Argyle Social.  Their description of Social Pros: “We shine the spotlight on social media practitioners: real people doing real work in social media.” I see Social Pros as a collection of “slice of life” conversations with diverse, in-the-trenches people who are actually using the best practices presented in Marketing Over Coffee.  So the two podcasts are quite complementary.

What’s great:  Informational Q&A with a social media manager working in the real world. Also, Jay’s friendliness, quick wit and extensive industry knowledge make him a great host.

Heard often from Jay:  ”There needs to be a social media management solution in the midsize business space.”

Deserves an award for:  Fastest Ramp-Up of a Solid Social Media Podcast, Rookie of the Year Marketing Podcast, Best Real Marketing Pros Podcast

3. Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel of TwistImage (weekly, 30-60 minutes long)

Mitch Joel described himself in a recent podcast as having a “passion for and deep repugnance for” marketing – and this defines his approach. He asks tough, insightful questions of his guests, and takes them to task if necessary in his polite, Canadian way. (Side note:  his opening music reminds me of one of my favorite shows, Arrested Development.)

What’s great:  Consistent high quality over the years, longevity, staying power (332 episodes since 2006!)

Heard often from Mitch: “So… Who are you and what do you do?”

Deserves an award for:  Longest Running Successful Marketing Podcast, Best North American Marketing Podcast

4. Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch (bi-weekly, 20-30 minutes long)

John Jantsch interviews various authors and entrepreneurs, so you hear thought leadership not only on marketing-related topics, but on small business matters in general.  John, obviously a voracious reader, asks thoughtful questions from both the audience’s perspective, as well as from his own very informed perspective.

What’s great: John is very knowledgeable and asks tough, non-softball-type questions. On his website, he does the heavy lifting by summarizing the author’s main points; so if you’re pressed for time or need a review, just read John’s synopsis.

Heard often from John:  Mannish giggling.

Deserves an award for:  Best Small Business Marketing Podcast, Best Small Business Podcast

5. Marketing Update by Hubspot (format is changing)

This is a newbie to my repertoire, so I’m not as familiar with it, but Hubspot produces such fantastic content in general, that I have the highest hopes for this podcast.  Hubspot recently changed its podcast/videocast format from a live audience to a recorded version, which is much better for a wider audience. The current two hosts, Karen Rubin and Mike Volpe, work well together, and I am happy to finally hear a woman on a marketing podcast.

What’s great:  It’s a quick wrap-up of timely digital marketing highlights.  The website has a comprehensive, link-rich summary of each podcast.  The twitter hashtag is #MktgUp, but now that the videocast is no longer live, I’m not sure how active the hashtag will be.

Heard often:  ”The marketing takeaway is…”  Hubspot ends each news segment by summarizing the main marketing lesson, which is helpful.

Deserves an award for: Podcast with Enormous Potential, Best Web-based Summary of a Podcast

Those are my favorite, don’t-miss, top podcasts.  What would you add to this list?


Other posts you might find interesting:

Live Tweet Checklist – Best Practices for Conference and Event Planners
Social Media Jobs – Those Over 25 Need Not Apply?
Tina Fey’s rules of Improv Apply to Your Clients Too

For Facebook Business Page Admins: 5 Easy Image and Photo Posting Tips For Your Fan Page

Oct 31st, 20122 Comments

Good images and photos are key to engaging your fans on Facebook.  This is especially true for visually oriented businesses, such as restaurants and food, clothing and accessories, furniture, cars, retail in general, and almost any business-to-consumer products.

How do you optimize your image content on Facebook? First, check out this handy infographic by graphic designer Louise Myers. It’s a one-stop shop for all the Facebook image dimensions you’ll need.  Once you’re happy with your basic images – cover photo, profile pic, custom tabs – it’s time to improve, revamp and refine your regular photo-posting routine.

These 5 easy tips will make you a Facebook image-posting pro:

Facebook pinned post with image1. Pin important posts to the top of your timeline, and be sure to include a compelling image. Most Page admins know you can pin any status update to the top left of your Page, which is prime real estate for Page visitors.  A pinned post (you can have only one at a time) stays pinned for 7 days at the top left of your Page, and is typically used to showcase a contest, upcoming event, or welcome video or image.

I like how Tocquiny, an Austin ad agency, has a simple “We’re Hiring” message to communicate, but instead of a ho-hum text update, they created a simple image which attracts more attention and which also appears as the top photo in their custom tab section.

2a. Use the star to highlight important posts.  A highlighted post expands across the width of your timeline, taking up the space in both columns.  Highlighted posts are good for all-hands photos, new product announcements, panoramic shots, or any other majorly horizontal photo. It will display at 843px wide by whatever height it is, up to 403px. Killer image tip: Put each customer testimonial in its own 843px-wide image and “sprinkle” these testimonials throughout your timeline by using the post scheduler to either backdate or schedule them.

2b. Easiest tip ever:  Highlight your best photos in your photo collection.  You have a ton of photos lounging in your Photos tab.  Find your favorites or your fans’ favorites and click the star to quadruple their size.  For example, BerryAustin can choose to highlight its popular, artistic catering van.

Facebook image posts - highlighted photo

3. Promote your blog post on your Page by posting a larger image, not just a link and thumbnail. Facebook’s default way of displaying a link is to show the title, some text and a tiny thumbnail. Your awesome blog post deserves more real estate than that!  So take a couple of minutes to screenshot the top of your blog article and then post that image, along with a short intro and the all-important link to the article.

Caution: Remember that this image will show up in some of your fans’ newsfeeds, so don’t go overboard and make a really long screenshot image to clutter up their feeds. I try to make as close to a square image as I can. See tip #4.

Facebook photos - posting screenshot image of blog article post

4.  When creating/editing images or snapping photos, think square. Photos that appear on your timeline wall display as a 403px square image. If your image is a larger square, Facebook will typically shrink it to fit.

If your photo is the common 4:3 aspect ratio of the default iPhone/Android camera app, then Facebook usually displays the topmost part on the timeline wall – vertical photos appear as if the bottom is cropped out. The good news? Once a photo is posted on your timeline wall, you can reposition it. Also, users who click on the photo will see it in its entirety; and when the photo appears in your fans’ newsfeeds, it will also appear in its entirety.

Facebook image displays at 403 pixels wideHorizontal photos wider than 403 pixels will have the edges cut off. This emoticons image was 500px wide, so Facebook cropped off the edges to display it as 403px wide.  Now users who visit the Page will need to click through to get the left side of the emoticons.

Facebook images - use square photos to display best on your timeline wallOne easy way to think square for mobile photo uploads is to use Instagram for most of your smartphone photos. Another way is to use an app like Pic Stitch (iPhone) or Photo Grid (Android) to make your default camera photo square before you post it.

When you create an image from scratch – again, think square, especially if the image is wider than 403px.  Bazaarvoice used a square image to display this quote about CMOs being brand stewards.  Page visitors will get the message at a glance without getting confused or having to click through.

5. Spruce up your Facebook Page with a wider variety of images.  If you’re bored with the types of images you’ve been posting to your Page, consider something new:  adding text to your photos, combining or “collaging” several photos into one, newsjacking a meme, using “prefab” e-cards, or putting quotations on a background canvas.  For more details on how to do these, see 5 Easy Apps to Improve and Customize Your Images and Photos.

Question:  What’s one of your tried-and-true image posting apps or tips?


5 Easy Apps to Improve and Customize Your Images and Photos

Oct 30th, 2012No Comments

If you have a smartphone, you’re a photographer.  And you probably spend quality time with your favorite photo and image editing software, whether it’s a desktop tool like Photoshop, or a mobile app like Instagram, Photoshop Express or Camera+, or a desktop/mobile combo like Pixlr-o-matic or Snapseed.

Want to take your creativity up a notch, and perhaps boost engagement on your Facebook fan page?  Your imagination and these five easy apps will breathe new life into your image-posting routines, no matter which social networks host your new creations.

Using Pic Stitch and Over to vary Facebook image content

Oscar used Over to put "SOCO" (South Congress) over one of the photos and then used Picstitch to combine 3 other photos in the collage.

1. Add text on top of your image/photo with Over. This mobile app does one thing and does it well – check out this quick video. Currently Over is available only for iOS devices.

2. Collage your photos with Pic Stitch for iPhone/iPad or Photo Grid for Android.  Both are tap-intuitive and give you lots of choices for the grid layout and the photo aspect ratio.  Use Pic Stitch and Photo Grid for before-and-after shots, series-of-steps illustrations, views of a product from different angles, photos of your employees and more.

I sometimes use Pic Stitch as a “make my image square” app before uploading a photo to Facebook, because square photos look better on a Facebook timeline/wall versus photos with the default iPhone 4:3 aspect ratio.

Image editing with quickmemeAdded bonus: Pic Stitch can also export photos to your Evernote or Dropbox account, which is useful if you like to keep blog-inspiration images in one of these, as I do with Evernote.

3.  Piggyback on a popular meme by using Quickmeme or other meme generators.  Quickmeme is available as both a desktop tool and mobile app. Not sure what the meme means? Check

BerryAustin Yogurt used Quickmeme’s version of the Dos Equis man to promote their Sunday special featuring hot fudge sundaes.

image editing with someecards for Facebook 4. Parody a sentiment with Someecards or other free online e-card.  Someecards is available as both a mobile app and desktop tool.  Again, BerryAustin has a fun, creative example.

5. Use Instagram.  I saved the biggy for last.  Instagram is both a photo editor (famous for its filters) and a social network with over 50 million users.  If you’re not using it, dip your big toe in the Instagram water by reading this great tutorial from Laura Zimmerman and this beginner’s guide by Mashable. Instagram photos are square, which again, almost always look better on a Facebook timeline.

Bonus tip: If you create some to-die-for, amazing images, consider protecting (or at least claiming credit for) them by putting a watermark on them with iWatermark.  Phyllis Khare of All Things Social Media gives good advice and more details on iWatermark in her blog post.

Question:  Have you tried any of these tools? Do you have other favorites? Please share!


Turning Mistakes Into Opportunities For Success

Aug 25th, 2012No Comments

Everyone makes mistakes. It’s part of our shared humanity. How does your company handle the inevitable oversights and blunders that happen in the workplace?

In his book, Brilliant Mistakes: Finding Success on the Far Side of Failure, Paul Schoemaker argues that the path to success is often paved with insights learned from our failures. To achieve new business innovations, which are inherently risky, companies must foster a culture that is supportive of “well intentioned failures”.

Ben & Jerry's ice cream graveyard

Headstone in Ben & Jerry's Flavor Graveyard, taken on our fall trip '11

Which got me to thinking about companies that not only tolerate failures, but learn from and even celebrate them. Shoemaker mentions a CEO who awards a “best mistake of the month” to the manager who uncovers the most valuable information from his/her mistake.  Over time, this leader has changed his company’s culture from hiding mistakes to dissecting, sharing and celebrating them.

One of my favorite examples of recasting a losing idea into a winner is Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard, where unpopular or too-expensive flavors are laid to rest as “dearly de-pinted”. It’s a popular attraction at their Vermont factory; headstones have pithy sayings, and some visitors even bring flowers to their long-lost favorites.  And people love talking about this online: googling Ben & Jerry’s flavor graveyard yields 38,200 results!

I think of my failures as a gift. -A.G. Lafley, former CEO of Procter & Gamble

Movie and TV studios know that mistakes and outtakes are important to many viewers, and bloopers are often included in the bonus material of DVDs. Pixar has even (painstakingly) created bloopers on purpose for both Toy Story and A Bug’s Life.

There is no shortage of inventions born of mistakes. (Necessity may be the mother of invention, but error makes a fine father.) You probably know that Alexander Fleming’s pre-vacation sloppiness in the lab led to the discovery of penicillin.  And the 3M scientist who invented the adhesive for Post-Its was aiming for an ultra-strong glue.  Other inventions born of mistakes were the pacemaker, plastic, teflon, saccharin and even Coca-Cola.

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.  -Albert Einstein

Of course, celebrating failure is more the exception rather than the rule.  According to Schoemaker, “The great virtue of mistakes, whether they occur accidentally or by design, is their ability to enlarge our range of experience, shrink our ego and thereby increase the chance of discovery.”

Made any great mistakes lately?


Great Customer Service – Alive and Well and Local

Aug 20th, 20112 Comments

It happened within the last 3 days – 3 examples of great customer service. My youngest daughter was the witness and beneficiary of it, and I hope she’ll remember the lesson when she enters the professional world (assuming there will be such jobs by the time she graduates)!

You’ve already heard great stories about Nordstrom‘s customer service.  Here’s another one to add to the heap, as well as a couple of feel-good anecdotes featuring Treaty Oak Bank and Black Forest Werkshop, two Austin companies that treat their customers like good friends.

Nordstrom Twitter shield logoNordstrom and Back-to-School Shopping

Trying to be a good, let-them-figure-it-out kind of parent, I gave the girls a back-to-school clothing budget and set them free. One thing Michelle bought was a couple of pairs of tights from Nordstrom at Barton Creek Mall.  Then she promptly lost the tights. And couldn’t find them for a couple of days.

Yes, our house is currently cluttered with back-to-college living/studying/clothing paraphernalia, but those tights were nowhere to be found.  Michelle finally called Nordstrom on the off-chance that she somehow left them at the register.  The salesperson replied no, but that if Michelle couldn’t find them, she could come in and get a free replacement.

Michelle was wide-eyed with disbelief and happiness when she told me this.  I later told my whole exercise class and Michelle told her friends.  She’s also surprisingly more determined than ever to find the tights.  Nordstrom may end up eventually losing $15 worth of inventory, but they’ve already gained positive word-of-mouth and more loyal advocates.  Talk about a good business decision.

Treaty Oak Bank - Small Courtesies, Great Responsiveness

Happy Birthday card from Treaty Oak BankA “Happy Birthday” card arrived in the mail for Michelle from our community bank this week.  To be sure, Treaty Oak is not the only company who extends such courtesies, but they somehow have done so consistently for years and for each member of our family.  As a result, my business partner and I decided to open our business account there, and have enjoyed responsive service at every turn.

Black Forest Werkshop – Taking Time to Care and Advise

I saved the most terrifying and dramatic for last:  Michelle was in a car accident Wednesday evening.  Thankfully, neither driver was hurt.  Our car, however, might end up being totaled.

Totalled carBecause of our past relationship with Black Forest Werkshop, we had the car towed directly there that night and called them the next day.  The owner, Lee Rector, first asked if everyone was ok, and then expressed genuine dismay about the car.  He called it a “well cared-for” car and recommended that when the insurance adjusters come knocking with their offer, we need to tell them how much money we’ve spent over the last two years maintaining our now-dead car.

He also brought to our attention the car’s “diminished value” if we do repair it (a fully repaired car that has had extensive work done due to a collision has a lower resale value), a real and valid concept that insurance adjusters normally don’t bring up.

Word of Mouth Marketing

These good customer service experiences remind me of Andy Sernovitz’s Social Media Summit session on Word of Mouth Marketing.  I’ll be telling friends about them, I’ll probably write a Yelp or Google Places review, and, well, I wrote this post.

Suzanne Doughty

Other blog posts you might like:

Highlights of the Social Media Success Summit
Austin Chamber Panel Discusses Building Your Online Presence

Team-Building by Improv

Dear United, I Don’t Care About the Color of the Plane
Seizing the Moment with Real-Time Marketing

Tired of Boring, Forced Team-Building Games? Try Improv.

Jul 19th, 20117 Comments

Being a good manager is tough.  You have to be part psychologist, coach, accountant, bookkeeper, captain, cheerleader, parent, visionary and fortune teller.

  The Island of Misfit Toys

We arrived as the Island of Misfit Toys and left knowing that our quirks were strengths. Notably absent: Yukon Cornelius. Photo by Chris Glass.

As a manager or leader, you might find yourself venturing with your staff into the magical world of team-building, the 30,000-mile tune-up that promises to improve communication, productivity and collaboration.

I can hear your team groaning from here.

Having reluctantly participated in more than my fair share of these, let me suggest something completely different:  an Improv class.

I recently tried the free Improv 101 class at Coldtowne Theatre in Austin.  Chalk it up to Tina Fey’s book Bossypants, which convinced me that the rules of improv apply to business too.  Couple that with encouragement from colleague Vickie Sokol Evans*, Microsoft Certified Trainer by day and Improv performer by night.

Confession:  I almost didn’t go, chicken that I am.  None of my friends were willing to join me and my stomach was turning backflips as I drove there.  But I acted as if when I got there, and strode quickly toward the mild-mannered group milling about the entrance.


Erika led our Improv 101 class. Subtly in charge, not so large.

Erika, an obvious pro, was large and in charge, and quickly learned all of our names and made us feel at ease.  We warmed up with a clapping-telephone game that got our synapses firing and got us working as a group.  We also learned to use our voice, words and body for improv, and did several more fun-goofy games that exercised each of these.  By the end of the hour, I realized the Clark Kent types we all seemed to be at the beginning had emerged as improv superheros. I certainly was ready to take on the world after that.

I don’t know if all improv companies or classes are always this supportive and encouraging, but this first class sure was. We arrived as the Island of Misfit Toys and left knowing that our quirks were actually our strengths.

So if you have a team, especially a team of marketers or creative types, who need to work together better, or get their creative juices flowing or see each other in a different and more positive light, give improv a try.  More than likely, your team will emerge more cohesive, energized and confident.

Coldtowne TheaterA Real Example

Michael Jastroch, Executive Director of Coldtowne Theater, told me he recently worked with a large marketing firm who was having trouble working together to find creative solutions for their clients.  When marketers would float ideas, the first words out of someone’s mouth were usually “No, we can’t do that.”

One of the basic tenants of improv is to say ‘Yes’,” Jastroch explained.  “But saying yes takes time to develop.  After doing a bunch of hilarious scenes, the group had a breakthrough and realized the power of the word yes.  Plus, they brought snacks.”

No egos were bruised in the making of this post.

Suzanne Doughty

*Vickie Sokol Evans is an amazing techie guru. Seth Godin must have been talking about her in his Time for a Workflow Audit post.

Other blog posts you might be interested in:

Tina Fey’s Rules of Improv Apply to Your Clients Too
Beyond LinkedIn Basics
Why to Sign Up for Twitter Even if You Hate It
Highlights of Social Media Success Summit

Austin Chamber: Monkee-Boy, Google and Cedar Sage Marketing Discuss Building your Online Presence

Jun 9th, 20112 Comments
Austin Chamber presents "How to Market Your Business Online"

Panelists for "How to Market Your Business Online"

The Austin Chamber of Commerce Northwest Business Council luncheon featured presentations and a panel discussion on how to market your business online. Presenters were:

Some of my high-level, don’t-get-caught-in-the-details takeaways follow.

From Joe at Monkee-Boy:

  • You can build a world-class online presence for a fraction of the cost it would have required 5 years ago.  When thinking about your online presence, consider your website, social media, mobile web, localized marketing, SaaS (Software as a Service), crowd-sourced design, open-source technology; as well as SEO, PPC and email marketing.
  • Understanding your brand is the most effective way to build a successful web presence.  To understand your brand, you must first know your company, your customers and your competition.
  • Then tackle aesthetics and messaging, how to drive traffic to your site and build awareness, which technology to implement, and how to acquire new customers and keep existing ones.
  • Other benefits to understanding your brand:  it saves you money by keeping you focused as you grow, it establishes your company culture and it helps increase sales.

See Monkee-Boy’s slide deck on Slideshare.

From Whitney at Google:

  • 1 in 5 searches online is local, and Google Places (which is free) helps those users find your business.
  • It’s a one-stop online listing to find everything you want to know about a local business (address, hours, photos/videos, description, contact info).  Here’s an example, from Maggiano’s, our luncheon host.
  • Google Places also includes a local recommendation engine that is powered by others.  People use Google Places both to review local businesses and to receive customized, personalized recommendations from their friends.
  • The more reviews you have, the more exposure you have.  Businesses can/should encourage people to write reviews, but don’t incentivize them monetarily.  Also, Google will not remove negative reviews.  They do, however, provide an “owner response box”, and typically, users see mostly reviews by their friends. [Also, see Google Places Catalog.
  • [News to me:] Google Places has a “G-Feet team” that will come to you and help you get set up. Contact

See Mashable’s article on Google Places for more info.

From Rhonda here at Cedar Sage:

Rhonda’s presentation was Email Marketing and Social Media 101, but she only had time to address the email marketing portion in the time remaining.  Key takeaways:

  • Nearly 2/3 of all businesses expect to increase their use of email marketing, and small businesses are the most likely of all.
  • Benefits of email marketing: 1) inexpensive way to build relationships with clients and prospects, 2) positions you as an expert, and as likable and trustworthy, 3) keeps your customers “in the know”.
  • Email Marketing Do’s:  provide relevant content, segment your lists, have a recognizable “from” line, have an enticing but true “subject” line, use clickable links for tracking and to gauge interest, and finally, analyze your data and make adjustments for future mailings.
  • Email Marketing Don’ts:  Don’t email without permission, don’t include the “kitchen sink”, and don’t skip the email service provider!
  • Not using a reputable email service provider can sometimes land your emails in recipients’ spam folders and can potentially cause internet service providers to mark  your email address as a spammer.

Our complete presentation with both email marketing and social media slides can be found on Slideshare.

Lots of great Q&A followed.  One of the first questions had to do with having a website and could a business just rely on its Facebook business page instead?   The panel agreed that you should have both.  Reason:  Because You, versus Facebook, own your website, while Facebook offers access to and potential engagement with many, many people.   Another question had to do with QR codes.  For basic info on QR codes, see our QR codes blog post.

Maggiano’s was great!  Many thanks to them, the presenters, the attendees, our MC, Lynne Henderlong-Rhea of Mombo Creative, and of course, the Austin Chamber.  Feel free to add comments (even if you weren’t there)!

-Suzanne Doughty

Other blog posts you might be interested in:

Tina Fey’s Rules of Improv Apply to Your Clients Too
QR Codes 101 – What They Are and Why to Use Them
Why to Sign Up for Twitter Even if You Hate It
3 Must Dos when setting up a Facebook Business Page
They Fly Through the Air: Austin Businesses Using Constant Contact Email Marketing

Beyond LinkedIn Basics – Highlights of Mario Sundar’s Social Media Summit 2011 Talk

May 29th, 20115 Comments

Mario Sundar of LinkedIn Mario Sundar, worldwide Social Media Manager and chief blogger at LinkedIn, spoke on day 5 of the Social Media Success Summit 2011.  Practicing what he preaches, he first gathered questions from attendees a few weeks ago within the summit’s (private) LinkedIn group.  He then based his talk around the most asked-about topics:  1) Company Pages, 2) Groups, 3) Answers, 4) B2B use and 5) Small/Medium Businesses (SMBs) use. Key takeaways from his talk were:

  • Continuously sync your real world connections into LinkedIn.
  • If you have time to update only one part of your profile, update your Specialties because it helps you to be found.
  • Take advantage of Advanced Search – it’s extremely powerful.
  • As a company (on a Company Page), you should actively seek recommendations for your products/services.

LinkedIn iconBut first, some LinkedIn basics from Sundar:

LinkedIn is important because its members are the world’s largest audience of affluent, influential professionals. Over 100 million professionals are currently on LinkedIn – 44 million in the US, 56 million internationally – and over 1 million professionals sign up every week (1 per second).

Advice for individuals on LinkedIn:

  1. Use a recognizable photo.
  2. Keep your connections public so others can figure out their connection to you.
  3. Update your Specialties with relevant keywords as you gain expertise in your job. This enables LinkedIn and Google searches to find you.
  4. Sync with your Twitter, blog and Slideshare accounts, especially if prospective customers and potential hires are following you.
  5. Constantly sync your real world connections with LinkedIn.  First, start with your webmail (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail) import tool. Sundar said that what works best for him and many of his colleagues is to scan through emails at the end of the day for any new individuals to connect with.
    Side note from Sundar:  To see LinkedIn and otherwise “enriched” profiles in your email, try Rapportive with Gmail or Xobni with Yahoo.  Further, if you’re on a PC, MS Outlook has a LinkedIn plugin that pulls in your LinkedIn profile and shows your connections and their conversations, so as to provide some context and background to go along with their emails.
  6. Use the Advanced Search tool – it’s LinkedIn’s “secret sauce”.  It lets you slice and dice data from professionals based on their names, keywords, locations, titles, companies, industries, groups and more.

If you need more info on getting started with LinkedIn, consider attending one of the free training webinars or exploring their Learning Center.

Social Media Success Summit - May 2011The Five Most Requested Topics from Summit Attendees

1. Company Pages

If your target customers are businesses or business professionals, you should have a LinkedIn Company Page, because it can help you reach your three key audiences:  customers, prospects and potential employees. In fact, the three tabs on the Company Page are targeted to these three audiences.

Overview tabtargeted to existing customers:  On this tab, you can keep people up to date on what’s happening with your company.  You can also bring in recent blog posts and tweets, as Social Media Examiner’s LinkedIn Page does.  Sundar says that soon we’ll see some dramatic changes to this tab.

Career tabtargeted to potential employees:  It allows your company to post job openings in hopes of attracting top talent.  As an example, see the Career tab of LinkedIn’s own Company Page.

Products & Services tabtargeted to potential customers:  Sundar called this the “nerve center” because companies can not only showcase their products and services, but also list LinkedIn users’ recommendations; and the fact that these recommendations are from people in your network make those recs all the more powerful.  For this reason, Sundar called it another “secret sauce” and encouraged companies to beef up their products and services recommendations by sharing the page.  (To prevent spam, LinkedIn puts a limit on how many people companies can reach out to this way). Larger companies that want to scale their recommendations quickly might want to use one of LinkedIn premium features.  Sundar pointed to Hewlett-Packard’s Recommendations tab as a good example of a Company Page that has many recommendations that would reach a lot of professionals.

Three important points about administering Company Pages:

  • To edit a Company Page, you must have an email address with your company’s domain name (i.e., no generic Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail webmail email addresses).
  • You can allow anyone within your company to edit the page, but Sundar cautions against it, to prevent havoc-wreaking by disgruntled employees.  Consider having social media-savvy HR or marketing people administer the page, with HR managing the careers portion and marketing managing the rest.
  • Companies also have an Analytics tab, so be sure to track your results over time.

See LinkedIn’s own Guide to Setting Up Your Company Page.  Sundar also recommended Linda Coles‘ Social Media Examiner post “8 New LinkedIn Features Worth Exploration” as a must-read.  Note: Coles has made a number of informative SME posts which cover LinkedIn.

2. Groups

Sundar said that, after completing your individual profile, the first place to explore is LinkedIn Groups.  Groups are a great tool, especially for SMBs, because professionals (i.e., prospective customers, suppliers and partners) are discussing the same general topic, which might be right up your alley.  Sundar recommends first finding the right group, either by searching keywords or by following LinkedIn’s suggestions which are based on your interests.  Then start by listening to make sure the group is a good fit.   If it is, you should provide value both by asking relevant questions and by answering others’ questions.  Do this for existing groups before you embark on creating, managing and moderating your own group, which is a big time commitment.

Sundar also talked about Custom Groups, which can be particularly helpful for large businesses.  He pointed to Philips Healthcare as a good example.

3.  Answers

Sundar called LinkedIn Answers a “sister product” to Groups, so after you’re familiar with Groups, explore Answers as the logical next step.  Again, the Answers tool is especially well suited for SMBs, who often have time-sensitive questions about all facets of their business, including choosing the right vendor, planning professional events, answering basic tax questions, etc.  As with Groups, you can also answer people’s queries within the Answers tool, which will position you as an expert when prospects later search on the topic.

One of the best parts about Answers, according to Sundar, is that you can create an RSS feed of answers related to specific topics that you can pull into Google Reader, for example.

4. B2B Marketing

LinkedIn is probably the best social site for B2B marketing, said Sundar.  The numbers support this, as most B2B marketers who do use social media to grow their business say that LinkedIn is the most important social media channel for them.  All the advice above holds true for B2B marketers, so do keep your Company Page up to date and do encourage product recommendations and do engage in Groups and Answers.  The icing on the cake is to get your employees to authentically evangelize your products and offer recommendations on company profiles.

5. Small and Medium Size Business Marketing

Sundar pointed to Guy Kawasaki’s excellent blog post on 10 Ways for Small Businesses to Use LinkedIn.  Four key tips from that article:

  • Network with peers for repeat referral business
  • Be your own publicity machine
  • Find and build your team
  • For startups: raise funding

LinkedIn Today

During the Q&A session, Sundar also talked about newer features LinkedIn Today and Share.  [And if there were a Search field within the LinkedIn Learning Center, I would more easily find the link that explains the LinkedIn Share tool. Feel free to post it in the comments section. Here's what I get when Mike Stelzner highly recommended LinkedIn Today as a way to find breaking news that you and your professional contacts find relevant.  Sundar said it was one of his favorite features and Mike said it is one of the top sources of traffic for Social Media Examiner.

-Suzanne Doughty
Cedar Sage Marketing

Wow, time to sync my LinkedIn connections. I know I’ve let lots of opportunities to connect with people over LinkedIn slip by, and it’s time to take steps to rectify the situation.  Can you relate?


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