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You Came, You Saw, You Conquered – Flipboard and Chicagomonium!

Our party started on St. Paddy’s Day with more than 100 of you pond contractors and some of your wives scurrying into the Chicago airports to attend Chicagomonium, an exclusive Aquascape business training event for the best of the best in the pond industry. My role? To teach you rugged yet savvy group of water feature experts how to create and use Flipboard magazines to promote your business.

Flipboard Training at Chicagomonium

Was I shakin’ in my boots? Absolutely!  Although I’ve taught plenty of social media sessions, Flipboard magazines are new to me and I had to acquire a certain level of Flipboard mastery before introducing it to all o’ ya’ll (that’s plural for ya’ll) at Chicagomonium. Not to mention my apprehension about securing robust internet connectivity for almost 200 of you squirreled into a room at Navy Pier. Adding flame to the fire was the reality that everyone would be using different devices to learn the program. Aye Yi Yi! Talk about stress!

So unbeknownst to you until now, I double-dosed my anti-perspirant for the day, hopped in President Heitzler’s Toyota for the ride to Chicago, and hoped upon hope that all the wireless hubspots would work their magic in the room. Don’t get me wrong, I have complete faith in Matt Reibe, our adorable network administrator. It’s the hardware and technical stuff I don’t trust.

What happened the afternoon of St. Patrick’s Day with all of you blew me away, and as I write this, I’m still reeling just a bit from the enormity of what transpired during Chicagomonium. Each and every person in the room created their own Flipboard magazine. A few of you over-achievers created multiple magazines! I had wondered if our group of rock-slinging pond builders would crash Flipboard’s system but it held up just fine – as did the wireless hubspots and my anti-perspirant.

What really impressed me though, was the energy and enthusiasm that each of you radiated in embracing this rather new technology. I don’t think I heard a single moan or groan (well, maybe just one but I’m not naming names). But it was more than that … everyone seemed to grasp the potential that Flipboard magazines can offer; from educating and inspiring your customers to promoting your services and products.

I fully realize that you would rather be out in landscapes across America (or even overseas) creating works of art from rock and water. But you were patient, studious, and diligent while hovering over those glowing screens and got ‘er done!  Yep, each and every one of you was a conqueror that day!

A couple days and a few breaths later and I’m back to my normal dose of deodorant.  But my head is still spinning, mostly from ideas that came out of conversations with you over the potential of using not only Flipboard, but all of social media to grow your businesses and the entire water gardening industry!

Now that the party’s over, what’s next? I can answer by saying the party ain’t even close to being over … it’s only just begun! I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep flipping, posting, pinning, and tweeting!

I know, I know. Pond season is upon us and you’re gonna get busy … but now’s the time when your customers are most interested in outdoor living. Now, more than ever, is when you need to keep engaging them and cultivating those relationships that will grow your business.

Now that we got this party started, let’s keep it going by sharing our Flipboard magazines and using social media tools to welcome others into our wonderful world of water gardening! Who are you going to invite?

Leveraging Pinterest: Is Your Website Pin-Worthy?

Last month, I shared an overview of Pinterest, the internet’s up-and-coming social star. Even if you decide not to create your own account on Pinterest, you still need to be aware that existing and potential customers could pin photos from your website to their pinboard … or can they?

If your website is a flash-based site that blocks pinning, you might want to reconsider how your web photos are displayed. Before you think that blocking pinners from your website means people can’t steal your photos … think again!

Pinterest wasn’t created so people could steal photos. Pinterest is for sharing photos and ideas, while giving the originator credit for the photo. When someone pins your photo, the link to your web page is automatically attached to that photo. So if you click on a photo that Mary Jane pinned from Betty Crocker’s website, you’ll be taken to the web page where the photo was pinned. That’s a good thing! It gives Betty Crocker more exposure. Likewise, if photos are pinned from your website, you’ll attract new visitors that may have never found you.

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To make sure your website is pin-worthy, it’s a good idea to test your website using Pinterest. Create your account, download the pin button (instructions are on the Pinterest website and it’s super easy), and then try pinning photos from various pages of your website. If your photos are rendered with flash, a message that says Pinterest couldn’t find any photos will appear. Otherwise, you’ll be able to pin the photo, add a description, and decide which pinboard to put it on.

Keep in mind, users can also pin videos from your website. If you have videos housed on YouTube, people can pin them from there or you can embed them onto your website. A couple months ago I pinned the video of Brian Helfrich’s amazing water feature and within minutes, it was being pinned by other users (in addition to pinning photos from a website, you can also re-pin photos and videos that others have already pinned).

If you want to learn more about Pinterest and other social media sites, be sure to attend this year’s Pondemonium! We’ll be sharing tips and tricks for enhancing your brand in the digital world!

Social Media is More about the Social and Less about the Media

“I hate the term social media. The word media makes it sound like it’s adverting. And it’s not”
~ Gary Vaynerchuk, best-selling author of “Crush It!” and “The Thank You Economy”

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I couldn’t have said it better! Gary Vaynerchuk was one of the presenters at The Art of Marketing seminar I attended last week in Chicago. This guy was on fire! On fire for the customer. On fire for being the best marketer you can be. On fire for sharing his experience with the audience.

One golden nugget that I walked away with from Gary’s presentation (and believe me, there were several) is that if you want to be successful today and tomorrow, you have to care about the end-user.

On your Facebook page, are you constantly (and only) talking about yourself and your company? Do you broadcast your promotions and products incessantly? Social media is more about conversation than it is about broadcasting. And part of conversation is listening! Which are you doing?

Sure, you’re going to tap into Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to promote your business. But spend less time promoting your products and services, and more time opening a window to reveal who you are as a business owner, marketer, employee, human being.

Social media is your opportunity to show your customers important traits like integrity, honesty, character. Think old-fashioned values that grandma taught you when you were just knee-high in britches.

Why is this so important? Because there’s so much competition for business in the world today … and social media just made it easier for everyone to get online and promote their products and services.

When customers are comparing services and products online, what’s going to make you stand out? What’s going to make them choose you over Joe’s Mow and Blow down the street? Old-fashioned values like honesty, trust, and integrity.

Interact with your customers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Don’t just broadcast. Have a conversation! This means checking your Facebook page every day to listen and respond to questions and comments. This means if someone complains about your product on Facebook, you respond with respect and patience.

Let me close by sharing a story about Gary. He had a potential customer that he really wanted to bring on board. Gary watched what the guy was talking about on Facebook. They guy was a huge Chicago Bears fan and loved Jay Cutler. “Jay Cutler this. Jay Cutler that.” Talked about him all the time. After some time passed, Gary sent him an autographed Jay Cutler Jersey. He spent valuable time getting to know his future customer via social media. Are you taking time becoming acquainted with yours?

Effective Use of Facebook Notes Feature

You may have seen a “Note” or two on Facebook, but have you used this  feature for yourself yet? Facebook Notes are an easy way to start blogging. There’s no need to set up a separate blog account on WordPress or Blogger, and it’s easy to enter text and photos in the Notes feature of Facebook.

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a separate blog, but if you’re crunched for time and need to get something up quick, Notes is a great feature for sharing information beyond a simple photo or one-sentence status update on Facebook.

To access Notes, you’ll find the link to Notes just underneath your profile picture on the left hand side of your Facebook page (same place you find the links to your Photos, Events, etc). Simply click on “Notes” and you’ll be taken to your Notes page. Toward the upper right corner you’ll find the “Write a Note” button. Click on the button and you’ll be able to enter the title of your Note, along with text and photos.

When creating the title for your Note, keep in mind any keywords you want to use for search engine optimization. For example, if you want people who search for a pond installer in your area to see your Note, make sure you include those words in the title, along with your company name.  “Backyard Pond and Patio Installed in St. Charles, IL by Aquascape Designs.”

Here are some examples of actual Facebook Note titles used by pond installer (click on the title to view the entire Note on Facebook):

The “Rock Stars” from Atlantis Watergardens transform this homeowner’s Randolph, NJ backyard from eyesore to oasis

Fish Ponds Installed by Certified Aquascape Contractors, are Low Maintenance, and Provide a Natural Habitat for Aquatic Species

Rainwater Harvesting & Stormwater Control Pondless Waterfall Build in Conowingo Maryland with Lentzcaping Inc, & BJL Aquascapes

Although you might be tempted to use every imaginable keyword in your title, remember that no one will want to read your Note if the title is just a string of non-cohesive keywords. The title should still make sense to the audience and compel them to want to read the Note. You can always include additional keywords in the body of the Note.

And remember, Notes don’t have to be long. Think about what topics interest your customers. A quick Note with a fall pond maintenance to-do list is sure to grab the attention of many a pond owner. Make sure your Notes provide value and aren’t just a vehicle for broadcasting what you have to sell. Add some photos to your Note to make it visually interesting, too.

Using the Facebook Notes feature is easy and effective. And when interlaced with appropriate keywords, will provide an effective means for having your Facebook business page found by search engines and potential customers.

Using Facebook as Your Page

Facebook continually updates its features and one of its latest changes to fan pages is a truly great improvement. I’m talking about the ability to use Facebook as your business page.

If you have a fan (or business) page connected to your personal page, it used to be that you could only comment as your fan page when you were actually on your own fan page.

For example, let’s say you have a Ponds R Us fan page that’s connected to your Joe Schmoe personal page. When you’re logged onto your personal account, your comments on other people’s pages always show up as coming from Joe Schmoe. The only time your comments show as coming from Ponds R Us is when you’re actually making comments on your own fan page. But that’s all changed!

Now, you can comment on other people’s pages as Ponds R Us and not just as Joe Schmoe. This bodes well for those of you who have your business page connected to your personal page. So how do you go about using Facebook as Ponds R Us instead of Joe Schmoe? It’s easy!

Click on the Account menu located in the upper right hand corner when you’re logged in, and then choose “Use Facebook as Page.” If you have more than one business or fan page, you’ll be able to choose from your list of pages. Simply find the page you want to comment as, and then click on the “Switch” button next to that page selection.

You’ll now be able to comment anywhere as Ponds R Us (or whatever page you choose). What’s more, you’ll also be able to see any new notifications or “likes” to your business page. It used to be that you’d only get these notifications for your personal page, but now you can see them using this new Facebook as Page feature. When you’re ready to go back to being Joe Schmoe, simply click back on the Account menu and then choose “Switch back to Joe.”

If you have comments or questions about this feature, feel free to post them in the Comments section below! You can also learn more about setting up a business page and using the new features here: https://facebook-inc.box.net/shared/9e5jiyl843

Finding Friends on Facebook

As a business owner, you can probably think of hundreds of things you’d like to communicate to your customers (and potential customers) on Facebook. You’re probably anxious too, to learn more about them and start interacting so you can learn how to better service them and keep them as customers.

But before you do all that, you need to have some friends and fans on Facebook; otherwise you’re just talking to yourself. Sure, your closest friends and family will become your friend or fan on Facebook, but you need to go outside the realm of close contacts in order to maximize the investment of time you allocate to social media marketing.

There are several ways you can go about attracting friends and fans on Facebook. To make it easier for those of you just getting started with Facebook, I’ve put together some helpful step-by-step instructions for finding people on Facebook who will be interested in what you have to offer them. I’ve included screenshots from Facebook to help walk you through the process. Click here to access the instructions. This will hopefully provide the first steps in helping you build a solid network of relationships.

Feel free to add any other friend-finding suggestions in the comments section below.

Getting Started with Social Media

Some of you are already using social media, while others of you are wondering where to even begin. Facebook? Twitter? YouTube? All of the above? To get your feet wet without feeling like you’re drowning in a sea of social media confusion, I’d recommend that you start with Facebook because it’s free, easy to use, and growing in popularity.

Over 500 million people have a Facebook account, so you should have no trouble finding customers that want to interact with you on your Facebook page.

Facebook allows you to talk about what you’re doing, answer customer questions, post photos and videos of your work, post links to your website, and more. What you put into it determines what you get out of it, so be sure to put some thought into your Facebook page as opposed to approaching it haphazardly.

For those of you that are a wee bit skittish when it comes to the internet, I’ve created a series of step-by-step screenshots to help you set up your Facebook account. One thing to keep in mind is that Facebook offers a few different types of pages:

  • Profile Page – Typically, this is the first page you will create on Facebook. It’s your personal page, so you should use your actual name (for example, John Smith or Sally White) for this page. This is the page you’ll use to connect with your family and friends … remember … this page is personal.
  • Fan Page – If you have a business, and most of you do if you’re reading this blog, you’ll create a fan page using your company name (for example, our fan page is Aquascape, Inc). This is the place on Facebook where you’ll interact with your customers. You can certainly interact with customers on your Profile Page too, but typically you’ll want to save that for the business Fan Page.
  • Other page types include Groups and Communities, but we’ll save these for another discussion.

A business Fan Page is tied to an individual account, or Profile Page. So when you log into your account (John Smith or Sally White), you’ll be able to post information on your Fan Page under your company name … there is no need to log in separately to access your business Fan Page.

When you create your business Fan Page, you’ll want to be sure to include information about your company, such as address, phone number, web address, business email address, hours of operation, services offered, etc. You can do all this when you edit your profile at the very beginning stage of setting up the Fan Page. Don’t worry if you forget something … you can always go back and add new information.

So if you aren’t on Facebook yet and want to get started, log onto www.facebook.com. And remember, if you need help, be sure to check out the step-by-step instructions I’ve created, or simply post a question to this blog entry (in the comments section below).