With the election just days away, I’ve been answering this question a little more frequently than I would like to. Of course, I always counsel clients to stay away from politics (unless it’s part of their business) but this year it seems like people just can’t help themselves. At the same time, I’ve noticed the most innocent of actions – not related to politics go bad as well. In fact, on Halloween night my phone rang at 8:30 p.m. with a friend wanting some social media guidance. Based on the situation, my guidance might vary. But the following is what I suggested.

  1. Was she there, did she witness what people were posting about? Answer: no. So first, she has to collect information before she knows how to respond.
  2. Did she know the person who was upset? Answer: no, and she was not ‘friends’ with the person making the posts, so she couldn’t see them first hand.
  3. Where was the angry post made? Personal feed, public group or private group? Answer: private group, and she was not a member, but someone in her organization was.
  4. I suggested she try to join the group to view the posts. That request was not granted.
  5. Then I suggested she Private Message the person and ask them to contact her providing a number. And, that didn’t work.
  6. Since those methods didn’t work, we asked the person who was a member of the group, to suggest they contact the organization and talk through the issue.
  7. In the meantime, there were additional posts in support of the organization. (If you build a great community, they will come to your defense.)

The resolution: After threats of coming by the organization, and threats of filing a police report, the offended party did the right thing and picked up the phone. An apology was made, and a resolution reached. Granted it doesn’t always work out this way, but my moral to the story is – it’s always good to try and talk through an issue on the phone instead of continuing posting about it. And, sometimes, I repeat, sometimes, your followers will come to your defense and plead your case for you.

If you have questions about social media or a crisis situation in general, feel free to give me a call. I work with organizations on having a crisis communications plan in place. And, if you’ve looked at my LinkedIn profile you will know that I’ve worked through some fairly difficult crisis situations in my career.

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Tomorrow I turn 50. I have to admit, it’s something that leaves me kind of dazed. First, there were many times I doubted I would ever see 50. As I told someone earlier this week – I was not a wall-flower in college. I enjoyed my time in school immensely. Then there is the part of me that feels and acts like I’m still 25. I can’t see myself ever not kayaking. I’m not throwing cartwheels or anything down the river, but I’m holding my own.

Someone asked me this week what I had learned by this age. I really had to think about the question and the answer. Certainly I have learned a lot in recent years about owning your own business. In 2013, I finished my Master’s in Information Engineering Management at UAB. I learned a lot in the program about technology, how it works, big data, starting a business, etc. I’ve also learned a lot from all of the jobs I’ve had over the years. TV taught me that I had a soft heart. Economic Development taught me about big business, politics and introduced me to people around the globe. UAB taught me about how to work with the media and that there was more to Public Relations than just working with the media. HealthSouth taught me that some people are not what they seem -- in both a good and bad way. Regions renewed my faith that not all people at the top were bad. Southern Living taught me beauty and the politics of the North and South. However, none of those jobs will be how I am remembered. And, to be honest, I don’t know how I will be remembered. I do know the one thing that matters to me in all of the last 50 years are the friendships and relationships I’ve built along the way.

To be honest, I don’t consider myself to have a lot of friends. I do know a lot of people, but I really think I’m a sucky friend and to have a lot of friends, you have to be a good friend. I am not the type that remembers birthdays or always has a gift to send. I do however give gifts when I believe I have found the perfect one – and I do not wait for an occasion to give it. For my family, I was not the aunt who baby sat a lot. I was the crazy Aunt out having fun (still am). Now, when the nieces and nephews got to a certain age…I could, and did, show them how to have fun. To my Mom and Dad – I am horrible about calling and checking in. It’s not intentional, I’m just moving from one thing to the next. And, to my friends, I hope they know, really know, how much I do care about them. Back in my single days I remember being out one night and a girlfriend called from Tuscaloosa, to say she had broken-up with a guy. I drove there immediately to spend the night and lighten her mood. A year or so ago a dear friend lost her father. I came crying with a casserole (engrained Methodist behavior from childhood). Another friend I had worked with at HealthSouth had her baby prematurely – again I took a casserole. And, even though I hadn’t seen this friend in like 15 years, when she got sick and came home from the hospital I again took food. Not tooting my horn here, but my point is I may not talk to you or see you, but in the end you are important to me and food is my love language.

So what I have I learned by this milestone trip around the sun – It’s what you do for people that matters. At least that is what I hope matters. Your actions, your deeds and your word. It is something I’m going to work harder at in the coming years -- being a better wife, friend, sister, daughter and aunt. To me that is what is important.

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screen shot of FB advertisingThere are many, many more people knowledgeable about social media and advertising on all social platforms than me. However, I’ve run into some business people who have had their Facebook advertising cut-off or just simply don’t understand the difference between a promoted post and actually doing a targeted ad with a call to action. If you didn’t know you could do that… read on.

In working with some clients I’ve been impressed with the level of targeting you can do in Facebook with ads. While folks in my industry are going ‘doh’ – I thought I would share some practical information to help those of you treading your own way with marketing.

If you have a Facebook Business page, go to your ads manager. It will either appear in the left hand column (mine is there on my favorites list) or it’s at the top of the right hand column. If you’ve never created an ad go to the green “create ad” button and you will see a screen that looks like this. Look at all of these options! My favorite, depending on the client, is ‘reach people near your business’. You can geo-target people within a 5, 10 or 15 mile radius (even larger) You can also pick men or women or both and age demographics. From there you can select what their interests are – all sorts of things like sports, health, recently engaged and even those interested in entrepreneurism. You can then select a call to action to click through to your website, ‘call now’ or ‘like’ your Facebook page. There are a lot of options.

Then you set your price. This is where I think a number of people get confused because you are setting a per-day price. So if you choose $5.00 and want your add to run for a week, then you are spending $25. And, be sure to set a beginning and end date, otherwise it will just keep going, which can get costly and surprising to say the least.

My other suggestion is to not just try an ad, but to think about what you want to achieve and develop a strategy. For example, if your page is new and doesn’t have a lot of likes, you might do a like campaign first, then do an ad for your webpage or blog and track the links. If you have an event you can advertise that. Again, tons of options but you really need to have a strategy.

The other thing I discovered is Facebook will now give you a tracking pixel to put on your website. This is invisible code that no one can see. This means if you do an ad and someone goes to your website then that person will pick up the tracking pixel and your ad will continue to deliver to them. Sounds creepy – like digital stalking. But, hey if you are offering something of value like a discount or buy-one get-one free offer, the person may appreciate it.

There is another thing you need to know about Facebook advertising. They like images, but not images with text. So if you think you are going to advertise a flyer -- you can't. They will reject images with more than 20 percent text.

If this article baked your noodle and you are not sure if you need a social media strategy -- give me call.

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The New E-Newsletter

E-mail newsletters are nothing new. However, the way they are done, the frequency and the content has changed tremendously over the past few years. On behalf of some of my clients I’ve been researching the best services to use, how much newsletter stock photo to pay, and most important, what is the right amount of content?  The following is what I discovered:

  • Less is more - While it is a newsletter, it doesn’t need to look like a newspaper. The K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle definitely applies here, and images are preferable over lots of copy.  Why? Part of the reason behind doing a newsletter is to draw attention to your website, help you engage with your audiences and hopefully start a dialogue on social media. Use nice images (not too large in file size), and tease content that links back to the full story on your website. Also, most people are viewing your content on their mobile device and brevity is appreciated.
  • Say Something – If you don’t have anything to tell your audience, don’t force it and risk losing their interest.  See Spam below.
  • Short videos work – One of the reasons I became an Emma e-provider is they were the only service (looked at MailChimp and Constant Contact) that let me imbed a short video for a client. Why is that important? Yes, you can link to videos on YouTube, but if you are going to send an email to your client base with a personal message, you probably don’t want that sitting out there on YouTube. Being able to embed it in an email worked great for a client I had. She recorded the message, telling her clients/friends about a book that helped her plan for the New Year. In the message she offered to drop a copy by their office if they were interested and responded back in the affirmative. It worked, she received more than 20 replies, which equaled 20 new business leads for her. Does that work for everyone? No, obviously it doesn’t, but being able to do that for a select audience does work. Emma is not free, but it is worth it to me to have the flexibility for my clients. Also, I found it difficult to chat with people at MailChimp or Constant Contact if I had a problem. With Emma I can actually call someone, do a chat session, or utilize their forums.
  • Don’t Spam – I think this goes without saying, but I’ve noticed that different people have different definitions of how much is too much. After talking with some of the experts, unless you are a retail chain, twice a month is plenty to touch base with your core followers via an e-newsletter. Personally, if you show up more than twice a week in my inbox I’m unsubscribing (How I started my New Year).
  • Sign-up Tools - Whatever service you decide to go with make sure that people can easily share it and have a way to sign up on your website and social media sites. It completes the communication cycle and helps grow your contacts.

Welcome to 2015 and I hope to share more little tidbits like this on a regular basis.

Helen Todd, APR, is the owner of Fluid Communications a public relations consulting firm that helps businesses reach their customers and engage with them.

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Disclaimer: If you don’t watch Walking Dead or own your own business this won’t make sense to you.

It hit me last night as I was going to sleep that being in business for yourself has a lot in common with the season opener of Walking Dead. Someone had asked me earlier in the day what I liked about the show and I thought this may be why I’m drawn to it so much.

  1. On your knees, bent over a barrel with your hands tied behind your back. This is where the Walking Dead opened. Quite dramatically I might add. I generally feel this way at tax time every year. And, there are just days when you feel like you are on the edge. On the edge of getting a contract or not, knowing another contract is coming to close. It’s realizing these days are going to happen and having the ability to move forward from them makes a difference.
  2. The lone character trying to do the right thing – I’m not saying that I smeared blood on my face and zombie guts on me last week like Carol when she went to rescue everyone at Terminus, but I do try and do the right thing. Not over promise for my clients, not spam media contacts, and give good strategic advice – even when some people aren’t paying for it. I believe in giving back. In the past week or so I’ve gotten a call from an internet radio station in Texas and a student at Johnson and Wales University doing a charity event. I spent about 20 minutes on the phone with one and emailed some tips back to the other. It’s fun getting feedback that you have given someone a different perspective.
  3. Everyone at Terminus must be killed – Oh boy, could I identify with Rick. They are bad people, we must go back and kill them all! A) That means they can’t come back later in the show; and B) you put yourself at risk. I feel that way sometimes in my business. I can’t believe that person said, or did that…either about me or my business. But, the reality is you have to let sleeping dogs lie. Stay focused on what you are doing. Have a plan, and work the plan. Sometimes people self-destruct and the fact that you didn’t try to point it out, makes you look good.
  4. Get your killer instinct back – Okay I’m not saying literally, but the character Tyreese had lost his ability to kill. In a world of walkers/zombies, you’ve obviously got be able to kick some booty. Tyreese got his groove back on this season opener. In business, you have to keep your marketing mojo. Over the past month or so, I really lost my desire for blogging and promoting my business. But now I’m back!!!! I’m actually working on some new plans for 2015 and can’t wait to get things finalized. As a business owner you have to spend time on your business, keep your killer instinct or else the business can grow stale.
  5. Celebrate happy endings – Who wasn’t wiping away a tear at the end of the show when Rick got his baby back! Everyone was hugging and happy to see each other. If you own your own business take time to celebrate success. And, most of all say thank you to those that have helped make you a success! The holidays are just around the corner, what are you going to do for your clients and employees?

Hope you enjoyed a few insights from my guilty pleasure TV watching. Look for more insights in the coming weeks and months. And, there may be a Helen2o newsletter in the future.

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