Is Twitter Worth the Effort?

Admit it! At some point, you have wondered if Twitter is worth the effort. You are busy. You don’t want to waste your time nor do you want a reputation for wasting the time of others. And here’s a dirty little secret: public relations are asking themselves about the value of Twitter.

A recent blog post by Danny Sullivan shows that tweets do not get as much attention as you might think because — surprise! — advertisement can get in the way. Sullivan is founding editor of marketingland.com. Given that he is actively engaged in social media and has 390,000 followers, you would think he would have an impressive impression rate.

However, using newly-released Twitter analytics, he saw a mere 1.85% impression rate, though he also notes that the analysis tool only measures tweets through Twitter’s own web site and mobile apps, so there might be some additional viewing. “But it’s probably not that much more,” he added.

I am assuming that most of us are not doing nearly as well as Sullivan. His results also do not surprise me. Aside from the evil ad interference he mentions, I have to consider my own experience as a user. I have unfollowed those who bombard me with the same exact messages over and over. I guess I still wonder if overdoing social media will go the way of paper junk mail. I also don’t have time to check my Twitter feed much. It’s all I can do to keep up with email!

So what is the answer? Sullivan advises folks to keep on tweeting so the messages do get through, which has become a best practice in social media. You just never know when people will tune in to their feeds. He points out that Twitter acknowledges “that you may have to tweet 14-21 times in a week in hopes of reaching only 30% of your total audience.”

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Right now I hear little concern about over saturating your audience with endless Twitter feeds or blog posts.
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At the same time, we have to keep in mind that micro blogging is still a fairly new concept and more meaningful analytics are yet to come.

We still have a lot to learn. Right now I hear little concern about over saturating your audience with endless Twitter feeds or blog posts. I predict that once all the excitement settles down we will find there are more effective ways to use these tools to reach our audiences.

In fairness, Twitter has successfully drawn more attention to my blog. But as a business-to-business communicator, LinkedIn done a much better job.

My approach to social media is to not bombard my readers. I want to build a reputation for thoughtful content, which means I try to limit posts to topics I think would truly interest my readers. My hope is when they see a post from me, they will notice it because it is rare. I know this goes against the social media advice out there, but as a practitioner, I am doing my own experimentation.

Should you engage in Twitter? Absolutely! You really do not have an overall social media strategy without it. At the same time, be realistic about Twitter. It’s merely another way to reach your audience.

And really, I wish organizations would focus more on the content they are publishing than the means they are using to do so. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the latest and greatest that we miss what’s more important.

Keep your eye on the goal. Effective social media marketing means providing quality content to attract clients to your organization to ultimately build your customer base.

In my observation, publishing quality content in and of itself is fraught with challenges because either a) people do not want writing content as another job responsibility or b) companies do not want to pay writers to produce the unique and helpful information readers want.

So before you tweet again, ask yourself: is this information my current and potential clients need to know? Not sure? Then don’t post!

 

Q & A with Social Media Bible Author Lon Safko

Social media expert Lon Safko

Social media expert Lon Safko

Lon Safko is a bestselling author of books including, The Social Media Bible and The Fusion Marketing Bible. Soon, Lon’s show, “Social Media & You…  Communicating In A Digital World,” will be featured on PBS. His career includes several other impressive achievements. You can learn more at http://www.lonsafko.com.

 I got hip to Lon three years ago when I was writing an article on how actuaries — and everybody else for that matter — can use social media to market their businesses. Since then, Lon has been an influential colleague and friend. Lon graciously accepted my request for a Q & A and here it is!

Annmarie: How did you get into social media?

Lon: It was September 2006. I heard of the term and didn’t know what it was. I started asking around. My techie friends didn’t know what it was and told me not to pay any attention to it or the term, “Web 2.0” because neither meant anything. I didn’t believe that answer.  I knew right then, it was going to be disruptive technology.

Throughout my career, I have been able to recognize these disruptive technologies before most others.  Because of this, I have been called a futurist. This led to my having 18 inventions in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and more than 30,000 of my personal papers are part of their permanent collection. I knew social media was going to be one of those technologies that would change our lives.  

I’ll admit I did not know the extent of how disruptive it would become. I started watching it and by spring of 2007, I was hooked. I then began pitching the concept for a book, first, to my existing publisher, Pearson, then to all of their labels, such as Wharton, Peachnut, Sam’s and Que. There were blue-sky meetings after blue-sky meetings. Finally, I went to John Wiley & Sons. They totally got the value of social media even back then. The rest is history.

Annmarie: What do you like the most about social media?

Lon: The ease of communication. I can find whatever information I need at the click of a button. I can casually follow what my friends and family are up to. I can learn from people in the industry and it all comes to me with no effort. I can listen to one or to many and I can just as easily speak to one to or thousands.

Annmarie: What do you least like about social media?

Lon: The responsibility. Maybe it’s more me, because I am expected to be on every platform. It takes a LOT of time. Monitoring conversations, watching Google Alerts and HootSuite, answering email, posting to Facebook, updates on LinkedIn, tweeting on Twitter, checking my Second Life property, tweaking my SEO, keeping Google Hangouts working on my Mac…  It’s a full-time job.

Annmarie: It does take a lot of time, even for those of us who are not doing everything. So how do you keep up with such a quickly growing industry?

Lon: I use social media. Really! With all of the information that streams in all day, I can simply glance at all of the content and keep my finger on the pulse of the industry. Ten or 20 years ago that would have been impossible. Now it’s much less work and often, fun.

Annmarie: How do you advise people getting into social media? What baby steps should be taken first and then where does someone go from there?

Lon: First of all, don’t be intimidated by it. Just like anything that we don’t understand, it seems scary or overwhelming. Take it one tool at a time. I suggest that people use what I call the Trinity of Social Media: blogging, micro-blogging, and social networks.  If you can do just those three things, you have 90 percent of what you need.  
_______________

Google Juice and Link Love are the two most important criteria
that all search engines use to rank your site.
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You, more than anyone, understand the power of blogging. It sets you up in the search engine as a perceived industry leader because of your insights. You get Google Juice or indexed content, which contain your industry keywords, and Link Love or external reputable links or links back to your blog site.

Annmarie: True enough. But tell me, since Google has changed its algorithms, what is the best strategy to be found?

Google Juice and Link Love are the two most important criteria that all search engines use to rank your site. Micro-blogging is Twitter. I don’t call the category Twitter because there are other micro blogging platforms such as Yammer for an enterprise Twitter type solution.  

Tweeting is a great way to you and your brand out in front of your prospects and customers multiple times per day. If you can Tweet only three times a day, Monday through Friday, you get your brand in front of your prospects 15 times a week. And, assuming you pay particular attention to making your content have a strong WII-FM — What’s In It For Me — or a IDKT —  I didn’t Know That value. They will welcome your next message and your brand.  

Add social networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, and others. Facebook has 1.2 BILLION users. The New York Times only has 1.2 million subscribers. If I told you I’d give you a free ad in the Times, you’d jump at it. Then why aren’t you strongly participating in Facebook and LinkedIn. I love LinkedIn. It the largest on-line database of professionals in the world!  Connect and communicate with them!

Annmarie: What would you say are common actions even social media experts miss?

LON: STRATEGY!  Can you tell this is important to me?  Everyone’s talking, but doesn’t have a reason. That’s why fewer people are listening. Facebook is NOT a strategy. Twitter is NOT a strategy. Blogging is NOT a strategy.  

You have to first define what you want to achieve, then ask how can I use say, Twitter, to accomplish that objective. Then ask, how can I use Facebook to accomplish that objective? Then repeat for each of your objectives by asking how communication tools will achieve those objectives. All of these answers become your tactics, and the summation of all this becomes your overall strategy. That’s what my newest book, The Fusion Marketing Bible, is all about.

Annmarie: Sometimes it’s difficult to sell social media services because there are still a lot of executives who are not convinced of their effectiveness. What do you tell them?

Lon: They have to get into the 2000s, peacefully or kicking and screaming is OK too! There’s no going back. Social media is here to stay. I can cite some examples from above; take out a very expensive ad in the New York Times and possibly reach 1.2 million or participate on Facebook and reach 1.2B. Pay tens or hundred thousands of dollars on a direct mail campaign that ends up in the recycle bin, or post three Tweets a day and get noticed by tens of thousands of prospects a week for free. Spend tens of thousands of dollars on newspaper advertising or blog and draw attention from around the world.  

Once they hear the facts, the decision becomes quite easy. Then you have the difficulty of implementation and commitment.

Annmarie: What is the greatest barrier to implementing a social media program?

Lon: First, being convinced that social media marketing is a good idea. Then it’s making a commitment, creating a sound strategy, understanding all of the tools, creating sound objectives, developing the tactics, and then, most of all, a committed implementation. They have to stick with it.  

It really doesn’t happen overnight; neither does traditional marketing. The key difference is social media has no media buys. Both traditional and digital marketing require time and creativity, so that cancels out of both sides of the equation. So, what’s left is cost. And social media has little or no cost to implement. That makes it my choice.

Annmarie: How do you think social media will continue to change our lives?

Lon: Communication. Different forms or platforms will allow it to communicate more easily and people will have more fun doing it.

Every time we create a technology for communicating, we quickly figure out how to use it for marketing. Pinterest is a great example of this. It’s fun to pin pictures, but it’s more fun to make money by having your products pinned.

These are the most exciting times I have seen in my lifetime. Computers were cool in the late 70s and early 80s, but they took two decades to catch on. Social media has changed all of our lives, worldwide in as little as five years. And, it will continue to change how we market, sell, communicate, and connect.

Annmarie: Thanks for sharing your advice with my readers.

 

To Build Credibility, Stop the Nonsense

Don’t you just love it when the basics of effective business practices win out over marketing ploys?

One basic is credibility. Every company needs it to build trust with potential and current clients, but few do a great job achieving it.

To me, credibility is saying what you mean and meaning what you say. For effective business-to-business brand advocacy, you need a credible product or service. You also need written material that reinforces it.

Companies cannot risk losing customers by telling them “it depends on the meaning of the word ‘is'” as politicians do with voters. (I dare say that if ObamaCare were offered by the private sector, there would be a ton of lawsuits, but I digress.)

Developing quality content comes down to this: write only what you would want to read. Like your readers, you are busy. You don’t want waste precious time wading through marketing hype to get your questions answered.

If your text is has more words than meaning or does not help the customer be ruthless and cut it.

This is really all you need to know and you probably already knew it.

Yet amazingly, too many companies still serve up marketing nonsense for reader consumption. Even worse, the so-called experts advocate disingenuous tactics for building readership. Don’t let them distract you from your goal of writing truly useful text.

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Dictionaries offer definitions of credibility,
but to me, it means saying what you mean and meaning what you say.

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Call me old fashioned, but I never practiced or advocated for so-called strategies like using Google analytics to find key words and then stuffing them into copy. This was never worthwhile because words are for people, not machines! (And as any English teacher will tell you, redundant use of words is just bad writing).

The ultimate goal of web text, and any marketing material, is to gain satisified customers. Back in the day when webmasters were the ultimate purveyors of content, they argued it was better to boost hits to attract people to the content.

I would insist it was other way around: awesome content — which is informative, helpful or interesting – attracts and retains readers. Who cares how many hits you get if the content does not build brand credibility or help sell products or services? My blog does not reach millions but it does reach enough of my potential customer base to keep me busy.

Thankfully, Google’s recent algorithm changes are doing a much better job at discouraging marketing hype. Google is also rewarding longer content as well. This means that organizations can no longer get away with producing cheap, generic content to the ever-growing number of people who only rely on the Internet – as opposed to print — to find out information.

Google’s algorithm also discourages the practice of inserting hyperlinks to material not truly germaine to your topic. To the reader, unnecessary links are empty promises.

Hubspot, which offers software to generate web traffic, does a great job covering this in its “2013 Marketing Predictions: Hits & Misses.” You can find at http://www.hubspot.com. I love what its report said, “Don’t game the system, don’t write for the algorithm, don’t try to be sneaky – focus on helping the people you are trying to reach.”

To this I offer a heartily, “Amen.” Hubspot recommended that marketers focus on quality content (thank you very much), in-depth articles, and social recommends” – that is, the more likes your material earns, the more Google will notice.

Toward Credible Content

Producing material of journalistic quality will encourage reader trust. Today, that is called “brand journalism.” To offer brand journalism, you have to think like an editor and view the customer as the audience. You need to anticipate business problems — what is keeping them up at night — and offer ways to help.

Even before “brand journalism” became a term of art, publishing quality content that readers could trust was always effective.

I had a client who self-published an article on a PDF about ten years ago. Ever since, searchers who enter the subject term in the search engine will still find it on the first results page. He is now nationally known for his expertise. Keep in mind this happened while word stuffing was a common practice and before Google’s developed a finer text sifter.

Quality content also fills an information void. There are fewer journalistic publications, whether on paper or online, because publishers cannot afford reporters. Your organization can fill this information through brand journalism. That is, producing trustworthy articles, blogs, web content, etc., that will keep the readers for coming back for more.

Before producing written material, companies should make sure they live up to their promises. If customer service is lame, even great content will become meaningless now that people can complain online for the world to see.

To build public credibility, identify topics that will interest potential clients and produce copy the media would publish. If the piece is really hot, see if an outside publication would like to publish it first. If a reporter calls you for an article interview, your credibility goes up. If the whole piece is published, credibility goes up even more!

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Ultimately, what customers say about your company is more important than what you say.

_______________

So next time you read your organization’s website, put on your customer empathy hat and ask yourself if the text succinctly answers what readers want to know. Are the words empty or are they are building credibility for your company?

Anyone can say their firm produces quality whatever or the best service – and they do and will. Does the copy say what you mean? Is it accurate? Does it not just tell but also show the readers why it is so great?

Does it mean what you say? Can customers count on the truthfulness of the words? Does your firm’s value proposition reflect the realities of customer service?

Ultimately, what customers say about your company is more important than what you say. When happy customers endorse your offering, credibility and sales should go up.

It all starts with awesome content about a quality offering.

How do you ensure meaningful and credible content? Please share at will!

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Annmarie’s Top 10 Most Popular Blogs and Why

When it comes to business-to-business marketing, blogging is considered a must for what marketing experts call “inbound” marketing. According to Hubspot.com, the goal of inbound marketing is to convert strangers into customers and promoters of your business.

My blog has been very successful at inbound marketing. I like to think of it as encouraging potential clients to come to you instead of the other way around. That’s different from traditional marketing, which is when you reach out directly to customers through emails, brochures, cold calling and, well, you get the idea.

Hubspot publishes that since 2006, inbound marketing has been the most effective marketing method for doing business online. Inbound marketing, however, is not easy. It requires strategic thinking to figure out what kind of quality content will attract potential clients to your website and, ultimately, to boost your business results.

Blogging is a primary tool for inbound marketing. Effective blogs should incorporate the idea of brand journalism.

What is brand journalism? It’s a newer term of art that describes what successful public relations professionals have always done. That is, providing useful and quality content to attract readers to your brand. I did this years ago for a client’s newsletter. I produced newsletters that had more focus on news readers can use instead of marketing hype. As a result, potential customers approached my client for its services.

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Effective inbound marketing is both an art and science.
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When it comes to successful blogging, brand journalism and inbound marketing, I have an advantage. Since I have a journalism background, I am used to thinking about information through the lens of what will attract and retain readers. I also write about technical subjects in a non-technical way to reach broader audiences.

If you are thinking about blogging, you should be clear on the purpose of your blog. Mine is to reach insurance professionals looking for writing and public relations services. That is why you will find a mix of insurance information and marketing advice in my blog posts. (For more on successful blogging, please check out the “blogging” tag.)

Effective inbound marketing is both an art and science. There is a lot of great advice out there on anticipating search terms, considering search engine algorithms and profiling potential customers and readers. Since I am too busy servicing my clients, I just stick to writing what I think will interest readers. (For more on knowing your audience, click here.)

So why has my blog worked? To determine this, I reviewed the 10 most popular blogs I’ve run since I started blogging two years ago. By offering what has worked for me and why, I am hoping my blog can inspire greater blogging success for others.

1)   Discovering the Power of F#. This blog is based on an article I wrote for Contingencies magazine. It generated most hits, was the most tweeted, reached readers from all over the world and helped me to reach a new market. Why it works: Everyone is looking for innovation that will boost their competitive prowess.

2)   Workers Need to Know the Truth About Workers Compensation. Why it works: It offers practical advice and information non-workers’ compensation experts need to know.

3)   Ten Ways to Improve Workplace Safety. This blog consistently attracts readers every single day. In fact, if you type “ways to improve workplace safety,” my blog is the third on the Google page. Why it works: The title mirrors wording that searchers are likely to use and delivers on its promises.

4)   Why Injured Workers Hire Attorneys. Why it works: The title is search engine friendly and the information usefully distills research by the well-respected Workers Compensation Research Institute to make it practical for employers.

5) 21 Lessons From My First Year of Blogging. Why it works: Because it provides helpful insight for new and future bloggers.

6)   Converting the CEO to the Cause of Workers’ Compensation. This blog was shared and commented on extensively in workers’ compensation LinkedIn groups and is the top Google listing for “convincing the CEO about workers’ compensation.” Why it works: Convincing the CEO to invest in workers’ compensation programs is a major pain point for professionals in the field. The blog offers internal strategies on how to convince the CEO that workers’ comp initiatives are worth the investment.

7)   Reduce Claim Filing Lag time Through Effective Employee Communication Plans. Why it works: Employers are always looking to save on workers’ compensation dollars and claim lag time is a key cost driver. Again, writing headlines that will match search terms is key. Type in “how to reduce workers’ compensation claim lag time” and my blog is the sixth in the list.

8)   What Employers Should Know About Workers’ Compensation Predictive Modeling. Why it works: Employers have heard of predictive modeling, but they need to know how it will affect them.

9)   Opening A Window Into Health Care’s Future. This blog covers an article I wrote for Leader’s Edge magazine that covers the future of health care, its technology, the ethics involved and implications for ObamaCare. Why it works: People like to read cutting edge information and the subject has universal appeal.

10) Ten Attributes of Quality Content. Why it works: People want to write better content and this blog offers ways to do it.

 

Setting Your Blog on Fire

The dream of every blogger is to watch their blog catch viral fire.

I have enjoyed a week of the dream. Watching the hits climb was great fun.

I would love to say that the blog’s success was due to my brilliant writing. But I am no fool. The blog’s success was more due to the fact that the topic was interesting to those active in social media.

Great blogs cover topics that meet the needs of the reader, such as how to do something better or hot news. This blog’s purpose was to introduce readers to a technology article I had just published. The article is about F# a programming language that could benefit insurers in the United States as it has in Europe. (To see it, please click here.)

Sure, I promoted the blog to appropriate LinkedIn groups and periodically re-tweeted the blog post. But it was not until a handful of influential tweeters shared my tweet that the blog started catching fire. As they began to retweet, do did I, periodically, to keep the fire going. Since people are bombarded with constant tweets, you have to post periodically and hope someone will pick it up.

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The blog’s success was more due to the fact
that the topic was interesting to those active in social media.

_______________

It’s been a great week! The post is by far the most popular one I have ever posted. The hits continue as others from all over the world continue to share my blog.

But I am a realist. It will be difficult to achieve these results regularly. My typical audience is made up of those in the insurance industry. This is an industry not exactly known for being technological progressive. Demographically, many of its decision makers are of an older generation that had not wholly adopted social media.

This of course will change as the older generation retires, so in the meantime I continue to build a strong base of followers. B2B blogging is an investment that some feel do not get strong enough returns to justify the effort. Of course I disagree because my blog has brought me customers. There are many more benefits to blogging, but that is the topic of another blog!

So I need to give due credit. I thank everyone who shared my blog with others but there are two people I want to thank in particular. Vijesh Shah got the tweeter ball rolling on my blog. He is from London and leads a modeling systems team in the pension, life insurance and the banking industry. You can follow him at https://twitter.com/vijesh.

Sergey Tihon is a software developer who has participated in international programming competitions. His blog, www.sergeytihon.wordpress.com, is responsible for more than 70 hits to my blog.

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The Latest Trends in B2B Content

More evidence that providing quality content is the name of the social media marketing game.

This is a great infographic available on a Hubspot blog, How Does Your Company Stack Up? The Latest Trends in B2B Content. To check it out, click here.

Here’s the beginning of the blog:

One of my favorite things in grade school was that whole “gold star” system. Remember it? You do something well in the classroom and you get a shiny gold star next to your name on a chart of your whole classmates. So, at any given time, you can look around and see how you’re stacking up against the rest of the class.

But once you get out of that grade-school classroom, the gold-star system often goes away. You can’t see how you stack up against your competitors and peers because you don’t have access to their data.

That’s why benchmark studies, like one recently released by Content Marketing Institute, Marketing Profs, and Brightcove about the current state of content marketing, are just so darn awesome.

Take a look at the latest trends to find out if your company deserves a gold star or not. Trust me — it’ll be just as exciting as the time you got a gold star in the fourth grade.

Blogging Quality Content: Do You Have What It Takes?

Blogs are an essential marketing tool, but simply having one on your company’s website is not enough.

To draw readers and build brand credibility, you need to consistently publish quality content that drives readers to come back for more.

After spending the past couple years blogging, along with 25 years of publishing experience, I can tell you that blogging content worth reading is a steady commitment of time and energy. It’s also not easy.

So before publishing a single online keystroke, ask yourself: Do you have what it takes to blog quality content?

Here is my list of the characteristics of effective bloggers. Effective bloggers are:

  • writers who enjoy writing and can express themselves clearly. Sounds obvious doesn’t it? If you don’t like to write, your product will show it. Therefore, for the sake of your sanity, do not blog.
  • experts. Any idiot can cut and paste material from other blogs and re-package it into blogs. You, however, confidently know your stuff and can offer original content. You are also an expert at knowing your audience (click here) and understanding their needs (click here).
  • critical and creative thinkers. Effective bloggers are constantly thinking. You think while sleeping in an unending quest for better solutions and approaches and/or understanding and perspective.
  • curious. You watch TV with you tablet to learn more about actors, plots and topics.
  • readers. And I don’t just mean Internet surfing. You read books about topics that have nothing to do with work because you want to learn.
  • ideas people. When you attend events, you unwittingly go from small talk to substantive issues within a two-sentence conversation. You thrive on applying concepts from other disciplines to introduce innovative solutions to another.
  • disciplined. Earning online traction requires consistently producing new content at least once a week.
  • thick skinned. You can handle constructive disagreement online for the world to see.
  • givers. You do not mind contributing useful information to help others and understand that sharing really means caring about your audience.
  • personalities. There’s no boresville because you take chances and engage in an interesting manner.

Of course, great bloggers have other characteristics as well. What characteristics would you add?

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Five Reasons for Linking In

It always amazes me when I can’t find someone LinkedIn.

Get with it people!linkedin+can+help_1844_800715221_0_0_14009585_300

As the world’s largest professional social media network, LinkedIn is your opportunity to introduce yourself to the professional world – and be found  — for free!

And if you engage with others on LinkedIn, you are likely to find new opportunities not possible from traditional networking.

But there are still those who are not joining to the party. Some have already “arrived” in their careers and don’t think they need it. Others contend they just do not have the time.

My word to them is this: Unless you plan to become a monk or plan to retire with unlimited financial security, you need LinkedIn.

We live in uncertain economic times. Staying connected opens up opportunities open, which will only grow in importance.

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Unless you plan to become a monk or plan to retire with unlimited financial security, you need LinkedIn.
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I am a fan of LinkedIn because it enables me to meet goals I could have never met had I depended on traditional networking and marketing approaches.

Here are my top five reasons to join and engage in LinkedIn:

1)   LinkedIn is a great equalizer for professionals. Traditional networking does not work for everyone. Often, people are focused on meeting “the right people” based on their title or reputation and miss the up-and-comers or those with talents not apparent in a crowded room of dark suits.

LinkedIn, however, equalizes the playing field. People are looking for more for talent, not necessarily titles. LinkedIn allows everyone from Jack Welch to the part-time sole proprietor to showcase what he or she can do. It also provides the opportunity to search deliberately for the talent you need.

Try that over cocktails and awkward conversations! In fact, LinkedIn’s degrees of separation might just help you discover that a former colleague can introduce you to the former General Electric revolutionary!

2)   LinkedIn Makes Intelligence Gathering Easier. Those of you born before the Clinton administration might not appreciate just how much professionals depended on word of mouth! When I began my career in communications, I would contact someone I knew, ask them whom they knew and maybe I would get a job lead or the right source for an article. I spent a lot of time on the phone and attending meetings.

Then search engines came online and gradually, it became easier to learn about someone by Googling their names. But that did not always cut it because often the available information wasn’t useful.

You can learn much more about someone and whom they know via LinkedIn.

3) LinkedIn promotes inbound marketing, which draws professionals to you instead of having to pound the payment for leads and contacts. When I was a full-time reporter, I was constantly on the phone to find leads and exclusives. LinkedIn makes that a thing of the past. (That said, LinkedIn is for engaging, not for making sales pitches. That is a major social media turn off!)

4) LinkedIn is like an electronic Rolodex, reducing the time it takes to build address books. With LinkedIn, I can contact virtually everyone I know professionally. Last year, when I needed to announce my marriage and name change, I was able to contact 50 people contacts at a time through LinkedIn messaging. LinkedIn also offers an app just for obtaining your contacts on your mobile device.

5) LinkedIn Keeps You Top of Mind. Broadcasting messages is no longer the sole domain of public relations professionals. Want to stay top of mind by sharing an idea, company news, a useful article or blog? Go for it!

If you have not yet taken advantage of LinkedIn, set up an appointment on your calendar to get connected. You can thank me later.

 

 

 

 

 

Industry Spotlight: 20 Questions with Annmarie Geddes Baribeau

Claimwire Interview by Steve Schmutz

avatar Steve Schmutz 08/26/13  

I first heard about Annmarie on LinkedIn. I saw a link to one of her articles that caught my interest. It was excellent – and refreshingly real. Too many articles today are bland re-runs – no personality and nothing new. I started reading more of Annmarie’s articles and found them all to be well-written and well thought-out. We started communicating via LinkedIn groups and email. I wanted to highlight Annmarie because she offers great insight in an industry that tends to be pretty boring. I wanted Annmarie to get more exposure, so I invited her to be interviewed.
Here’s my interview with Annmarie Geddes Baribeau, President at Lipold Communications, LLC.

#1 Claimwire: Where did you go to school and what did you study?

I graduated cum laude from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, but I earned more credit hours in political science.

To learn more about Claimwire, please visit www.claimwire.com

To learn more about Claimwire, please visit http://www.claimwire.com

#2 Claimwire: Can you share something about you that most people wouldn’t know?

My dream is to write historical fiction.

#3 Claimwire: What are some of your hobbies?

Gardening, cooking, sewing and genealogy. I also love to read history and biography. Any book by historian Paul Johnson is a winner!

#4 Claimwire: What people have influenced your life, and in what ways?

The list is eclectic:

Jesus What he says makes more sense to me than even the most modern thinkers.

Dr. Frank J. Henderson. He was a political science professor at Ohio University who valued critical thinking over rote memorization.

Roberta Matty. She gave me my first publishing gig as a weekly columnist at my hometown newspaper when I was in high school. She has been my friend and mentor ever since.

For workers’ compensation, there are so many I could mention. If had to pick out one person, however, it would be Roger Thompson, a retired executive from Traveler’s Insurance. He a true visionary and helped me to become one as well.

#5 Claimwire: What historical figures do you look up to and why?

Abraham Lincoln. His life demonstrates the strength and resilience of the human spirit. He managed to keep this country and his family together while suffering personal loss and caring for his mentally ill wife.

#6 Claimwire: What two or three Smartphone apps do you use the most – for either business or personal use?

LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

_______________
I am tired of public policy discussions
that sound like union-management contract negotiations! 
That is so last century!
______________

#7 Claimwire: Give us a brief recap of your career.

I started my career as a writer for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. After that, I was a Cleveland business reporter with my own live-call in radio show. When I moved Washington, D.C. , I became the lead reporter for BNA’s Workers’ Compensation Report.

I started freelancing about 13 years ago. My public relations company has been going strong ever since. It has given me opportunities I would have never enjoyed had I continued as a full-time reporter. I also write freelance articles on occasion.

#8 Claimwire: What factors motivated you the most to start Lipold Communications, LLC?

The pursuit of the so-called family/work life balance.

As I mentioned, my daughter was born and I realized my net income as a full-time reporter did not justify the opportunity costs for my family and me. My company has provided a higher net income on a part-time basis than my previous full-time job. When my second daughter was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age 3, I could be there for her and my income did not suffer.

#9 Claimwire: Tell us how Lipold Communications, LLC is doing and what you see in the next two to three years.

My company is doing well. I am the process of developing a new business and marketing plan and re-naming and re-branding my company.

As a sole proprietor, the business plan process includes soul searching. The Internet and social media are offering me new ways to grow my business. The opportunities are both exciting and daunting.

#10 Claimwire: Other than your product, what are the greatest assets and strengths Lipold Communications, LLC has?

It starts with the value proposition. My company offers a unique combination of established insurance industry expertise with nearly all the services you would expect from a public relations company.

When I went into public relations, I promised myself I would never be a propaganda hack! My clients and my company benefit from the journalistic approach to everything. This means asking the tough questions and publishing reliable information that builds trust and credibility for my clients, their current and potential customers, and my business.

#11 Claimwire: If you had to boil Lipold Communications, LLC down to one sentence, what would it be?

Lipold Communications, LLC provides expert insurance public relations services to build trustworthy brands.

#12 Claimwire: What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make as President of Lipold Communications, LLC?

Re-considering my company’s name and direction.

#13 Claimwire: Where do you see the insurance industry headed in the next few years?

Technology will continue to define change in the insurance industry on several levels. Smart apps, gamification and integrated predictive modeling will change even the smallest pieces of the insurance process.

Employees will be able to file a claim through an app, which will guide them to the appropriate doctor for the best immediate medical treatment and begin the claims process.

Since software is becoming more intelligent and intuitive, even new claims examiners will catch potential hitches in the process. Thanks to “integrated predictive modeling,” a term I coined, underwriters will better reward employers who truly follow best practices in workers’ compensation.

Employers who effectively communicate with employees to enhance safety programs and inspire immediate filing of legitimate claims will not have to wait years for their investment to reflect the experience modification factor to save premium dollars. The claim examiner’s app could include return-to-work options already identified by the employer. This also can be factored into the experience mod, which will be extinct in the next 10 years, at least for large employers.

The success of technology relies on effective communication, which is sorely lacking in many areas. Most companies make the mistake of not investing enough in communication and I have seen businesses fail because of it.

From a brand advocacy standpoint, insurers and vendors will pursue “brand journalism,” which is the next step beyond custom content to meet higher reader expectations. Brand journalism combines the tenets of journalism with brand communication to create customer value.

Predictive analytics will continue to be an important way companies will enhance the online customer experience as well. A site featuring the top most popular apps included a recipe for the best grilled cheese sandwich! I went for it!

#14 Claimwire: How important is Social Media to Lipold Communications and to you personally?

It’s importance cannot be overstated. In the communications industry, you either ride the wave or fossilize. There is no middle ground.

For my company, it is changing the work I do. For example, I used to build media lists, now I build influencer lists that include reporters and key players in social media.

It has changed how I market my company. Social media have enhanced my company’s “inbound marketing” by growing my network. My blog attracts new clients.

But like anything else, there is a negative side. Social media requires consistent contributions and interaction and a greater time commitment than traditional approaches.

#15 Claimwire: Related to the last question, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being an Ultra Power User, what lever of Social Media user are you?

I would say I am a 7 to 8. My LinkedIn profile is among the top five percent most viewed, which points to engagement.

But I am not a social media junkie looking to explore every new medium that comes online. I want to maximize the social mediums I currently use first. Let someone else figure out how to use Pinterest for marketing workers’ compensation!

#16 Claimwire: If you could hire any famous person to be the spokesperson for Lipold Communications, LLC, who would it be and why?

Jack Welch. He is straight-forward, honest and persuasive.

_______________
The success of technology relies on effective communication…

_______________

#17 Claimwire: What is your vision for workers’ compensation?

My vision is very broad so I will touch on a small piece of it.

For years, I have been advocating that we change how we talk about workers’ compensation. I am tired of public policy discussions that sound like union-management contract negotiations!

That is so last century!

For example, we need to show employees that getting the best medical care and return to work at medical feasibility are far better in the long run than higher maximum weekly benefits and choice of physician. Since recovery can be greatly affected by mental health, injured workers should receive counseling as well.

Once the workers’ compensation system is dominated by a return-to-work culture, compensating employees at the same salary level would be more possible. We have examples of employers who do this. We’ve done the studies. Let’s get to work!

#18 Claimwire: If you could write a biography about anyone, who would it be?

Steve Jobs.

#19 Claimwire: If you could spend a month with your family anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

England because of its history and my family roots are based there.

#20 Claimwire: If you could recommend just one book for high school students to read, what would it be and why?

“Guerrilla Marketing” by Jay Conrad Levinson. We need to train our youth to be entrepreneurs who can find and create opportunities.

Special thanks to Steve Schmutz for honoring me with an interview. To  learn more about Claimwire, please visit http://www.claimwire.com  — Annmarie

Social Media Trumps Dell’s Poor Customer Service

Dell_Sucks_by_Wolverine080976Executives who focus on social media’s marketing advantages without being prepared for customer feedback should take heed from my customer experience with Dell.

Last May, I had yet another frustrating experience with Dell. When I told a Dell customer service manager I was going to post a blog about my poor experience, he told me to go ahead.

So I did — not just for me but other frustrated Dell customers. (To read the blog, click here.)

After posting my blog on Facebook pages started by disgruntled customers, I pasted it on Dell’s Facebook page. Social media is designed to encourage two-way communication between companies and their customers.

At first, Dell removed my post, but when I reminded of this, it stayed.

Then I received a message from a member of Dell’s social media team.  My suspicion is that he was trying to be responsive, but Dell’s internal bureaucracy seemed to make it difficult.

It took two months, but ultimately, I got what I asked for: a new replacement printer.

But I can’t use it. Dell advertised the once highly rated printer as MAC-friendly, but it is not. My friend, who is a Mac user and computer professional, gave up on the install. Dell’s “service” representative offered little help.

_______________
Executives who focus on social media’s marketing advantages
without being prepared for customer feedback
should take heed from my customer experience with Dell.
_______________

Two months are a long time for my public relations business to go without a working four-in-one printer. Fortunately, I still had my 10-year-old HP laser jet and eight-year-old HP color deskjet, but neither have copy, scan nor FAX functions.

I had to break down and buy another multi-function device, forgoing other capital investments. The print quality is nothing like the Dell, but at least it works. In case you’re interested, it’s a highly rated Brother, which offers lifetime customer service.

There is a lot that marketing professionals and customers can learn from this experience.

1)   Do not advertise a product as compatible with anything unless there is a commitment to updates. Dell advertised the printer as Mac friendly without keeping up with MAC system updates. As a result, the scanner function did not work well.

2)   Offer customer specific service. Dell marketed to Mac users without offering quality support.

3)   Social media’s advantageous reach is great for consumers. After talking to the customer service manager, I used to write the company president for results. Social media is faster.

4)   Be fair about posting complaints. It is poor taste to go public on social media unless every other reasonable attempt at resolution has been tried. I spent at least 14 hours with customer service for various problems. I did not go public with Dell until there was a mechanical failure and productivity issues.

5)   Don’t buy electronic products with short warranties. Dell only offers a 30-day warranty for replacing equipment. The 30-day warrantee on the Dell laptop I bought in 2009 expired while trying to get resolution. I have purchased Mac products ever since.

6)   Base your choice on a company’s current reputation. From 2003 to 2007, I was happy with my Dell products and enjoyed great customer service.  Unfortunately, those days are gone.

Finally, I need to express my gratitude to the Dell social media employee who responded to me.

In the future, I don’t plan to buy another Dell product, but it may not be up to me anyway.

Rumor has it that Dell is getting out of consumer products and putting its focus on large servers anyway.

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