Lorton Data's Blog

Targeting the Right Nuts

August 24th, 2011 by Joel Ingersoll

Is anything harder than feigning excitement at the horrible media recommendation from a friend or family member? “Bob, I have to tell you, I LOVED that documentary on the feeding habits of squirrels in the greater Nome, Alaska metro area. The director really captured the angst of those squirrels trying to select just the right winter nut to bury.”

The worst part isn’t really hurting their feelings though, is it? It’s the realization that they are going to continue to provide you with bad entertainment suggestions until your life ends, or you unfriend them on Facebook—whichever comes first. The point is the more you get to know about someone, the better you should be able to tailor your message to fit their needs. If Bob really knew me, he’d probably have suggested some new science-fiction movie with laser guns and sword-wielding cats. The same is true of marketing. So for purposes of getting to the point, why don’t we call Bob, LinkedIn and “The Squirrels of Greater Nome,” the email I received this morning.

After I woke up, I rolled out of bed like a freshly minted zombie, grabbed my coffee and checked email on my trusty Blackberry like I do every morning. There were a few things from Twitter, a personal email or two and another email from LinkedIn. The subject of the email from LinkedIn was “Joel, recommended internships for you.” Beyond the lack of appropriate capitalization in the subject, I was completely baffled as to why I received this email. I quickly realized my cobwebs were caused by my late night at school and I got the email because I have my current Master’s program listed on LinkedIn.

That makes sense, but then why am I compelled to blog about this? Well, I’ve provided enough personal and professional information to LinkedIn that I should never have received this needless email. This is particularly true given that the internship leads they sent me were so far outside my area of interests that even Zig Ziglar couldn’t sell me on them.

The quickest way they could have prevented emailing me was to include an age range select on the campaign file. I’m thirty-seven and highly unlikely to be interested in a low paying, or more likely, unpaid internship. Since I supplied LinkedIn my exact birth date, the least they could do is use it in conjunction with their marketing materials to me—also, why didn’t they send me a birthday card? Scratch that, too creepy. I also have a long work history posted on the site, another reason I should have been excluded.

Let’s take a look at some of these great internships in the email:

Long Term Intern-Marketing & Social Media Planner, Symantec, Istanbul – So LinkedIn marketing thinks I might be interested in moving to Istanbul (not Constantinople) for a part-time job?

Marketing Intern, L’Oréal – Russian Federation – No offense to L’Oréal, but until they have their own branded donuts like Glamour magazine, I’m not interested. Also, my Russian is just a tad rusty and by rusty I mean one semester at Kent State thirteen years ago.

Gucci Group Fall Internships – IT/MIS and Finance, Gucci – Greater New York City Area – Okay, so we are in the right country now, but my only experience in high fashion is looking at the same Coach purse with my wife in five different cities before she purchased it. I will give LinkedIn credit since it is actually an MIS position, matching my Master’s program.

Public Relations / Corporate Communications Intern, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia – Greater New York City Area – Jackpot! If anyone has watched me cook Hot Pockets in the microwave and garnish the plate artistically with Cheetos, you’d know I am ready to pack up and go work for Martha Stewart.

To be fair, LinkedIn has no real idea about my personal feelings on the fashion industry and they’d have nothing to suppress in relation to those internship suggestions. However, I have the feeling that someone in the marketing department said to the data keepers, “Send this email out to everyone with a graduation date in the future, they’re all going to love this feature!” Had they taken the time to be a tad more discerning, they might have tightened the target audience to people who are just about to complete an undergraduate degree or in a graduate program that started within a year or two of finishing undergrad.

Just because in-house email marketing is inexpensive doesn’t mean your should throw everything against the wall just to see what sticks. It’s important to properly target your audience and market to the right people, otherwise you risk your audience not just deleting an email as irrelevant, but opting out of your service, or blocking you as spam. Once a potential customer opts out or flags you as spam you lose the opportunity to email them again, so it makes sense to keep your messages relevant to your audience.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to ship a package of acorns to Nome, Alaska.

The Great Minnesota Tweet Together

August 18th, 2011 by Joel Ingersoll

I’ve got my PTO request slip in my hand and I’m trembling with excitement as I look forward to the start of next week’s Minnesota State Fair. I grew up over two hours from the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, so my experience with fairs until I moved to the Twin Cities was relegated to some smaller fairs comprised of terrible cover bands, undercooked elephant ears and eight despondent goats going through the motions of being goat-like until they could head out to happy hour. Honestly, I’d like to think all my fair experiences before the Minnesota State Fair were kind of like training camp to prepare me for the awesomeness of hundreds of meat products on a stick, giant tractors taken straight from Gulliver’s Travels and real bands reuniting as they try to reclaim their moment in the sun from their one hit song back in 1976. It’s so close I can smell the excitement—or maybe someone just burned some food in the toaster oven in the office kitchen. I don’t know.

The Minnesota State Fair is known as “The Great Minnesota Get-Together” and according to my in-depth research on Wikipedia, it is the third largest state fair in the US. You’d think that an event that seems to set new daily attendance records every year AND has a 90 pound butter sculpture of the head of the newly selected “Princess Kay of the Milky Way” wouldn’t use social media to connect with the 1.7 million people that attended in 2010, but they do. After @MeetingBoy and my wife, @MinnStateFair was one of the first accounts I followed on Twitter. With over 250,000 likes on Facebook and almost another 10,000 on Twitter, the Fair is doing an excellent job of communicating with people attending, running contests, and most importantly, promoting the organizations and events at the Fair.

I’ll admit I don’t engage with the Fair on Facebook, but I do on Twitter. For anyone looking to leverage Twitter for business purposes, I highly recommend checking out their Twitter account. Not only do they push updates and information, but they actively engage people on the platform. Be it replies to people tweeting about the Fair, sharing links to fairground maps, answering random questions, or just making me hungry for new food offerings from vendors, the people behind the @MinnStateFair account do a fantastic job of building a community and engaging it with worthwhile content. While I am quite sure a significant amount of effort is happening in the background to manage the social media interaction for the fair, I think you’ll agree that it’s time well spent. I know it sure beats all the businesses that start a Twitter account, send out three links a day, and call it a social media marketing program.

There are a lot of “gurus” out there that will tell you how to do social media for businesses, organizations and non-profits. They’ll inundate you with an avalanche of advice and even more snake oil. But rarely will they give you a positive example of an organization that isn’t a multi-billion dollar conglomerate. More likely, they will enhance the negative related to a bad social media event and just say “good social media practice is not doing this.” In this instance, the Minnesota State Fair Twitter account is a great example of how to do social media right within a professional context and their page is worth a read, if not a follow.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have at least 30 jokes to write about the Fair for my personal Twitter account and at least 25 of those can’t be about the Miracle of Birth Center.

Haven’t I Suffered Enough Already?

August 16th, 2011 by Joel Ingersoll

Since moving to the Twin Cities five years ago, about 50% of the time when I meet someone and they learn I’m from Cleveland their first question to me is: “How about The Drive?  Or The Fumble? Or The Shot? Or Jose Mesa’s meltdown? Or how Chad Ogea’s name was practically engraved on the 1997 World Series MVP trophy before the Marlins snatched it from your hands?” And most recently, they ask about “The Decision.” Evidently, being a Cleveland sports fan means a lifetime of suffering with a capitalized article to punctuate the pain. And a lot of questions from people who think they are making polite conversation by tearing my soul out and showing it to me. Yet every year I come back for more. Every single painful year.

To enhance the pain, I run the Twin Cities Browns Backers club. That’s right, even in Minnesota there’s a collection (on average about thirty people) of lost souls that line up each week to see what new and original ways our beloved Browns can break our hearts. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I spent thirty of my thirty-seven (gulp!) years in Cleveland and miss it every day. This last weekend, my wife and I had a whirlwind tour of Cleveland. We flew in on Saturday for a wedding and then out after brunch with my parents on Sunday. However, we managed to sneak out of the wedding around eight to watch a pre-season Browns game on one TV with the Indians game on the TV right next to it. As any sports fan knows, it doesn’t ever get any better than that.

With the start of the pre-season, I’m also reminded that I need to start on my duties as president of the Twin Cities club. It isn’t much effort. I make sure the people who just moved to the Twin Cities know where we meet, reply to any inquiries from the Browns and answer any emails I get from club members. It doesn’t take a lot of my time, but it is important to get done timely – something I admittedly struggle with. Another thing I have to deal with is marketing emails, quite a few of them actually. You see, there are over 300 Browns Backer clubs with almost 91,000 members world-wide. Some of those clubs are within shouting distance of the stadium in Cleveland and others are as far-flung as Alaska, England, Germany, and even Afghanistan! Since the club presidents’ email addresses are posted on the Cleveland Browns website, I think you can see how easy it would be to pull those email addresses, and shoot out a note to all the club presidents asking them to forward their products along to their club members.

I’ve received offers for Cleveland Browns branded cow bells, pajamas, overalls, hardhats, dog biscuits, tents, cruises with players, and a myriad of other services, memorabilia and silly stuff that I don’t even care to recount. While the formatting is different, the message is always the same: “My NFL licensed Cleveland Browns pet diapers are the coolest thing since NFL licensed Cleveland Browns sliced bread and I’d love you to pass this thing along to your club members.” What most of the messages are not is CAN-SPAM compliant. And that’s a problem. If your email is reported to the FTC as violating the CAN-SPAM Act, an organization could be liable for fines of up to $16,000 per email. I honestly don’t think an organization selling portable plastic tailgating horseshoes can cover the exposure of one reported violation, let alone 300 of them—even if they are approved by the “American Tailgaiters Association.” (On a complete aside, why do we need an American Tailgaiters Association? Isn’t our Sunday fun structured enough?) It’s usually something basic that causes the violation. Things like not offering a link to opt-out or not having a physical address in the email. Both of which are essential to stay compliant.

All of the companies I get email offers from are small businesses. I don’t blame them for reaching out to me to peddle their wares even if my club is 700 miles away from Cleveland. However, they still need to follow the law and use appropriate marketing techniques. I don’t know if these small businesses even understand that they are required to be CAN-SPAM compliant in all their messaging. Even if you are sitting in a room, copying and pasting messages into one-on-one emails with personalized subject lines, you still need to follow the rules of the CAN-SPAM Act. We don’t have an existing business relationship and we aren’t friends, so if you want to market to me, you need to follow the law. It’s as simple as that. Businesses and Organizations of any size can learn more about the simple rules email marketing is required to follow at the FTC website.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to do a little internet shopping for an NFL licensed Cleveland Browns branded house where I can store all my NFL licensed Cleveland Browns knickknacks.

Quiet Remorse Codes

August 10th, 2011 by Joel Ingersoll

As many of you who got my out-of-office already knew, I was off in New York City last week meeting the internet and being a fanny-pack wearing tourist. I ate pizza, saw an army of rats, managed not to get too lost on the subway and saw a ton of QR Codes. They were everywhere in their boxy three-eyed black and white glory. I saw them fifty feet high in Times Square, five centimeters high on price tags, and even saw a tattoo parlor that specialized in QR Codes and I got my Twitter link inked (okay not actually true). But the most pervasive place I saw QR Codes was at the “Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects” exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art.

After spending some time reflecting on some amazing paintings by Picasso, Dali and Matisse, then wondering about the artistic merits of “Completely Black Canvas #25” and “Oblong White Paint Splotch On The Floor,” we headed into the very overwhelming Design and Communication display. It was a cross between a traditional glass case collection and an 80’s arcade with beeps, boops and flashing lights around every corner and on every wall. While it was challenging to take it all in, the Museum had done something very interesting with the collection. With each piece’s description, there was a QR Code for further information and a hashtag to use for Twitter, and for one brief moment, I thought I was in geek nirvana.

That joyous feeling quickly faded as I whipped out my trusty Blackberry and hit up my QR Code app. Rather than seamlessly providing me with additional information, the code just failed to load. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if my phone is still loading that first QR Code link. While my Blackberry may be a touch underpowered for web browsing, it should still easily load a page dedicated to a QR Code. Sensing my disappointment, a friend offered me her iPhone. I quickly downloaded a reader and snapped the first code again. The page loaded, after a while, to the tiniest photos ever. Seeing as I had forgotten my monocle in my other pants, I could not really tell what was on my screen. Clearly the website had not been optimized for use with mobile devices, which is disappointing because nowhere in the collection was there a Baby Bjorn for desktop computers with an add-on power supply. It’s a real shame that all the time spent designing the QR Codes and making the additional website content was wasted because it wasn’t set up for use on a mobile device. I tried to load the QR Code for Bat Billboard, and, as you can see, on the desktop it’s a confusing design and would be virtually impossible to manage on a phone.

It’s ironic, and not in the Alanis Morissette sense, that an exhibit designed to illustrate the impact of design on how people interact with communication devices failed to take into account the communication device being used to talk about the exhibit. That’s a mouthful of a sentence but an important lesson. When designing QR Codes the links they lead to can’t be splashy and fancy-pants, instead they need to be simple and effective. I don’t want to wait ninety seconds or more for a forty-five second video to load. At that point, I’m gone and won’t be back. If you are using QR Codes remember the QR stands for Quick Response and not quiet remorse. Your customers, donors or other interested parties don’t expect them to be a hassle. They want information now and they want it to be pertinent.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go hunting for a tattoo removal specialist.

I already bought. I already bought.

July 28th, 2011 by Joel Ingersoll

A coworker sent me an article about collaboration between Google and SAP that allows SAP customers to overlay Google Earth and Google Maps information to manage “big data.” It’s a really interesting concept and if you are curious you can read about it on TechCrunch. It seems like every day we get a groovy new analytics tool or new social media platform to connect businesses with other businesses or businesses with consumers or Twitter with my cat, but a lot of organizations seem to be missing out on some of the basics when it comes to marketing. In other words, as people get new toys, organizations may appear to overlook the basic tools that helped make them successful in the first place. I have quite a number of examples, but the two below are a great illustration of how applying the most basic in-house information tools can help to reduce waste and better target your customer or donor base before using advanced analytics tools to improve your reach within a specific market.

It’s only taken us three years (a long time in married years) to finally consolidate my car insurance with my wife’s insurance. Yes, we should have done it a long time ago, but in our defense we were really busy with not doing it. Within two weeks of the new plan, I received a mailer offering to lower my rates by switching to the exact same insurance company. Although I brought it in and set it next to the refund check for my new insurance (an additional $20 discount!), it’ll be going straight into the recycling bin. I just got your insurance, I suppose I could up my coverage to protect my amazing sports-themed gnome collection, but I’ve got nothing to switch.

In the same vein, my wife and I have a credit card with an airline rewards program. We’ve had this card for quite a while now and use it fastidiously for frequent flier furlongs (1/8 of a mile if you are scoring at home). The rub however is at least twice a month I get fancy mail pieces offering a free checked bag if I get the credit card that I already have along with a couple of emails with the same offer. And the emails link to the website where I often purchase plane tickets with this same credit card in question. Actually, if I combined the mail pieces with printed copies of the emails I get with the same offer, I’d have enough paper to fill my free checked bag.

I’d assume that a large insurance company and a major credit card company and airline would leverage some of the most powerful tools in the technology world to ensure they wouldn’t make the mistake of sending me offers for products I already have. Turns out they don’t. Instead, they could save a few bucks by doing a duplicate elimination between their customer databases and the prospects they are trying to target. It would cost them a heck of a lot less money to clean their customers from a prospect list than it costs in printing and postage in an attempt to convert people already using their products and services.

It’s often the simple things to eliminate waste and create good interactions with clients and prospects that make the biggest impact. While it is super-cool and really useful to be able to drill down on your business data with Google Maps, it’s probably more valuable to be able to identify those who are already using your service—then ensure you are talking with them in a way they prefer and are more receptive. You need technology to accomplish those things, but it doesn’t have to be bleeding edge. Make sure you are getting the easy stuff right, and then move on to the cool toys.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to my underground lair to invent a cat with laser beam whiskers.

One Circle To Rule Them All?

July 21st, 2011 by Joel Ingersoll

At some point during the last twenty-four hours, I’ve accessed Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Facebook, Salesforce’s Chatter, Groupwise Messenger and Google+. I also talked to my father on the phone and received a text message from my wife—it said “moo.” While the time I spent on each communication platform wasn’t excessive, it adds up quickly to an amount that would allow me to build an addition on my house—or at least get the dishes washed. There are some people that can reach me on as many as nine of these eleven different communication mediums! It’s hard to believe any one person can manage all of those platforms in a twenty-four hour period with less stress than is involved in setting the timer on the coffee pot. Here’s the essential question when I think about this: Is it better to be tied to many different platforms and manage interactions across all mediums, or would it be less challenging to manage fewer platforms but wade through more information?

Most days I just coast along and do communication rather than think about it. I write emails at work, wade through tweets, occasionally smirk at a Facebook status and try to figure what I should be doing with LinkedIn. Some days I do all that, and blog! However, with the release of Google+, I’m starting to evaluate all these different platforms and trying to make sense of my daily communication. I’ll freely admit that I wasn’t interested in Google+ until I got an invite to join (funny how that happens). While I need another social media platform like I need that hole in my head from the ill-advised earring from college, there’s something very compelling about Google+. There is also something very concerning to me.

In a quick overview, Google+ is kind of like a long-form version of Twitter with the ability to comment like Facebook, Tumblr’s ability to integrate images into posts, a whole slew of other nifty features, and the promise of even more integration with other Google applications. It sounds fantastic, but it also sounds like an informational firehose that will be difficult to turn off. Google Circles is the following/follower management system for Google+ and its premise is that it allows you to post to the people you want, when you want, based on the Circle you’ve placed someone in. It breaks down the “Walled Garden” concept of other social media platforms, where the application is separate from the web at large, and transcends the specific one-on-one communication of email. While it sounds great for the broadcasting aspect of Google+, I worry that it won’t actually work for inbound information. In a sense, you always go to the main “Stream” page much like Facebook’s “News Feed” where you are inundated with everything everyone wants to say. It’s like ordering cable, but being forced to watch all the channels at once.

Today, I can ignore Facebook for a few days before the guilt rolls in. Or, I can take a night off from Twitter and if someone wants to reach me they can. My business life won’t end if I don’t check LinkedIn. With Google+, the potential to have all of those different audiences together (even if they are parceled out into different Circles) could make it too compelling to never take a day off. The non-stop flow of information into your stream will be challenging–even moving from Circle to Circle, the idea that “just one more group” could leave us wide awake late into the night. Adding to this is the possibility that having it tied to everything else I do on the web will make it a bit too overwhelming. I’m not predicting this is the Matrix, but if I want to take five minutes to read the latest musings from my favorite unemployed stand-up comic in one circle, but always feel compelled by guilt to comment on what my mother had for lunch (in the same application) we are moving away from something we do, to something we have to do. And for me that’s the biggest concern with breaking out of the siloed approach to social media that Google+ plus offers.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to cross post the link to this blog on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and email it to my friends. Oh yeah, and I have to do it on my personal and work accounts.

You Can Reunite on Facebook, But You Can’t Have a Reunion

June 9th, 2011 by Joel Ingersoll

I wrote this tweet seven months ago, “Last night I caught up with old friends at a bar by passing around iPhone photos of kids and pets. It was like Facebook, but with germs.” As silly as it was, in many ways it was the truth. I found myself home in Cleveland, with my wife and some friends catching up—something that I don’t get to do very often—laughing and mixing stories from the past with current events, getting the details on a story or a photo that had been posted to Facebook with little explanation. We were getting, as Paul Harvey might say, “the rest of the story.” While the distinct advantage of Facebook allows us to keep in touch with a large number of people we might not otherwise keep up with, clicking a “Like” or writing short comments on one of their posts is a far cry from why we became friends with them in the first place.

That night was on my mind as I was composing an email to be sent to my fellow college alumni for our upcoming reunion. I’m on the reunion committee and I needed to motivate them to come back for a weekend to a place we loved so much fifteen years ago. I’ve had student loans longer than it’s been since I’ve seen some of my former classmates. My strategy was to remind people that face-to-face interaction is much more valuable than Facebook. Events like a class reunion or alumni weekend are really an exercise for schools to market nostalgia and using Facebook to leverage that concept is worth exploring for many organizations.

Interestingly, the email I drafted ultimately followed a more traditional direct-mail campaign route, once the university concluded that it would be more effective as a letter sent out to all my classmates. It was odd to see my own letter arrive in the mail last Saturday, but it was a compelling reminder that any good marketing campaign needs to rely on multiple channels to be successful. You can’t just send emails and you can’t only rely on Facebook. Instead, electronic and social media marketing can be greatly enhanced by traditional channels of communication. Indeed, given the sheer amount of electronic communications we get in an average day, going back to basics by sending out my missive as a letter through the mail was the best way to get it to stand out.

In thinking about how Facebook affects the communications I have with my classmates, I came across an interesting piece from Christopher Mims called, How Facebook Killed Your School Reunion. Mims looks at the myriad of articles about how Facebook is either promoting larger attendance at reunions or eliminating them altogether, depending on the year or the author. As he explains, “In 2009 the Facebook-is-killing-reunions trend story became an official part of the annual journalistic calendar, like stories about the war on Christmas or tips for singles on Valentine’s day.” It’s interesting because he argues that recently there has been a decline in reunions nation-wide and speculates that it may be caused by Facebook. Personally, I think the recession and the difficulty for younger folks to find permanent employment may also be implicated in the decline of reunions. The article is worth a read, if only to ponder your own thoughts on the matter.

To try to and get another perspective on the issue, I figured I’d go and ask the man who needed me to compose my letter in the first place, John Coyne, Director of Alumni Relations at Hiram College. In contrast to Mims, he believes Facebook has helped strengthen alumni bonds: “We’ve seen a steady increase in our annual alumni reunion weekend attendance over the past 5 years. Facebook connects people with others whom they might not have kept in touch with otherwise, and allows them to cast a broad net when sending messages that encourage attendance.” He also proposed an interesting side-effect, “I’ve also noticed that people find that they have more to talk about rather than just the past since they have been lightly keeping up with each other on Facebook.” Like the tweet in my introduction, the addition of Facebook and Twitter has actually helped to enhance the reunion experience and cannot be discounted as part of future school events like my upcoming Alumni Weekend.

The net is that any nostalgia driven event needs work within the context of social media applications like Facebook and Twitter, while still understanding that email and even more traditional direct mail are still important facets for driving attendance and ultimately donations.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go drop a few pounds so I can show up at my reunion at the same weight as my Facebook profile picture.

Fixing the World, One Webinar at a Time

April 7th, 2011 by Joel Ingersoll

Back in 1998, on my first day as a public speaking instructor at the University of Maine, I was asked the question all new communication teachers dread. “I’m never going to have to give presentations, so why am I required to take this class anyway?”

The reality is that most people engage in public verbal communication daily and the skills developed in a course like that can have a life-long impact, but if I could travel back in time (get on that scientists) I’d tell my past self to give the following answer: “Because by 2011 every adult on planet earth will have to give an average of 3.5 webinars a week, and I don’t want you ruining my lunch again.”

These days I spend so much time giving and watching webinars that my last words will not be, “I wish I’d spent more time learning Webex and GoToMeeting.”

Honestly, why do most webinars get scheduled as a “lunch and learn?” I’m especially looking at you Atlantic people who plan “important” presentations for 1 PM EST. I don’t learn anything over lunch other than how delicious my Trader Joe’s microwave burrito is. Or worse, find my mind wandering off to how sad I’d be if there was a world-wide Cheetos shortage.

In 2009, I wrote about some basic suggestions for giving better presentations, but I think it might be time to revisit this since nearly every presentation I’ve had the pleasure of suffering through recently has been just a hair lacking in quality content. So, instead of rehashing that article, I’ll just touch on a few key examples from recent presentations.

Developing Credibility Is Important
Any public speaker will tell you that developing credibility (ethos for those scoring at home in Greek) is essential to convincing the audience your message is important. Providing context for your presentation is excellent, however unless your webinar is about Ancestory.com, I don’t think I need to know what your grandmother had for lunch. I’d follow you on Twitter or Facebook for that information. Keep your credibility statements brief, and your audience will thank you for it. Speaking of brief…

Keep on Topic
If your presentation is about leveraging LinkedIn for sales within a business-to-business context, your audience probably doesn’t need thirty minutes of the presentation to be about the technical underpinnings of the connect button. The reality is that it’s hard enough to keep an audience focused for thirty minutes, so it’s unlikely they are going to pay attention for much longer. If you really want to give a sixty minute presentation, you are better suited to doing two webinars on different days. Respect your audience’s time and they are more likely to listen to you. Bore them to tears and you’ve lost them forever.

Your Presentation Isn’t Pretty
Despite what you think, the fancy canned PowerPoint background and clip art doesn’t enhance your presentation. If the background and font look like they came straight out of a Google image search for “ugliest baseball uniforms,” then most likely your audience is going to remember your presentation for being funny, and not for the reason you hope. Keep the screen uncluttered with a lot of text and images and focus on your words with the PowerPoint acting as a roadmap or tour guide. It isn’t the show, you are.

Don’t Send Me the Slide Deck
I don’t normally want to call out an organization in the blog, but after working with IBM for seven years I can confidently say they violate this concept on an international scale. Simply put, if I can get your entire presentation from reading the slides you used in your presentation, then you’ve failed as a public speaker. Conceptually, a PowerPoint shouldn’t stand on its own. It enhances what you have to say, and if I can read the whole thing, then that’s what I’ll be doing when you present. If your message is that important, then have a different set of slides to send out to truant audience members, but don’t use that one for your presentation. This will also help your presentation skills, because you’ll be less likely to read to us, and nothing is more boring than being on a conference call when someone is simply reading.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I need to figure out a way to email a brown bag lunch to myself for the next webinar.

A Raucous Cacophony of Sharing

March 29th, 2011 by Joel Ingersoll

You know those extra buttons at the bottom of a dress shirt that you never actually use? They just sort of get in the way and eventually fall off and are never around when you actually need one. Then you get rid of the shirt and six months later you find the replacement button hiding in an athletic sock that you haven’t worn since the last time you went to the gym. That’s how I’m starting to feel about the “share” buttons at the end of every single piece of media content I read. While individuals do have very passionate feelings toward their social media information aggregator of choice, I wonder if it’s really valuable for a personal or corporate brand to manage all these different sites. Does it really make sense to spread yourself all over the interwebs with every social network possible, or is it more effective to manage a few and be more focused?

As I’ve written before, Lorton Data has a Facebook page, a new Twitter account, a LinkedIn account, a YouTube page, an email newsletter and this rather lovely blog. That’s enough for an organization of our size to manage. Bringing in more social media platforms would be problematic for us. Recently, we’ve attended quite a few lunch-and-learn webinars (why don’t they ever email us pizza and a nice salad beforehand?) that argue that we should be social in every aspect of our business and that each social media platform is the most important thing since the invention of the telephone. What they don’t do is tell us how to manage it all. It’s like a cocktail party where the volume increases as the night goes on until everyone’s yelling cancels each other out and you can’t hear anything over the raucous cacophony of noise.

My advice: Try to keep it simple. You really don’t need to be reached on every single social media platform 24/7/365. If you are a multibillion dollar international business-to-consumer organization, sure maybe it’s a great idea, but if you are a small-to-medium sized business, it just doesn’t make sense. Pick your battles (or platform). Focus on only a couple of social media sites that are easy and comfortable for you to work with and make sense to your client base.

Last year, TechCrunch posted an interesting analysis regarding social sharing on the web. Unsurprisingly, Facebook and Twitter combined for 73% of all the traffic. Many of the smaller social media sites were outstripped by the emailing of information and good old fashioned print button (just don’t tell the office supply gatekeeper). So, in reality if you aren’t monitoring del.ic.io.us, Digg and MySpace, how much revenue are you going to leave on the table?

Yahoo just released a study that related how nearly 50% of tweets consumed are generated by just 20K users. Part of that mix is bloggers talking about people’s blogs. You’ve got a better chance of getting picked up by that crew, than becoming the next Digg star. With Facebook, 51% of the American population over the age of 12 has an account. As an organization, I’d hazard a guess if you focus on them you’ll generate a lot more traffic than playing fifty-two card pickup with the plethora of social media sharing sites out there.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this thought. You know the people that get to the front of the line at Starbucks and still don’t know what they want to order? Imagine those folks trying to decide where to share your article. *Shudder* Too much choice can be absolutely paralyzing. So start small, focus on a couple of sites and most likely you’ll get better feedback than spreading yourself too thin.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to make sure you ignore the “share all” option below and just focus on the Twitter and Facebook icons. Nothing to see here people, nothing to see.

Have Your People Tweet My People

March 14th, 2011 by Joel Ingersoll

There are four tips to leveraging Twitter in a B2B context. There are seven strategies to being successful, ten “musts” for every online organization, twenty suggestions for getting more Twitter followers, and forty ways to use social CRM for selling. My head spins three hundred times whenever I try to wrap myself around all the advice floating around the interwebs about how to be a company and use social media to find other companies to expand our business. Of course we have a LinkedIn page, a Facebook page, a YouTube account, and now a Twitter account to reach out and explore every pocket of the internet.

Having a Lorton Data Twitter account inherently makes us hip, trendy and exciting right? We have our festive logo as the avatar and a groovy water droplet themed background that metaphorically represents our A-Qua Mailer offering. We’ve even tweeted already, providing some useful information, a couple of links and a joke about a 1:45 AM fire alarm at MAILCOM (with a hashtag!). All we need to do is turn all of our personal brands into a collective corporate brand, then just sit back, put our organizational feet up and watch the followers roll in. It sounds so easy.

Or maybe not.

Lorton Data operates in a business to business environment, and unless your Great Aunt really needs the addresses for this year’s Christmas cards cleaned up, your average Twitter user probably isn’t going to be inherently interested in what we have to say. It’s the honest truth. While we provide database hygiene services to organizations as large as major governmental bodies, to as small as the neighborhood church around the corner, it’s hard to market our business outside of the traditional direct mail context. We think Twitter could be a good avenue to spread the word about Lorton Data while also providing additional information to help our customers.

Much like all the hundreds of thousand voices out there talking about social media in a B2B context, we haven’t figured out our game plan yet. We actually haven’t even really started. There are tons of tips, suggestions, ideas, beliefs, blades of grass tossed into the wind and shaken magic eight balls, but many of them contradict each other or seem to suggest those ideas only work in one specific context.

So we might just have to wing it a little bit.

According to a statistic I just made up, 99% of all articles about social media explain that there is nothing more important than generating interesting content. And yes, I completely agree. I’ve been using Twitter personally for a little over a year now and have come to realize that nothing is more important than original content. It’s more than blindly retweeting the latest iPad analysis from Mashable, but it’s less than sharing every single thought that passes through our organization. We need to engage our audience with @ replies and discussions, (it’s social media after all) but I don’t even think we honestly can project who our audience will be yet. My user experience on Twitter as an individual (or more silly as a Personal Brand) will be markedly different from my projected experience on Twitter as Lorton Data employee. By understanding that out of the gate, our organization should be able to set different expectations and understandings of how to engage with Twitter as an organization of multiple voices working together to communicate with the world at large.

As someone has probably already said, “you can lead a customer to Twitter, but you can’t make them tweet.” Or follow, or something like that.

So, we are interested in hearing what people are looking for from Twitter in a B2B business context. What will have you interested in hearing from us? Of course you can reply on our Facebook page, follow us on twitter or comment on the blog.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get this blog reviewed and posted so I can link to it on Twitter.