Good copy is important in your business communications. Between web content, brochures and social media, companies are producing content prolifically. Our friends at Copyblogger have created this infographic to help you when you are creating copy to avoid some common, yet inexcusable, grammatical errors. If you don’t consider yourself a strong writer, print this out and use it as a reference tool. It will definitely help you appear more professional.
Kevin Smith (who uses the name @thatkevinsmith on Twitter), the indie film director who gave us Clerks and Dogma is on the cutting edge of utilizing social media for marketing and business owners should follow his lead if they are serious about growing their business cost effectively.
At first glance, it may seem odd that small businesses would look to a Hollywood director for marketing advice. That is until you look a little deeper at what is currently happening in Kevin Smith’s career currently.
Here is a little background if you are unfamiliar with Smith and his career:
In 1993 Smith made his debut film, “Clerks” for just under $28,000 of his own money. That film was purchased by the Miramax in 1994 at the Sundance Film Festival. This was the beginning of a nearly twenty-year filmmaking career within the Hollywood system. Smith went on to write, direct and edit 10 films for Mirimax and other major Hollywood studios.
While Smith will be self-deprecating about his prowess as a filmmaker, he will tell you that he was successful at managing a budget–all of his films made money for the studios that released them.
By all accounts, “Red State”, his current movie project is a departure. Unlike his long list of movies, this isn’t a light-hearted comedy. “Red State” is hard to fit into a box–but most people label it a horror movie. As usual, Smith was mindful of the budget while he produced “Red State” completing the project for under $4 million.
When “Red State” was getting ready for distribution, he was aware that this hard to define movie would be difficult to market. He knew that the studio system would want to spend millions of dollars on marketing that would more than likely miss the mark in reaching an audience. Smith also knew that he had a direct line to his most loyal fans that would not cost him a dime–social media.
Smith is an avid user of social media and has cultivated a large following on Twitter and Facebook of his fan-base (more than 1.8 million Twitter follower and almost 600,000 on Facebook). He has always been an early adopter of technology. He was one of the first Hollywood personalities with a web site and he was active on the forums on his website for years interacting directly with his fans. Then as the technology advanced and social media replaced chat rooms and bulletin boards he jumped into that space and has been holding forth there ever since.
He has realized the marketing potential of this medium. He publicizes all of his live shows and he breaks news to his fan base about all of his upcoming projects there. Fans know that if they want Kevin Smith news they can go straight to the source for the information by following his social media accounts. For example, fans started to learn about “Red State” while he was still writing it because he would blog about it and tweet about it all through the development process.
So it was only natural that Smith would decide to throw out the traditional Hollywood business model when it came time to release “Red State” and decided that instead of weighing his film down with exorbitant marketing costs, he would just take to social media to get the word out about his film.
He was eschewed by critics and traditionalist. People wanted to paint him as washed up or a failure. They tried to paint him as unable to release his film in the traditional manner–so he went this “odd” way instead. But nothing could be further from the truth. Smith made a conscious, calculated business decision. He saw the value in social medial and word-of-mouth advertising. He knew that he had social capital invested in the time he spent cultivating his audience online. They were his most loyal fan-base. He knew that he had a strong following of people online that were interested in his product and all it would take was an expenditure of his time to devote to publicizing his project online and his followers would help him by amplifying his reach by broadcasting that message themselves to their followers.
And guess what? In little more that six months time from the time he announced his plan Smith had covered all of his expenses for the film and he was in the black–without spending practically a dime in traditional marketing or publicity, without a PR tour or press screenings, without billboards or gimmicks.
So what can business owners learn from Kevin Smith when it comes to social media? A few things: First, you can be untraditional and be successful at marketing. Second, you can cut out the middle man (and all of the associated expenses) when it comes to marketing and pubic relations, and speak directly to your real fans (aka customers). And third, you can “monetize” your social media efforts.
However–there are also some very important caveats. It isn’t automatic. You can’t just hire an intern to sign up for a twitter account and expect to see cash start rolling in through the door. As with any business venture, you need to invest in it; grow it. However, this isn’t a cash investment. You need to invest time. You need to cultivate a following online by being earnest. You need to connect with your customers online and engage them. Give them a reason to follow you by offering them engaging content…entertaining, informative, interesting content that makes them want to read what you have to say. If you do that and spend the time developing these relationships they will pay dividends. People will support your business if you are giving them something in return. If you interact and are proactive they will recognize that your company is worth supporting and reward you for getting it.
Kevin Smith loves to talk about Wayne Gretsky–and how he was taught by his father that you need to go where the puck it going to be instead of chasing after it. Successful businesses need to learn that lesson as well. Don’t chase the social media puck–go where the the puck is going to be in the future. Be creative in social media, innovate!
You know, most times you don’t normally see the beginning of a tidal wave forming. However, if one is tuned in properly and is listening to the right things, you could get lucky and start to connect the dots before you reach the tipping point on something big every once in a while.
I could be wrong, but I think I may have been privy to the beginning of a paradigm shift this week. Now, I am not trying to hold myself out as a seer on this, just that I was lucky enough to be listening to the right people and was in the right place at the right time to see the very infancy of what I think will begin to be a movement in the future of media advertising that will be the norm in the not-too-distant future.
A high-school friend of mine wrote a blog today that coalesced something that I have been mulling around in my head for the past week.
Ralph Fontaine wrote on his web series’ blog about the future of advertising and the potential that traditional advertisers could find spending their ad dollars in online content creation to recapture some of the lost live television audience.
Ralph points out that networks are not properly measuring the viewers for their content who consume that programming in non-traditional ways. That inaccurate measurement is leading to reduced revenue and lost advertisers since the audience is no longer watching live tv and traditional commercials. Ralph (correctly) opines that those advertising dollars could easily be leveraged to support a much broader range of on-line media content and therefore get the message out to potentially greater audience with a far smaller investment in advertising.
He is definitely on to something. Now of course, Ralph is in the middle of producing and directing his own web series, so he has some skin in the game, but that does not negate the truth in his assertion that web series and other online media is a much cheaper alternative than television advertising.
Now, like I said earlier, I had been thinking about some of these issues already this week. Why? Because this past week filmmaker Kevin Smith took his media empire in a new direction online this week by launching an internet radio stream with four hours of live, daily programming supported by his vast stable of podcasts.
Smith has been on the leading edge of internet marketing and new media since he first launched the web site for his production company and started a bulletin board where his fans could interact directly with him all the way back in the early 90’s. Smith has stayed up on all of the new media trends and has embraced them. He launched a weekly podcast (called Smodcast) five years ago. He has well over a million twitter followers and he utilizes Facebook with twitter to market his content. He is even trying to distribute his latest move, Red State, without a studio distribution deal and by only marketing the movie through social media.
So, with the launch of his Smodcast Internet Radio (S.I.R.), Smith is acknowledging that he believes the future in media is going to be web-based. We won’t be watching TV in the traditional fashion–at a set time and date–and online streaming of videos/movies will soon overtake physical DVDs. With the launch of S.I.R., Smith also set out to make advertising accessible for just about any company. Smith is speaking to a sizeable, national audience, yet the cost of a two-minute live-read radio ad for the launch of S.I.R was just $200. Incredible! So, if you are a mom and pop store–or even just a guy who wants more followers on his twitter stream, you can afford to get an ad on the hottest new internet media channel.
Now, I am sure that deal won’t last long–in his first week on the air, Smith’s two live radio shows were the #1 and #2 most downloaded programs on iTunes–so his new venture is catching on fast.
But, this may just be the beginning of a whole new marketing paradigm. If internet radio and web series can keep getting their message out there and companies start to realize the audience that they are attracting–then the advertising dollars are sure to follow.
If you’re looking to be an early adopter–contact your favorite blogger, podcaster, web series or internet radio station and have a discussion about becoming a sponsor…that is the future and you can be on the crest of the wave.
So–who do you think are the people on the cutting edge that we should all be looking to as media content producers that are getting it? Who’s program would you want to advertise on? Let me know…
Every company, regardless of size, is tackling the question of what role social media should play in their business communications strategy.
There are plenty of success stories around already of how social media is a cost-effective communications tool…both for sales and marketing as well as customer communication. It seems like a no-brainer then that most if not all companies should have at least some social media presence in this day and age, right?
Well not according to Jeffery Pilcher at The Financial Brand. In a blog post today, Pilcher argues against small to mid-size companies utilizing social media. Granted, Pilcher was talking directly about financial institutions, but his logic, it would seem, would be extended out to all small businesses because he doesn’t make any argument that is specific to the banking or financial industry.
Pilcher’s take on social media is that it is a tool to monitor when people are speaking about you so that you can adequately respond and engage them. However, he argues that the number of mentions of small to mid-size companies is negligible and therefore a social media strategy is a waste of time and resources.
If that was all social media was useful for, I may agree with his assertions. However, Mr. Pilcher is leaving out a HUGE opportunity in his assessment of the benefits of social media. He speaks of using social media as a solely REactive medium. Listening for people to talk about you and going out and engaging them and answering their questions. That is important but that isn’t the only business-use for social media.
How about the PROactive side of the equation? That is completely ignored in his analysis. Now, after spending 15 years in financial services I am aware that there are strict regulations on marketing in that business and so for Pilcher’s audience there are additional hurdles to anticipate before proactively using social media, but they are not insurmountable–and for most other businesses they are non-existent.
Social media should be a two-pronged strategy. Yes, listen…listen first before you speak, always! But you should also initiate via social media. It is a viable avenue for communicating to your existing clientele about new products and resources; about educating them on better ways to do things and to gain greater benefits from your products; or just to keep their relationship with your business top of mind by letting them know that you appreciate them and their relationship with your company.
What is wrong, for example with a small bank passing along a news item about new banking or tax laws to their followers? That is important and timely information that, while maybe not the sexiest story in the land, may have real value to their everyday lives. That is just one simple example of a proactive use for social media. There are hundreds more.
Lastly, garnering a solid, proactive relationship with your clients creates a strong bond between you and your clients and a client that is happy with the relationship that they have with a company is extremely likely to tell their friends about their experiences with that company. Thus, the Raving Fans (affiliate link) principle–have your clients so happy with their experiences with your company that they start telling their friends about you and what a great job you do; thus doing your marketing for you.
How are you as a small business utilizing social media? Are you being only reactive?
Do you use Twitter to market your service business? Have you also embraced location-based services such as Four Square?
A lot of service-based businesses work out of their trucks so they don’t have a store front location from which to offer a special on Four Square. Well here’s a way to do something similar plus get you some extra word of mouth for your twitter account and business.
Tweet your location through Four Square as you go about your travels during the day and tweet out a message similar to this:
“We are at Fisher Blvd in Toms River doing an installation. If you see our service truck, tweet a picture of it with the messge ‘I found @TomsSerivceCompany’ and you will receive a 20% discount off of our service fee.”
This kills two birds with one stone. You are advertising your business by offering a discount for people who spot you (thus leveraging the marketing dollars you spent to letter your truck!) plus you have people tweeting out your company’s Twitter name and spreading the word to their followers.
What do you think? Would that work for your business? Will your friends keep an eye out for your check-ins?
Peter Shankman hits the nail on the head again! Here is a quick list from him of 7 ideas small businesses can employ to generate $$$REVENUE$$$$ today by using social media. It is simple and easy–a true no brainer.
In the spirit of Peter giving away the advice that people pay him for, if you like this idea but feel you aren’t creative enough to come up with an idea that is tailored to your industry, leave a comment or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will sit down with you for an hour-long brainstorming session on what we can come up with together to tailor this idea to your business.
What do you think? Easy right??
Here is a good basic introduction from Entrepreneur Magazine on how to utlize Social Media to find customers.
This is something that I often discuss with my clients and this summary is a great jumping off point for a much more in-depth discussion about how to effectively manager your time on social media and to whom you are going to attempt to get you message.
What are your thoughts? Is does this make sense to you as a starting point?