Category Archives: Open Forum

The different approach required by a Facebook page

I don’t discuss Facebook pages here very often, because I know for the majority of industrial and scientific companies, the benefits of having a presence there may be small, and the priority it’s going to receive is smaller still. The profile of Facebook’s regular users is a lot more ‘social’ than most of us are looking for in business, and while it’s obvious that nobody’s going to sell many blue widgets through this route, even the branding potential needs to be handled with care. When people are off-duty, reminding them of business can be counterproductive. So if you can’t do it properly, it might be sensible not to do it at all.

But the serious side of Facebook is growing, and nobody can deny that if there’s a Facebook group discussing blue widgets, then as a blue widget supplier you need to be involved in the conversation. So I see the usefulness of a Facebook presence growing. And as with any established medium which you’re joining, it’s important to know the conventions before you wade in.

An excellent Guy Kawasaki article on the American Express Open Forum called How To Use Facebook To Enchant Your Customers is a good place to start. The key to me seems to be “don’t be boring”; as Kawasaki says: “every update, comment, picture, and video must be positive and uplifting – they should be the equivalent of a beaming smile …you cannot have bad days on Facebook.”

One more thing. Back in the 1990s, a common failing on many companies’ websites was that they’d clearly been designed by someone’s 17-year-old nephew as a college project. Those days are gone, and now we call in the experts. But if you’re setting up a Facebook page, it’s not impossible that the expert might well be your 17-year-old nephew.

How do we make our readers think we’re smart?

Having a company blog isn’t some new fad. In fact, it’s taken a long time for many companies to see the benefit. Forget about the silly name for a moment, and just consider a blog to replace the “news” part of your website (which you never update frequently enough, do you?) with something that’s far more dynamic, readable and effective. Instead of a stuffy “news” section which makes a company look over-formal and undynamic (because it hasn’t had anything added for months), a blog makes you look like you’re genuinely involved in your market. And because it’s probably a lot easier to add new content to a blog than it is to crank up your company’s horrible website content management system, you’re far more likely to find the enthusiasm to write something.

And you don’t have to call it a blog. Most of the clients who we’re setting up blogs for call it the “News and Views” section of their website, or – if it’s a separate site – their “News and Views website”.

Once your blog – sorry, “News and Views website” – has been set up, some advice on how to write it wouldn’t go amiss. We list dozens of ideas for content in one of our Insider Programme Practical Steps sheets, but what about style? Guy Kawasaki recently had something to say about this on the Open Forum in an article intriguingly titled British Blogging: The Elements of Guyle. He says: “There¬ís something about a British accent. Whenever I hear it, I assume the person speaking with it is smart.” and wonders how you might develop a writing and presentational style which would immediately make the reader think that you’re smart. Some good tips there.

Avoiding the “Stunningly Awful Demo”

If you ever have to give product demonstrations, you’ll be amused by Guy Kawasaki’s Five Things Not To Do in a Demo on the Open Forum. However, many of these “things to avoid” also happen to be no-go areas in other parts of the marketing mix.

Not doing your homework when it comes to the audience’s needs is a good example of something which doesn’t just apply to demonstrations. If you’re taking a product to an construction industry exhibition, you need to make sure the focus of your handouts is relevant to architects and builders, rather than it being a general list of features for everyone “in the hope that your customer will eventually see something of interest”.

Another presentational no-no is not getting to the point quickly. We all know not to begin a talk by “putting things in context” with a corporate overview, so don’t do it in your press releases either. Don’t encourage your customers to wonder where your presentations are going, and similarly, don’t wander all around the subject on your website, which should be a series of funnels through to your desired calls-to-action. And just as you shouldn’t show the same demonstration, regardless of the audience’s technical level, you should also avoid writing catch-all descriptions in your literature, and instead produce different explanations for different types of reader, each well-signposted of course.

Can you cope with the criticism?

Guy Kawasaki on How To Change The World is usually worth listening to, and last week on the AmEx OPEN forum he posted a nice piece called The Art of Customer Surveys. Now, we all know we have to listen to our customers (and equally importantly, potential customers), and we all know surveys are a good way of sounding them out, especially as they’re so easy to do. But Kawasaki points out there are many dangers in surveys, not least their self-selecting nature. I don’t think these are reasons to avoid doing surveys, but you might want to bear them in mind when assessing results.