coloring inside the lines

Drawing courtesy of Zeeve Rose, age 10

When I was growing up I never quite understood my teachers’ zeal in forcing us to color inside the lines. Now, as a parent and having made it through the elementary years, it makes total sense. Controlling our crayons meant developing strength, dexterity and mastering our hand-eye coordination. From there we learned how to write legibly and draw outside of our coloring books. By understanding the rules and the boundaries we learned how to stretch and manipulate them to create interesting and beautiful things. In essence we learned how to “color outside the lines” by learning how to color within them.

Now how does this relate to the business world? When I worked for a large high-tech company I developed a reputation for pushing the envelope in my marketing projects. I was able to get away with it because I knew my products, understood my audience, and always complied with the corporate guidelines. I used the right colors and proper language, but I never let the limitations impose on my creativity.

Understanding how– and how much– to push that envelope is more important than ever. Marketing today has unique challenges because customers have become resistant to traditional sales and marketing tactics. If they want something, they go out and do their own research, and consulting your company website is just one stop. These days they prefer to check you out in social media outlets, consult trusted sources, talk to their friends and make their own decisions. Information needs to be easy to find, and when it is found, messages need to be informative yet subtle, clever but not so much that they could offend or put off potential customers. And all this has to be done in ever more entertaining ways to hold their interest. Those lines around which we are coloring have become rather vague, and maneuvering them in the right way takes agility, good sense and a lot of imagination.

Drawing courtesy of Aviella Rose, age 5

Learning how to color within the lines did not help either of my children to become great artists, but I’ll tell you this: they are both great thinkers, and they sure know how to push their boundaries.

Why I Love Facebook

I admit it, I’m a Facebook junkie.  I can’t help it, I love gathering information, interacting with people, and am fascinated with the psychology of social media and its impact on marketing and relationships. Of course I keep track of my friends, my family, and my growing networking community, but almost as important to me are the regular updates from the pages I follow.  Facebook is where I find out everything from from breaking world news to the latest trends in social media to what I should do on the weekends. It’s easy to get lost in the sheer volume, which I often do, and also why I am constantly culling the pages that I follow. A good Facebook business page needs to be compelling and engaging in order to keep followers coming back for more– what you say and how often you say it are so important. Running a successful page can be fun, but to do it right you need focus, flexibility, and a plan, otherwise you’ll get lost in the noise.

And So It Begins…

I had something totally different planned for my first blog post, but fate and technological issues had something else in mind.   For starters, I really didn’t want the first word of my first blog to be “I”.  But what is a blog, after all, than a stream of consciousness?  A one-way conversation that by its nature is self-centered.  I wanted to introduce myself slowly, let you get to know me, who I am, where I came from, and establish a connection from there.

I had beautiful paragraphs drafted about the lotus flower and its significance, but that will have to wait until another day.

Today something else caught my attention and got me fired up.  It was a posting to another blog by one of the leaders in Social Media Marketing, Jason Fells.  In his blog, Jason writes about how to select a social media consultant.  He warns against “douchebags” who go from blogger to consultant and are self appointed gurus or experts.  Well, I am a blogger, and I would like to become a consultant, so at first glance this was quite insulting. However, after re-reading his post and the subsequent comments, I saw a great deal of value in what he said.

Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to the advances of dubious consultants.  News about social media is everywhere.  Open a magazine, turn on the radio and all you hear about is Facebook this and Twitter that.  You know you need to engage but you don’t know how– you are too busy with the day-to-day workings of your business and don’t have time to keep up with the latest trends in online marketing.  Enter said “expert”.  He may mean well, and may truly believe he can help you, but without the proper foundation could potentially cause more harm than good.  In Jason’s comments he qualifies his statements by defining what a real social media consultant brings to the table:

All you have to do is sell what you know and promise what you can deliver. Those that we refer to sell stuff they don’t know and promise that which they likely can’t deliver. It’s not about knowing social media as much as it is knowing business, marketing, communications and applying social media to those disciplines.

I am not a social media guru.  Nor am I a “douchebag”.  What I am is a business professional, with over 25 years of marketing and sales experience, who has a passion for and a lot of training in social media.  My goal is to parlay that knowledge into a small business of my own, helping small, local businesses enter and navigate this new and exciting world of social media marketing.  Welcome to my blog.