Saturday April 17, 2010
For today’s blog on amazing women in social media, I interviewed Cecilia Lu, Networking Ninja for Kiwanu Marketing. You’ll be able to read more about her in my soon to be released eBook: “New Women of New Media – 10 Interviews with Smart Women Making a Difference in the World of Social Media”
Cecilia Lu’s passion is forging relationships with people through social media. As the networking ninja of Kiwano Marketing, she “stealthily leaps at any chance to make new connections.” Cecilia has worked primarily with small businesses and non-profits in the past and is well versed in taking small ideas and budgets to the next level. Her experience to the new and growing social media field provides valuable expertise for small business in the planning and implementation stages.
Viveka: You were one of the early adopters of social media?
Cecilia: I’ve been on social media before we even used the label. My earlier experiences were things with community-based websites, forums, IRC, Yahoo, ICQ, the whole mix. Kiwano takes a sustainable approach to marketing for small businesses and for non-profits, and plays mostly in the online marketing field: Internet marketing, SEO and of course social media.
I primarily see social media as a tool to connect people. I can increase brand awareness both on a professional and a personal level. For me, it allows me to get the word out and promote my clients in a soft kind of way. It engages you. There are meaningful conversations and interactions instead of spamming and push advertising (which no one likes.)
Viveka: Exactly. So you use social media of course for your own company and what social mediums do you use for your clients? Do you use all of them?
Cecilia: Well, of course. It really depends on where their online audience is and what they’re looking to get out of social media. That’s the first question that I start with every time I sit down with a client. Companies always have sort of preconceived notions of what social media is just because it’s in the media so much and different platforms really makes sense for different kinds of companies. We found the most traction across the big three, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. However, I am a huge fan of things like Meetup.com and there’s many small independent networks taking off every day. So for a small business here, trying to get some published buzz, we might recommend Twitter and LinkedIn into a smaller degree of Facebook depending on what their product or service is. But maybe some companies do better with blogs and reaching out to other bloggers.
Kiwano Marketing is definitely happy to offer both a strategic and implementation level. The first thing that we do is sort of educate our clients in the fact that their participation in social media has to be a dialogue. Social media is really different in a way that it’s not a one-way stream. You have total transparency. Everyone can see what you’re doing and everyone can see how you’re responding in real time. So for us, it’s really identifying the company’s brand and the message that they want to get across and sort of what their goals are for getting on social media. Is it engaging with potential clients? Is it finding partners? Is it creating brand recognition? Is it public relations? And the great thing about social media I find is it can be a mix of all these things.
Viveka: I was going to say exactly. Maybe today we’re focusing on strategic partnerships but tomorrow, we’re going to be working more on top of mind awareness. Social media allows you really to play in all of those fields with a lot of re-purposing of content too.
Cecilia: Exactly. And the great thing about that is it doesn’t have to be your own content all the time, especially with things like Twitter and stuff. It’s really about sharing information and getting it out to people who would want to see it.
Viveka: How do you counsel your clientele in managing their time on social media - because it is really overwhelming for a lot of people?
Cecilia: The first few months - up to a year - that you’re on social media, it’s really about figuring out how it works.
1. why you want to be on social media
2. how you should engage
3. how many hours do we see this taking
You definitely have to communicate with a goal in mind and being on the forums and the mediums that your audience is already on and maybe even identifying the top people in my industry that I definitely want to engage with because that obviously helps in things like building expertise for yourself.
Viveka: You made a really good point earlier that this is not a traditional marketing thing where you put together a brochure and mail it to your list and it’s a campaign that takes 2 weeks. This is building relationships.
Cecilia: It varies from client to client and from industry to industry and in most cases is usually around 2 or 3 months to sort of just get yourself established.
Social media is about engagement and sometimes clients need to know that it does take time for people out there to make sure that you’re credible, Everyone knows that you’re tweeting as a business but you’re also providing useful information, whether it’s about your industry, whether you’re sharing other people’s information in the community.
What we do is definitely on the engagement level. It’s building your grassroots, campaign, your community from the bottom up.
It is also great for measuring negative and positive associations with your brand, especially if you’re a medium-sized company or a corporation. It is a great PR tool to begin listening to what people are saying about you and sort of jumping on the conversation, not sort of in a kind of traditional kind of sort of way - rather - if the specific client has a problem or a need, how can I help.
Viveka: So without giving away any trade secrets, how do you measure some of these things? Are there applications you use?
- Oneforty.com is a great place to start just because it lists most of the tools that are out there across all the different platforms and you can sort of see what other people have said about those tools in the past.
- Hootsuite.com not only for Twitter tracking, just but also statistic.
- Be out there on the blogs and it might not even be on your blog, it might be on other people’s blogs.
- You may have a Facebook fan page.
- You have sort of people engaging in conversations on LinkedIn and forums and stuff.
- For the small business I recommend Viral Heat.com, just because it’s affordable for a small business budget and it kind of covers sort of everything across the page.
- The big players in this social media tracking realm are definitely things like Radian6, but the problem with that is they come with more of an enterprise level budget.
So I would say, if you’re a small business starting out, the first thing you should probably do is try to keep tab of things manually until they kind of spiral out of control which happens pretty quickly.
Cecilia: I love the sort of eased communication and the instant access to other people’s knowledge bases and their contacts. If I have a question about something random, it might not even be related to marketing or small business - like where is the hottest eatery in town - with that one tweet, I will probably get somewhere between 5 to 10 responses, all very good responses and all very personal.
I love the fact that I’m able to develop my own authentic online personality. People are more inclined to meet you in person due to how you portray yourself on social media. So I’ve met a lot of people through social media, friends, partners, mentors and this is the main way how I keep in touch with everyone, just because as you probably know, running your own business and kind of taking care of your clients is kind of tough.
Viveka: And you don’t have time for the hour phone calls or to craft 20 paragraph e-mails. I love Twitter for that.
Cecilia: I think it’s definitely great for meeting new people. What I found is social media is a tool for networking but I do want to stress the social side of social media. Sooner or later, I meet these fantastic people from Twitter, There are just so many different tweet-ups and meet-ups and spontaneous things that happen because of these social media networks.
Well I think one of the main reasons why social media gets a bad rep about being shallow is really because people can only monitor what others are saying say in a public forum on Twitter or on LinkedIn. They never sort of see the part of the conversation where you might move to private message or e-mails, to phone conversations offline and then eventually become friends.
Social media just makes life more transparent. It’s a two-way communication medium. So you really don’t have anywhere to hide either as a person or as a company and we think here at Kiwano Marketing that this is a great thing. We need more transparency in how we’re communicating to our public and to our clients and how we’re becoming responsible.
Cecilia: I just have to warn everyone, in social media, trying to use it as a gold mine you won’t see that instant return.
Viveka: Thank you so much for clarifying that because there’s nothing worse than your DM box full of how to make $397 a day using Twitter. That’s not what we’re talking about when we’re talking about increasing your income. We are talking about building relationships, through those relationships you will create advocates and through your new advocates, sales. These unpaid salespeople who are saying the good word about your product. That’s how you increase your income but it’s not these Twitter scams and these Facebook scams that you see unfortunately everywhere nowadays. And it’s not a golden egg. I set a client’s account and the next day she said, “Well where are all my clients” and I was like, “Really?” People think they can get on these mediums and overnight make thousands and thousands of dollars. It’s possible- but it still takes strategy.
Cecilia: Definitely and I love that you emphasized the strategy part of it. People just think they can get on Twitter one day and start tweeting and leads will pour in the door. If you go in there with a very targeted strategy, you know who your target market is, you know how they liked being talked to, which mediums they’re sort of most active on, then you definitely a lot more of a head start. All the research is kind of done beforehand and you know why you’re sending each and every sort of tweet that you do. And I also do want to stress that while social media is a powerful service for a small business, it’s only one to go in your small business toolkit. It can’t be the only way that you’re representing your business.
Viveka: Do you think it’s been a help or a hindrance being a woman in social media?
Cecilia: Actually, I don’t think it matters what sex you are. Social media is one of these places I think it’s more about your tone and how you speak to your audience. That is definitely more crucial than things like sex and race and religion and background. I think it’s a huge opportunity for women, especially women who haven’t found as much success in the sort of mainstream corporate world, to find their own voice and being recognized for their own opinions and expertise.
I think that women actually have a natural tendency to use social media. I feel like we’re already in some ways pre-qualified. I tend to think that we organize ourselves in group and this social media a great fit for women. We can be organized by groups of interest or geographic location or hobby or business. Social media has great potential to create these niche markets - I think that women are to begin leveraging these mediums as you and I have already done.
Viveka: Women in social media is a huge populace and it’s why I’m doing what I’m doing. I want more women who are entrepreneurs to realize that you don’t have to have the monster marketing campaign. You don’t have to have $100,000 to create a business anymore. In fact, Tatiana Keegan, who I just interviewed before this, is a nationally known dancer and she went away to have her kid at 40. They told her she’d never dance professionally again - and she’s right back at it and using social media to market herself.
Viveka: As we wrap up, is there anything you would like to add?
Cecilia: Well, first thing I guess, you can definitely find me and my company across all different sorts of social media platforms. I basically just use Twitter under my own name which is @CeciliaLu and my website is www.Kiwano.ca (.ca because we’re Canadians) where we have a fantastic green marketing blog. It’s widely read and gives small business a start in figuring what we mean by green marketing, what we mean by social media, and how to start. So definitely check that out.
To sum up, I think that this discussion just illuminates the fact that social media opens up so many doors for small business owners and particularly women. It allows you to connect with people all across the world and it’s really there to help you build your personal and professional brand and all in a very, very limited budget. I think it helps businesses drop the veil and become more honest and more transparent and basically more personal when connecting with their clients and with the general public.