Live Tweet Checklist – Best Practices for Conference and Event Planners

Sep 9th, 2012No Comments

You know you want extra buzz during your event, and that live tweeting can enhance the experience for both the audience and presenters.

As an event organizer, how do you make live tweeting work best for you and your audience?

Here’s a handy live tweeting checklist, with a few how-to examples from Social Media Club Austin‘s recent panel discussion, “Is Social Media Replacing Traditional Journalism?“.

Pre-event promotion over TwitterBefore the event

  1. Verify wifi availability and passwords.
  2. Verify Twitter handles for all presenters, their companies and event sponsors.
  3. Include the event hashtag and Twitter handles in event promotion, including in invitations and on social media outlets.  See screenshot for examples of pre-event tweets.
  4. Create signage/slides for all of the above to display at your event.
  5. Plan who will tweet under your official Twitter handle.  At Social Media Club Austin, we’ve had different people at the helm during any particular event.  If you don’t want to disclose your official login credentials, consider the GroupTweet tool, which allows others to tweet on your behalf without knowing your password.
  6. Be a pro with your Twitter engagement tool.  Know it well because you’ll be using the heck out of it – typing bon mots while listening intently, and scanning for others’ great content to retweet. While I’m tweeting, I use Hootsuite as a listening dashboard to monitor at least three streams at a time during our panels: one for mentions of @smcaustin, one for our hashtag #smca, and one for outgoing tweets.  Many people swear by Tweetdeck as a dashboard.
  7. Charge your devices ahead of time. I usually have three charged devices at the ready – laptop, iPad and iPhone. I use the iPhone for snapping and tweeting out photos and the laptop for Hootsuite.

During the event

Armed with the event hashtag and presenters’ and sponsors’ handles, you or your chosen live tweeter are ready to tweet on your organization’s behalf as the event unfolds.  Your main goal is tweet out the speakers’ (and audience members’) best content – those important, relevant and humorous highlights that your audience cares about.

Event photo with a more personal tweet

Event photo with a more personal tweet

  1. Listen carefully.  When you tweet on behalf of the organizer’s handle, your audience assumes your tweets have more credibility.  Live up to that challenge!
  2. Credit whichever presenter or panelist spoke.  Use the format @presenter says [their content]. If you’re really short on characters, use [their content] -@presenter.
  3. Take and tweet photos to vary your content.  Bonus: these photos can later be put on your website, Facebook or Google+ page.
  4. Retweet others’ valuable content. Audience members often appreciate being recognized in a RT by the organizer.
  5. Be ready to search for a resource (document, website, video) a speaker refers to in her talk. It’s helpful to tweet out that link.
  6. Don’t be afraid to tweet the occasional personal tidbit; for example, to thank or recognize specific audience members. This works only if you know the audience and presenters quite well and have a history with them.
  7. Don’t forget that all-important hashtag.  Even when tweeting as the organizer’s handle, you should always use the event hashtag. You can set up some Twitter clients such as Tweetdeck to automatically add a hashtag.
  8. Don’t overtweet – or Twitter will prevent your tweets from going out for awhile. Twitter has limits for not only daily tweets (1,000), but semi-hourly tweets as well.  I ran into this limit during the last 10 minutes of our last panel.  After some day-after investigation and emails/tweets to both Twitter and Hootsuite, I recommend that you not post more than 40-42 tweets within the span of an hour.

tweet about livestream linkSide note:  If you are livestreaming, be sure to tweet the livestream link a few times during the presentation.

Advanced live tweeting

Mastered the checklist above? Consider some more advanced tips:

Pre-scheduled tweets for the event

  • Preschedule some tweets.  This is a time-saver when 1) you already know you’ll have supplemental info (links) to give your audience, and 2) you want to remember to thank every panelist and sponsor.  See example above. (These tweets can easily be modified or deleted once you’re at the event if something changes.  For example, I arrived after the yummy Austin’s Pizza was delivered and didn’t actually smell it like I did last time, so I deleted that first tweet.  And I moved up the timing of the other tweets to coincide with the discussion.)
  • Got a couple of buddies who want to help?  Ask one to live-storify the event, and post the storify immediately following the event.  Ask the other (photography-savvy) buddy to work the room, snapping and tweeting a wide variety of photos, which you can simply retweet.
  • If some hashtag followers have a history of grumbling about your “noisy” hashtag during events, proactively tweet out a link on how to temporarily mute a hashtag.
  • Have several plan Bs.  If Hootsuite goes down, be ready with Tweetdeck (or vice versa) or just native Twitter. If the wifi crawls to a standstill, be ready with your smartphone or tablet. If the event is long, plan on sitting by an outlet, and bring your charger or extra battery power.

For more information, see these other helpful posts about live tweeting:

How would you change or add to this checklist?


Other posts you might like:

Promote Your High Tech Event in Austin – For Free
Social Media Jobs – Those Over 25 Need Not Apply?
Tina Fey’s Rules of Improv Apply to Your Clients Too
Boost the Success of Your Conference or Event with Live Tweeting

Boost the Success of Your Conference Event with Live Tweeting

Aug 31st, 20121 Comment

You’ve recruited the best and brightest to speak at your conference.  Attendance is great, coffee is served and the event begins.  All eyes are on the presenter.  Or are they?

Attendees live tweeting at Social Media Club Austin panel discussion

Chances are, many of your attendees have their heads buried in their smartphone, iPad or laptop.  They’re scanning their screens and typing away with gusto. And that’s exactly what you want.

Welcome to the world of live tweeting, where audience members – and even presenters and panelists – use Twitter to comment in real time about the topic at hand.

Live tweeting benefits just about everyone at a conference, panel or other information-packed program.  Event organizers, presenters and attendees can get more out of your event when they bring Twitter into the mix.  As Lorna Sixsmith, copywriter and social media consultant, explains:

  • Live tweeting helps event organizers by offering free publicity, increased engagement and audience feedback.  It amplifies the conversation and word of mouth about your event, as people tweet before, during and after events they look forward to, like and learn from.
  • Live tweeting also benefits the audience by easing in-person introductions and networking among members. It can help attendees focus, as they try to capture the speaker’s main points in (fewer than) 140 characters.  And nothing rivals Twitter for real-time questions and audience feedback.

But what about presenters?  Don’t they deserve our undivided attention after all the preparation they’ve done? This Toastmasters article recommends that they take a cue from Chris Brogan to “let down their guard”; presenters too can take advantage of the rapport-building and reach-extending that live tweeting and other social media use enable.

When NOT to tweet: at people-focused events like the Austin Summer Shindig 2012

When not to live tweet

I recommend tweeting be avoided during more personal or “human-oriented” events – those times when people themselves, and not the information they share, take center stage. Smaller get-togethers (even if they’re educational), artistic performances and networking-focused events are good examples.

Social media diehards will check in on foursquare upon arrival and tweet a photo or two – that extra bit of publicity might be welcomed by organizers. But attendees soon learn that they miss the point (and detract from others’ enjoyment) when their eyes are glued to their screens and not to the people in front of them.

What would Miss Manners say?

Once it was considered rude to do anything but stare silently (preferably with eyebrows raised) at a presenter as he or she spoke.  With the proliferation of wifi and Twitter use over the last few years, both audience and speaker can more easily reap the benefits of real-time interaction and increased engagement.

Ready to live tweet your event?  See this handy Live Tweet Checklist – Best Practices for Conference and Event Planners.


Other posts you might like:

Promote Your High Tech event in Austin – For Free
Storify – Collect Social Media Sound Bites Into a Coherent Story
Do’s and Don’ts of Community Manager Rock Stars
Live Tweet Checklist – Best Practices for Conference and Event Planners

Storify: Collect Social Media Sound Bites Into a Coherent Story

Jan 31st, 2012No Comments

I love finding a quick, easy tool (read: no steep learning curve) that saves time and improves my work.  So I was happy to try Storify, a free web-based tool that lets you tell stories with social media.  With Storify, it’s easy to piece together a compelling, attractive story about an event by cherrypicking your – and others’ – tweets, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, etc.
The Detroit News storified the upcoming Super Bowl commercials
Time recently listed Storify as one of the 50 best websites of 2011.   It has been in public beta since April 2011.

What does a storified story look like? Some recent examples:

With Storify, you’re both the curator and publisher of your topic’s online presence and relevant social media posts. You’re also the editor because you can add context and comments throughout the story.  In a Twitter chat, for example, you might choose to highlight interesting side conversations, or get rid of them altogether to keep your story brief.

How to use Storify

This welcome video shows how to use Storify, as does this post by Claire Diaz Ortiz, which matches my first Storify experience to a tee and gives a step-by-step screenshot walk-through.

Possibly the easiest way to use Storify is to summarize a Twitter chat or other tweetable event.  You simply search on the hashtag, drag and drop your favorite tweets and images, write a heading and you’re done.* That’s what I did in my first story last week, where I summarized the Google+ for Business Tech Talk.

As shown below, once I’ve published my story, I can share it on Twitter or Facebook, and notify the people I’ve quoted.

Storify's share and notify screen

(When a person's profile is grayed out, it means we don't mutually follow each other on Twitter, so they won't be notified, which is nice and anti-spammy.)

Read more on how to use Storify for Twitter chats.

Three important, semi-random notes

  1. The links inside any story are active hot links, allowing readers to dive into people’s profiles and even retweet or reply directly from the story.
  2. Once published, you can continue to edit the story to update the content.  This is what Josh Stearns did as the Occupy Protests continued, for example.
  3. If someone later deletes a tweet featured in a story, the tweet remains archived in the story.

Other bright ideas on how to use Storify

Can you think of other ways to use Storify?  Any upcoming events you might want to storify?


Other blog posts you might be interested in:

* When there’s a firehose of information in a Twitter chat, like #blogchat for example, it’s much more time-consuming to curate the most representative tweets and/or amplify the voices that matter most to you.  For example, Harvard Business Review regularly storifies its tweet-rich #HBRchat twitter chats.


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

Highlights of Social Media Success Summit 2011 – Day 3 with Stelzner & Thomases

May 15th, 20112 Comments

Social Media Success Summit 2011 Day 3 with Stelzner and Thomases

Mike StelznerProven Social Media Strategies to Rapidly Grow Your Business
Hollis Thomases
13 Ways to Use Twitter Marketing to Grow Your Business

Mike Stelzner, founder of Social Media Examiner and author of Launch, kicked off Day 3 of the summit with an enticing caveat that his recommendations would go against conventional marketing wisdom, but they’ve proven to be especially effective over the last few years.   Hollis Thomases then overviewed numerous examples of how businesses can effectively use Twitter.  She also pointed to a number of tools you can use to get the most out of Twitter.

Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition

Drawing for a free book at

Mike began with an analogy of your business as a rocket that you must navigate to new heights.  What propels you forward is catering to people’s core desires:

  1. access to great information and insights,
  2. access to great people and
  3. recognition.

Attaining these is more important to your prospects and customers than buying the products and services you offer.

What complicates your challenge of reaching potential customers are the non-stop marketing messages that bombard us all – ads in texts, emails, billboards, subways, even in bathrooms.  People tune out, seek refuge and adopt a default attitude of distrust.

To break through the noise and establish trust, you must meet people’s core desires and help them solve their smaller problems at no cost – and with negligible self-promotion.  When you give people access to information and experts for free, they’ll wonder how much more they will gain if they actually buy your offerings. Because you’ve helped them address their smaller problems, they will trust you with their bigger issues.

Mike summarized this “elevation principle” in his formula for success:

Great Content + Other People – Marketing Messages = Growth

There are two types of great content:

1. “Primary fuel” or regularly produced content such as how-to articles and product reviews. This fuel propels you forward day to day and keeps people interested. Its effect is short term, lasting about 3-7 days.  Two examples are Social Media Examiner’s regular blog on its homepage and Hubspot’s free webinars.  Tips on producing regular content:

  • How to articles:  Pick topics your readers are interested in (survey them to find out); include details and make the article readable with bolded key points, screenshot images and videos; make it printable with printfriendly.
  • Expert interviews:  Approach experts speaking at local events. Note that experts who are authors are most open to interviews when their new book is launching. [Use Steve Garfield's video tips for interviews, especially remote interviews with ScreenFlow for the Mac and Camtasia for PCs. [SnagIt for simple screen capture and editing.]
  • Case studies of people or companies in your industry: Start with the problem, explain how they addressed it and what the results were. A nice byproduct is that working on their case study will often lead to strategic partnerships.  For example, SME did a post on “How Microsoft Xbox Uses Twitter to Reduce Support Costs” and then Microsoft later spoke at one of their events. [Same thing with 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report , Top 10 Social Media Blogs – 2011 and Top 10 Social Media Blogs – 2010, as well as Hubspot’s website grader.  Note that even this extremely valuable content is free.

    • Reports based on large surveys: These are highly viral and typically have a long life and enjoy strong SEO. Tip: Include a retweet button in the pdf file for even more viral spread.
    • Contests juried by experts:  These appeal to people’s need for recognition and are very important for building relationships.  Process: Recruit judges, ask for nominations, announce finalists, announce winners and give them an electronic badge to post.

    The “Other People” part of the equation is often overlooked but extremely important.  Other people are outside experts, successful peers and authors/speakers.  When you lift other people, they will lift you (e.g., with a future partnership opportunity), so it’s a win-win.  For example, if you are a cooking products manufacturer, you could showcase different chefs. Your audience will get cooking tips and the chefs will get exposure; both will view you as a resource and problem-solver.

    By using the elevation principle, Social Media Examiner generated $1.7m in revenue in its first year.  Its only marketing messages were an occasional small ad on its website and reminders through its “back channel” email list.

    Two other companies that uses this principle are The Pioneer Woman and  Hubspot.  Note that both websites are devoid of obvious marketing messages.  Yet, when Pioneer Woman released a cookbook, it became a #1 New York Times best seller because so many people had enjoyed the recipes and photographs on her website.  Similarly, Hubspot, which started in 2006, has grown to a $20m company and generates 25,000 leads monthly.  Mike Volpe, Hubspot’s VP of Marketing, said you only need a drop or two of the marketing message for every gallon of content.

    In summary, build a gathering place with great content and the support of outside experts.  If it’s a place without marketing messages, you’ll quickly attract a big following, increase partnership opportunities and grow sales.

    Mike’s book, Launch, releases on June 6.  His first chapter can be downloaded for free at

    Hollis Thomases – 19 Ways to Use Twitter Marketing to Grow Your Business

    Twitter Marketing: An Hour a DayHollis, founder of WebAdvantage and author of Twitter Marketing:  An Hour a Day, presented an example-rich and tool-rich webinar which was extremely helpful and practical.

    First, the Twitter landscape:  Twitter currently has over 200 million users and 1 billion tweets per week.  It continues to grow exponentially, adding 460,000 new users in March 2011 alone.

    In general, Twitter allows you to quickly share information, build relationships, reach out to prospects, service customers, and gather intelligence and feedback.  Specifically, here are 19 ways businesses are using Twitter:

    1. Build branding and awareness, as pfizer_news does. Note Pfizer’s bio and how it lists resources for safety, journalists and press.
    2. Direct-to-consumer marketingBlack_DeckerUS which typically sells through retail stores
    3. Provide direct customer servicecomcastcares
    4. Build loyalty and retentioncakemail, an email marketing platform
    5. Promote events, locations, etckogibbq mobile food carts
    6. Generate leads and salesTheMontereyCo [Side note: while looking at TheMontereyCo's tweetstream, I ran across a tweet by JetBlueCheeps
    7. Get instant feedbackmysolutionspot
    8. Market B2B eventsPharmaMarketers Use a hashtag so attendees can communicate before, during and after the event.
    9. Deliver localized informationdbctfx traffic alerts within Delaware
    10. Conduct market research – What human spa service would you like to see here at @themacspa? Take our poll at here.
    11. Recruit members or personnelaigaidaho, the Idaho chapter of AIGA professional designers
    12. Thought leadership (being intentionally different from people’s expectations): Online banking company INGDIRECT providing fun facts, tweeting in Pig Latin, etc
    13. Change attitudes – post facts to influence others
    14. Gain competitive advantage – be on Twitter to listen to others talk about you, and then respond.
    15. Manage crisesBP_America took a very long time to post about its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Now, at least, its profile page has restoration and contact info on it.
    16. Create spokespeople… for free SouthwestAir often has raving fans who post.
    17. Entertain (why celebrities are popular on Twitter) – funnyordie
    18. Raise search visibility – tweets have their own URLs and are indexed by the search engines.

    Hollis then gave an overview of Twitter fundamentals, including setting up a profile, choosing who to follow, using lists, searching, establishing goals and objectives, and actually tweeting.  (This overview starts at about minute 17. )  A few general take-aways:

    • Your Twitter account is a company asset which should not be given to an intern or temp to set up or manage.
    • You can more easily manage Twitter using popular clients such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and Seesmic.  Take full advantage of Twitter lists and consider Listorious, Formulists and Twibes.
    • You can use some of the above management tools to schedule your tweets and automatically push them to other social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, but don’t overdo it.  Rather, engage uniquely and authentically in each of your social media channels.

    You can actually do a lot with 140 characters and a URL shortener, but here are tools to enhance your tweets further:

    1. Video - twitlens, twitvid
    2. Audiotwaudio, hark, audioboo, soundcloud
    3. Photostwitpic, yfrog, twitgoo
    4. Surveys & pollstwtpoll
    5. Contests, coupons & invitestwtQpon, TicketLeap, twtvite
    6. Chattweetchat, tinychat, tweetworks
    7. Music,, soundcloud
    8. Tweeting more than 140 charactersdeckly (by Tweetdeck), twitlonger, tinypaste, jumbotweet

    For tracking and monitoring your tweets, start with URL shorteners such as bitly,, budURL and owly. You can also use Twitter alerts such as TweetBeep, Twilert or BackTweets to notify you of tweets containing the keywords you specify (similar to what Google Alerts does).  For analytics on actual Twitter users, see Twitalyzer and Klout.

    More general social media tracking tools that include Twitter tracking are SocialMention and Viral Heat at the entry level, and Trendrr, ScoutLabs and RapLeaf at the mid-level.  Hollis did not discuss the more expensive enterprise-level solutions.

    In summary, Twitter at first glance is one of the easiest social media tools to use – just type in 140 characters.  But to get the most out of Twitter, you need to decide what your objective is, see how others are using it well, start by listening, and learn some basic tools.

    Suzanne Doughty
    Cedar Sage Marketing

    So many new tools, so little time!  I’ll start with the idea of Twitter alerts, because if they are as useful as Google alerts, then let me at ‘em.  Has anyone tried Tweetbeep, Twilerts or Backtweets yet? Or SocialMention?

Why to Sign Up for Twitter Even If You Hate It

Mar 27th, 20112 Comments

Why sign up for Twitter?You roll your eyes when someone says tweet or Twitter.  Who cares what people had for lunch or if their hamster is sick?  You have more important things to do – like taking care of your business.

I’m not here to convince you to embark on Twitter.  In fact, some articles such as “Is It Really Worthwhile to Market on Twitter?” recommend getting your online marketing house in order first with proven, tried-and-true tools such as email marketing.

But I am here to convince you to sign up for Twitter.  Why?  To claim your name before someone else does.

Exhibit A:  Us at Cedar Sage Marketing.

I’ve been using Twitter as @suzanne_doughty, but our company did not have its own Twitter account. I tried claiming @CedarSage a few months ago and found it was taken by someone who has never tweeted even once. I emailed Twitter support and they auto-replied with a “Twitter is not currently releasing inactive user names” message.

So we had to think of acceptable alternatives.  I researched how to choose a good twitter name, and we decided on @CedarSageMktg.  Not perfect, but good enough.

I can hear you saying, “But what if I’m convinced I’ll never, ever tweet or use Twitter – should I still claim my name?”  Yes – if someone on Twitter searches for you, they’ll find you, not some other business.

Exhibit B:  Cowgirls and Lace (a client of ours)

We did an online survey for them, and found that only 2% of their customers are on Twitter.  So for now, it’s not an effective use of their time to market on Twitter.  But by claiming their Twitter handle and adding a logo, bio and web link, any potential customers searching for Cowgirls and Lace on Twitter can find them.

Even better, their account isn’t tweetless or full of linkless rambling. Instead, we’ve used Constant Contact‘s easy tweet-my-email feature, so people can get a feel for who Cowgirls and Lace is.

And when people do find them, there isn’t someone else tweeting who-knows-what under Cowgirls and Lace’s business name.

Bottom line: If your name is not already claimed on Twitter, count your lucky stars and claim it now.  It’ll be there if you ever do need it. And when someone on Twitter searches on your name, they won’t be greeted by irrelevant tweets from someone who happened to claim your business name before you did.

Need help with this?  We focus on your business goals and help you set up and use social media and email marketing more effectively.

-Suzanne Doughty

Do you or your business use Twitter?  What is the main benefit you see from Twitter?

Other blog posts you might be interested in:

How to Choose a Good Twitter Name
Just Starting on Twitter?  Get Rid of the Egg.
3 Must Dos When Setting Up a Facebook Business Page

Get a Content Bonanza with Online Surveys

Feb 24th, 20111 Comment

Ever had an honest-to-goodness pleasant surprise – like finding a $20 bill in your jacket or getting a hand-written card from an old friend?

We got our own windfall a few weeks ago when doing online surveys for two of our clients.  A content bonanza. A treasure trove of customer testimonials and other fodder for our clients’ website, Facebook Page, e-newsletters, YouTube channel and more.

We had set out merely to get feedback on what was working and what wasn’t (Online Surveys 101) for two of our clients, Cowgirls and Lace in Dripping Springs, and BerryAustin Yogurt in the heart of Austin.  Of course, we asked all the important questions in the survey, including how often their customers came to the store, what they usually bought, what their overall satisfaction was, what could be improved, etc.

But we also made sure to leave comments open after almost every question. That’s where the testimonials started pouring in, much to our clients’ (and our) delight.  Some samples:

For Cowgirls and Lace:

Love your people and your store!  They give me time whether my project is large or small- kudos to all of you!!!

Your staff is always helpful. They don’t hesitate to go the extra mile to find what I need.

I always love a sale or something new. The whole visit and making me feel special and at home is why I come to you!

Your store is such a treat and a great cure for the blues. No pressure to buy, just genuine joy that you came into the store. Love that.  Love your staff.  Thank you for being here.

For BerryAustin:

This is a wonderful place. I wasn’t a big fan of yogurt until I came across your shop. Now I am hooked!

I love the constant change of artwork, the people are always very friendly, always offering tastings, and the toppings are always fresh and inviting.

I LOVELOVELOVE you guys.  I am so happy we found you!  I would go out of my way to have your yogurt–absolutely the best in Austin and my daughters and I have tried them all!!!

Your store has become one of the places I have to take visitors just to look around as much as to have a bite to eat.  I’m always smiling when I leave.

To top it off, for both surveys, we asked if respondents wanted to be featured on the soon-to-be-revamped websites, in future newsletters and on Facebook.  And many customers did.

Particularly helpful to Cowgirls and Lace were those willing to have their home decorating projects featured on the new website. People love before-and-after shots, so this is a golden content opportunity.

The same free-flowing “customer love” extended to BerryAustin, who now has a list of people who are willing to come to the shop and be videotaped for their YouTube channel. Talk about your raving fans!

I don’t mean to minimize the traditional survey information we got – it was extremely valuable and packed with new ideas for refining how our clients do business. In fact, that survey process should be in a future blog post (note to self).

But the wealth of content and content ideas for the future was unexpected and exciting. We then followed up on behalf of our clients with a treat of our own: sending an unexpected coupon as a special thank-you just to those survey respondents*. Both our clients – and we – want to always be on the path of continually delighting our customers.

-Suzanne Doughty

* The resulting emails have one of the highest open rates we’ve seen at 77%-79%.

Just Starting on Twitter? Get Rid of the Egg.

Jan 24th, 20113 Comments

You’re ready to get started with Twitter.  Maybe all the media buzz piqued your interest or an article like 80 Ways to Use Twitter As a SMB Owner sparked some fresh ideas for your business.

How do you get started?

First, claim your Twitter username or “handle”.  It’s important to choose a good name that represents you or your business.   Once you do that, your Twitter account will display the default Twitter avatar picture, which is an egg.

Default Twitter avatarYou’ll want to “hatch” this egg by substituting your own profile picture.  You should also include a bio and web link.  HubSpot’s Dan Zarrella  notes that Twitter users with a profile picture have 10 times more followers and those with a Twitter bio have 8 times more followers.

Your Profile Picture – First Impressions Count

Should your profile picture be your photo or your company’s logo?  At the risk of over-simplifying the logo-vs-photo debate:  Use whatever your customers – and potential customers – are most familiar with.   (For more debate, see Michael Martin’s ProBlogDesign.)

Whole Foods, the Austin-American Statesman and South by Southwest use their logos:

Whole Foods twitter avatarAustin American Statesman twitter avatarSXSW twitter avatar

If you, not your logo, best represent your products or services, then use your own photo. Professional service providers such as financial planners, dentists, consultants, real estate agents, etc, should use their own photo, as should “power networkers” and Connectors, Mavens and Salespeople. Austinites Vicki Flaugher and Elijah May and of course, Lance Armstrong, use their photos as Twitter avatars:

Vicki Flaugher of smartwomanguides.comElijah MayLance Armstrong

Whatever you decide, edit or crop your image to be square, preferably 200 pixels by 200 pixels or larger, so that 1) if someone clicks on it, they can see the larger image, and 2) you can use it on other social media sites.   For the full scoop on profile pic details, See Mashable’s article on 5 Tips for Creating the Perfect Profile Pic

Your Twitter Bio – 160 Characters to Explain Yourself and Entice Others

Who are you and why should others care?  Unless you ARE Lance Armstrong or a well-known brand like Whole Foods, your Twitter bio should answer these questions.  SmartWoman’s bio is good, as is The Soup Peddler’s.  I love Alamo Drafthouse, but their bio could use some personality.

  • SmartWoman bio:  B2B social media & online marketing implementation specialist by day, karaoke singing joy freak by night. Enjoy travel, creativity & those crazy interwebs.
  • Soup Peddler bio:  The dude that started a business in Austin delivering soup by a bicycle.
  • Alamo Drafthouse bio:   This feed is for news about the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Ritz, Village, Lake Creek and Lamar
  • My bio:  Email marketing and social media for small businesses, in constant learning mode, I usually tweet in spurts during cool webinars & events.

In my bio, I clear up confusion about my feast-or-famine tweeting, explaining that I typically tweet only during webinars when I learn something that might be useful to my followers.

A bio is also a great place for a company to list WHO is actually tweeting, because people really do want to connect with a real person.  Southwest Airlines does a great job of this:

  • SouthwestAir bio:  The LUV Airline! Planes can’t type so @christimcneill is piloting the Twitterverse! For official concerns please use the link provided.
  • Keller Williams Realty: The official Twitter page for the third largest real estate company in the United States. Tweets come from Amber P. at the HQ in Austin, TX.

Use that Web Link!

Your Twitter profile allows you one web link to promote, so take advantage of it.  Link to your company’s website, your personal website, your Facebook fan or personal page, your LinkedIn page – whatever you most want the world to see.

Want more details on fine-tuning your Twitter profile?  Take a look at Mashable’s How to Make the Most of Your Twitter Profile Page.  And before you start tweeting away, be sure to get familiar with Twitter best practices.  This HubSpot blog gives you 9 Twitter strategies to avoid.

Got some great examples of Austin Twitter profiles and bios?

-Suzanne Doughty

How to Choose a Good Twitter Name

Jan 18th, 20114 Comments

You’ve decided to sign up for Twitter and now need to choose your own Twitter username or “handle”.

But what IS a good Twitter name?

First things first:  Your username can be as long as 15 characters. Early adopters of Twitter often have short names, but you should err on the side of clarity versus brevity.  For example, local company BackupMy, Inc chose “backupmytweets“, which tells you exactly what the service does, even if the name is longer.

Several good blog posts discuss do’s and don’t of choosing a Twitter handle.  I like Hubspot’s Rebecca Corliss,, Jon Reid’s BlogOneAnother, and Comm’s Corner.  To sum them up:

  1. Use your real name if at all possible.
  2. Avoid underscores and numbers.  However, as the number of users on Twitter increases, more people will resort to underscores and numbers.
  3. Avoid meaningless or silly names such as CraftyGirl or YogurtFiend. Of course, if you happen to do crafts or sell yogurt, these names are great.  (If you have a yogurt store, as berryaustin does, the actual name of your store is better, or at least more searchable.)
  4. Use a variation of your name that incorporates what you do.  The popular Austin band Spoon is SpoonTheBand. Austinite Jerry Woodward, an alternative energy advocate, is Solar4Life.
  5. Use your location – just make sure you’re not planning to move anytime soon. AustinDirtyDog is a local self-service dog wash. Austin’s legendary rock club, Emo’s, is emosaustin. Entrepreneur and inspirational quotemaster Jackson Thomas is TexasJackFlash.

To find out if your desired name is available, go to Twitter’s homepage and click on the orange signup button. Ignore the Full name box for a minute and just try your desired name in the Username box. Before we got CedarSageMktg, we tried to claim CedarSage:

trying to get CedarSage as our Twitter handle

You’re out of luck if someone has already claimed your real name, or even your real business name.  For now, Twitter will act only on trademark violations.  Your best alternative is to use a variation of your name – see COMM’s Corner’s “What Your Twitter Name Says About You” for some insightful ideas on name variations. We eventually went with CedarSageMktg.

getting CedarSageMktg as our Twitter handle

So it’s available – great!  But wait – let’s talk uppercase and lowercase.  Notice that we typed CedarSageMktg instead of cedarsagemktg.  It’s more clear and less confusing – we want people to think “cedar sage”, not “cedars age”.

Take another of our favorite resources, Marketing Profs in Boston.  One of their handles is MProfsEvents, which is much clearer than mprofsevents.  Twitter handles are not case-sensitive, so the names are effectively the same, and fellow Twitter users won’t have to worry about typing the correct case.  But your chosen case does show up forevermore in all your tweets, so choose wisely.

The hard part is done.  Just a few more steps:

Enter your Full Name, as we did with Cedar Sage Marketing. This must be 20 or fewer characters, but does not have to be unique.

Choose a strong password; people have been known to hack into Twitter.

After you create the account, Twitter will send you an email request for confirmation.  Once you confirm, you’ll have a Twitter account with a great, well thought-out name.

Excitement ahead signThere are many productive (and even fun) things you can do with Twitter. Future blog posts will discuss how to set up your profile, how to search for and follow informative people in your industry, how to filter through the Twitter noise, and more.

- Suzanne Doughty

Our Top 3 Email Subject Lines for 2010

Dec 30th, 2010No Comments

We created a lot of emails for our clients this year. As a year-end exercise, we looked at email open rates to help determine which emails had the best subject lines. Our top 3 subject lines were:

Subject line: Fancy shmancy Christmas trees “to go” + Save 10% to 20% this Saturday
From: Cowgirls and Lace
Open rate: 41.9%

Why it worked: The surprise factor of “fancy shmancy”.  These trees were indeed elegant and gorgeous, having been decorated by former White House Christmas designer, Jim Marvin. But we’re in Texas and among friends, so elegant became fancy shmancy.

Subject: Improve your Updo skills in time for holiday parties. Houston Updo class on Dec 6
From: Cosmetology Educators of Texas
Open rate: 50.0%

Why it worked:  “Holiday parties” reminded hard-working cosmetologists that their clients clamor for glamour in December to look their party best.  Compare this to a previous subject line with only a 23.7% open rate, “Cosmetology classes in the Austin area on November 22″.

Subject line: Berry Dude News: Enjoy Half Off Your Yogurt!
From: Berry Austin
Open rate: 51%

Why it worked:  It’s a great deal. We send out Berry Austin emails on the 1st of every month, like clockwork. This is still the best deal they’ve offered all year. Other deals come close:  Buy one, get one free, for example, but this is and was the best.  Berry Austin has an extremely loyal following with one of the highest open rates we see.  We think their customers recognize a great deal when they see it.

Of course, there are other factors that influence open rates: when you send the email, how fresh/new your contact list is, how targeted your audience is, and more.  But a great subject line goes a long way when you’re trying to break through the inbox clutter.