Sep 19

Is it time to join the party? I’m not a big on jumping on the band wagon for every trend or fad that comes along. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, and I never owned a pair of parachute pants or a skateboard. If anything, I tend to be somewhat non-conformist (i.e., I stand at my desk as I type this).

Social Media as a whole is a fad and a trend. I mean, it seems that if you throw “social media” on your business plan you’re golden. It’s sort of like coming up with a way to be Green or just use “sustainability” in your marketing literature and you’re all set.

Not the case. Most social media opportunities are just abusing the “industry” and will be flashes in the pan. But there are two social media outlets that I would recommend for companies:

1. started for college students and later opened up for everyone, is taking over as the social media king. They have created their own eco-system, or subnet of the internet. So it’s not enough to have just a web site, now you have to have a “page” on Facebook for your company. It can seem almost like a scam, except for the fact that it’s free. Here are several things you can do on your page:

-Announce and invite people to important events.
Going to a trade show? Indicate such, not only on your web page but also on your Facebook page.
-Communicate with your “fans.” Have your fans interact with you through a discussion board or direct mass emails.
-Crosslink. Become a fan of your industry association, vendors, sports teams and the like.
-Lift up your skirt-a little bit. Show some personality. Facebook allows companies to drop the veneer just a little bit and show some personality.

These are merely suggestions on Facebook. The key is to get out there and get started. Here are some more in depth links on how to tackle the beast:

-View/Join Merge’s Facebook Page
-Tips on promoting a Facebook Page
-Advantages of a Facebook Page

2. Twitter

So we have web sites, blogs, email, IM, podcasts-now Twitter. The king of micro-blogging. Twitter does one thing and asks for one thing only: “What are you doing right now?” Users “tweet” their current status as 140 characters or less.

Why would anyone want to do that and why would your company care?

I admit-Twitter is strangely addictive for an individual. The net result of participating in Twitter is that you meet people you would have never met and you get to know more people on a more personal level (than you may care).

So as a business, why is this for you? From a personal/business owners perspective, ( I’ve found out key information about my competitors (so it’s good for spying), I’ve found and met key freelancers and I’ve found potential employees (we’re hiring right now).

But that’s just my “personal” account, that I happen to also use for business purposes.

But Merge has an account as well ( Although we haven’t been using Twitter as long for Merge, we hope to see the following:

-Attract new prospects by posting notifications (new interesting blog posts, newsletter updates, new client web sites)
-Post mini-press releases
-Notify our followers about events we may be participating in or sponsoring
-Attract new talent/employees

In the end, Twitter allows companies to interact directly with those who are interested in them, in a cool, non-evasive way. It’s time to Twitter.

-How to Create a Business Twitter Feed


Join the conversation of social networking and media. Have fun with it. Be creative and learn how to leverage what it has to offer. And the bottomline is this: You might not have to do it now, but you’re going to have to do it eventually. Why not be one of the first instead of the last?

Sep 14

Within the next several years we’re going to see a new role added to small and medium sized companies. The necessity for this new role is the ever increasing importance that the web will play for businesses.

So start writing the job description for your new hire: Web Manager. Sure, bigger businesses have individuals who do this-even departments (so what does that tell small to mid-sized businesses?). The issue that necessitates such a role is the need for relevant and timely information. Be that new news, new product information, blogs, podcasts, etc. The need for information is now. The web is beyond brochureware. A updated web site is now a necessity, which requires rich interactive content. This isn’t for getting ahead; this is to compete.

Bottom Line: Start planning to hire a Web Manager now. You’re going to need a full time employee to manage your web initiatives in the next five years-if not now.

Sep 01

On I-85, between Greenville and Atlanta, there are a series of billboards that make me laugh. They don’t make me laugh because they are good, they make me laugh because they are impossible to read and I wonder what in the world the ad agency that did them was thinking.

See, the thing is, you’re going about 80 mph, talking on your cell phone, so you have about 3 seconds to read the billboard. For these billboards in question, there’s no chance you will pick up half of what they’re trying to say.

Isn’t that about the same thing with web sites? We have about 3 seconds, we’re talking on the phone and surfing the web and we come across a web page (billboard). Does it grab us? Do we get it? Do we know what the company does?

Zoom. We fly by and go to the next web site.

Back to the billboards. One company that I think has it right is Cracker Barrel. They’re “Comin’ up” campaign has one main image, their logo and a 5 word (large type) slogan — ending in “Comin’ up.” For instance (sorry, this was the largest image I could get):

Cracker Barrel Billboard

conveys Quality, Fast and Convenient, Wholesome, Good, Filling, etc. All in 4 words and one picture. They nail the brand messaging, and do it with an easy, simple approach. Remember, these are billboards so you have to keep it simple! Simple is what you have to do when you’re creating a billboard.

And it’s not much different for web sites. You have 3 - 10 seconds to grab the attention of the user and make sure they know what you do and why they need it. Big image. Simple messaging. Then send them to the next page-that’s the role of the home page.

Bottom line: Think billboards when you’re designing (or redesigning) your web site. Make the message easy to get, and your users will stick around.