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In this post, I continue a series based on my latest publication, ‘the executive’s guide to social media’ – you can download a complimentary copy here.

What are some realistic expectations for our social media goals and outcomes? This is a common question from prospects and clients. One of the greatest challenges our clients face is understanding what kind of ROI to expect. Everyone hears about the anomaly of a guy that had overnight success on Twitter and then they think that’s the norm. I usually see one of two scenarios – the clients that are fuzzy on what social media can do when well executed, or, the clients that have very aggressive goals tied solely to financial gain.

Social media’s primary power is in developing relationships and long-term loyalty. Retention and referral rates, repeat business, overall value, and lifespan are consistently higher for customers actively participating in a company’s online community. Start off conservatively when setting initial goals and work your way to becoming more aggressive as you gain experience with your audience. If you’re just starting out, you are simply looking for slow burn, incremental growth – a net positive in followers and engagement month over month. As you get to know your audience and become more familiar with them, you will learn how you can alter your direction based on spending habits, trends, and personal behavior, as well as the content that they engage with most, and investing in ads to extend your reach.

Tip: When building your social media plan, start with one main objective. I often see clients try to achieve too many goals with their social media at one time. This will lead to a diluted message with mixed results. An example is optimizing all your social media to get traffic to your website if you have an ecommerce site. You can expect a better outcome and more growth if all the platforms you use are working in concert with quality content toward that one goal.

I know, you’re looking for hard numbers right? Every brand interacts with their audience differently, and it depends on if you have other strong platforms we can utilize for social media growth, like a strong email database for instance. It also make a difference if you’ve been relying on ads or slashing prices to attract your audience to this point. If you’re curious how much growth you should see in your particular scenario, email me and set up a complimentary 15 minute phone call at jennifer at red balloon inc dot com

Most aggressive social media plans create artificial “success” or growth, but those audiences don’t really care about your brand, they won’t engage with you and you won’t see many of the benefits of long-term loyalty come to fruition. Invest in a long-term social media plan and develop relationships. Start with a well-defined objective and build your plan around it. If you’d like more information on developing a strong social media strategy, email me or download my latest coplimentary publication ‘the executive’s guide to social media’.

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I recently released my latest publication, the executive’s guide to social media! The executive’s guide is full of some pretty surprising statistics, and the kinds of information execs and entrepreneurs need to know about social media from the leadership perspective.

There is a section on the “burning questions” that I frequently get from executives; one of them is what objectives can be met with social media (see the illustration above for objectives that our clients successfully meet with a well planned campaign). According to the Harvard Business Review, 77% of Fortune 500 companies now have dedicated internal social media teams. Surprisingly, very few of them have a plan. Many companies are still struggling with articulating their objectives, which means they can’t plan a strategy around those goals. We recommend that clients start with one of three very important and common objectives: creating community, customer service or brand management.

Creating Community: There is a mistaken belief in social media that more is better – “quantity over quality”. Adding more numbers to your social media platforms does not necessarily mean success though. We have some clients who come to us with well-established Facebook pages for example, with tens of thousands of followers. But they were all gained through ads, these followers have never used the company’s products or services, and they never engage. On the other hand, we have clients with a few hundred followers, but they are past, current and prospective clients, supporters, vendors, friends and family who care about the company’s products and services and engage regularly. Regular engagement from people with a sense of community creates branding and sales opportunities. Focus on a “slow burn” growth plan – provide insight and value for your audience. Don’t focus just on what you have to sell, but think about what information would be helpful to them in terms of their lifestyle, their needs, their values, their challenges. What solutions can you provide? How can you make them smile? The platform will grow and followers will talk to you, and each other, and that’s how you create community.

Customer Service: Several of our clients use social media to address customer service concerns. With today’s technology it is becoming easier for consumers to (very publicly) voice concerns and complaints through social media. In the periodical’s first issue, Social@Scale Journal shares that only one of five brands respond to customer complaints on social media, although a majority of consumers expect to receive a response within a few hours. 60% of these customers say they will take additional actions to express their dissatisfaction with followers on social media. Addressing complaints appropriately and promptly will set a company apart from its competition and gain customer loyalty. When you use social media as a customer service channel, contact is immediate, anger is diffused and customers are given a more personal brand experience that they will remember and share.

Brand Management: A strong online presence is a solid way to create awareness of your brand, and to stay “top of mind” with consumers. Creating opportunities for consistent use of your logo, colors, tagline, values and mission, strengthens your connection with your audience and makes you immediately recognizable and memorable. Simply “listening” (finding opportunities to observe what consumers are saying about your company and what they are saying about your competitors without engaging) will give you amazing insight in to how your constituents view your brand.

Creating community, providing customer service, and brand management are achievable goals with a well-planned social media campaign. If your organization is struggling with defining objectives, or the strategy necessary to reach those objectives, feel free to call or email me any time, 480-270-5395, or Jennifer@redballooninc.com. Or, learn about our upcoming training class, and download my complimentary publication, ‘the executive’s guide to social media’ here.

allisonwithdavinci1At red balloon, we get to work with some really terrific people, and our friends at Davis General Surgery are no exception. Based in Nevada, Dr. Davis and her Director of Operations, Charmin, work with us regularly to develop content that gets engagement and compliments from colleagues.

In this client spotlight we take a closer look at the collaborative relationship that has developed over the past six months. red balloon understands branding and “voice”, and what works to engage clients. What we don’t know is… general surgery. That’s where a great collaboration comes into play. We asked Charmin what she had to share about getting the best out of our collective creative relationship:

What is your position / title?
My official title is Director of Operations at Davis General Surgery. I am helping Allison K. Davis, M.D. establish and run a private general surgery practice in Las Vegas, Nevada. My functional roles include business development, financial management and personnel management.

What made you seek social media consulting?
Physicians, especially specialists like general surgeons, get new patients via referrals from other doctors, hospital staff, and others in the field of medicine. In addition, more and more patients are becoming savvy consumers, and seeking out their doctors of choice. I strongly feel that having an online presence which includes active social media allows Dr. Davis to reach both communities. She maintains a professional network through Twitter and Facebook, but also reaches out to patients directly via her blog and email newsletters. The links between these applications, organized by red balloon, allow for cross-pollination.

What do you find most helpful about working with red balloon?
My expectation is that red balloon will deliver two things. 1- a consistent schedule. We work with red balloon to create all content a month at a time, then red balloon makes sure it is posted according to schedule. I hate to admit it, but this would be difficult to do on my own with all my other priorities. 2 – technical management. Do I need to know the size of the Facebook banner? Do I need to know required formatting for the blog? No. And I don’t want to.

You provide a lot of ideas for content – where do those ideas come from?
• My own work. I feel like I have a little elf sitting on my shoulder that says, “Hey, that thing you did? That should go on the blog!” I make it a priority to generate content ideas.
• Collaboration with Dr. Davis. We spend a lot of time talking about patient care and talking about the business. I used to always say, “You should write a book!” I still think that, but these days, I’m more likely to say “Let’s get that on Facebook!”

One of the blog posts I’m most proud of is about why your doctor may not take your insurance. This came directly from an issue we dealt with at the office. We have turned down patients who want to see Dr. Davis because she is not a provider for a particular insurance. She wants to be a provider, but this particular company has found a way to save money by only having a few general surgeons on their provider list. In this case, the insurance company is the only winner. Dealing with this issue in the office inspired the article, which I think is very educational. Plus, we were able to get a small positive outcome from a frustrating situation.

We often wish we had more client feedback, but many clients feel too busy to provide in-depth feedback and content ideas – what makes it important for you to be as involved as you are?
I have a clear vision of the audiences we are trying to reach. When I come across something that triggers the light bulb, “our audience should know this”, I email Dani at red balloon and say, “Let’s develop this into something.”

I have a clear vision of the message we are trying to send. Dr. Davis has a compelling story. She’s a blend of old-fashioned patient care evangelist, mixed with an early adopter technologist with advanced skills in robotic and laparoscopic surgeries. I can see that message sticks with our audiences because I’m there in person. I communicate that with Dani so she can carry that through in our social media.

To me, social media is one part of the “business development” umbrella. I’ve done the work to define our target audiences, the message we want to send, and the results we want to achieve. It’s my responsibility to make sure red balloon understands that and delivers on-target. It’s not productive to say “build me a house” without any sort of direction as to where, what size, how many bedrooms, etc.

What do you enjoy about a collaborative relationship?
Dani and the red balloon staff are on-board. We have a great collaboration. It would be an impossible task for me to expect Dani to read my mind and create content without my input. Likewise, Dani is my eyes and ears on current articles and trends that might perfectly correspond with our message. We hit the tennis ball back and forth over the net a few times and the end result is better than each of us playing on our own.

From Dani, I’ve learned the content that sticks can be as simple as a candid photo and to always be on the look-out for content. For example, Dr. Davis gave a community presentation this week on abdominal pain. I have the slides and photos ready to send to Dani — I promise!

the executive's guide to social mediaIt’s been MONTHS of hard work, but I’m very excited to finally announce the release of my latest publication, the executive’s guide to social media!

Packed with relevant statistics, this guide contains everything execs and entrepreneurs needs to know about social media, like what you can achieve with social media, how to know which platforms to use, and a detailed overview of the most popular social media platforms including screen shots, glossaries of terms, and the metrics you should be capturing.

Get my illustrated 35 page guide FREE and get my monthly ‘red balloon social’ email – full of the insight you need to be successful in social media.

morningscramble

I was recently asked to speak about toxic relationships on The Morning Scramble with Pat McMahon. We had a great conversation and the information is so helpful, both for employees enduring difficult co-workers, and leadership handling situations with negative middle managers, that I had to share here on my blog.

Employees and employers alike are often at a loss with defining and dealing with toxic dynamics. What we’re talking about is people who are resistant, narcissistic, passive aggressive, manipulative or people who make others feel bad with negative comments, actions or energy. This is a particularly difficult topic because we don’t have protections at work against this kind of behavior – it isn’t necessarily abusive and it’s not the same as Title VI protections which typically deal with discrimination issues. These behaviors are also productivity killers for companies – you end up with entire departments full of toxic personalities, and all the good people give up and go away. Here are some of the questions and answers from this segment:

Why are some employers reluctant to deal with interpersonal conflicts in the workplace?
Many C suite executives are under tremendous pressure and feel pulled in many directions, and while it’s not an acceptable reason to look the other way, it’s the reality. Leadership must make connecting with employees a priority on a regular basis.

Handling a difficult personality also requires some finesse, and that can be intimidating for managers at any level. They could also be concerned about ramifications of messy emotional conversations, or disciplining a middle manager. They may also be reluctant to make a change if that manager’s department is healthy and generating revenue – it’s not right, but it’s a factor.

What are some tips for employers handling a toxic middle manager?
It’s important to determine early on if this was a bad hiring decision or if something has happened in this person’s life recently that’s making them edgier than usual. If it’s a manager who can’t change (or won’t change), it’s time to start moving that person out the door. Sometimes it’s easier to document problems and conversations up to the point of asking for a resignation – you may just have to let someone go. It’s unpleasant, but depending on the issues at hand, it may be the best solution involved. It’s important to remember that angry personalities crush morale, and that you may begin losing talented and loyal employees if you don’t deal with a toxic manager.

What are some tips for having a conversation with a toxic middle manager as the employer?
1. address the issue directly and honestly, sharing your concerns (ideally this is happening very soon after observing a problem or receiving a complaint)
2. keep it brief, and be willing to listen
3. avoid public embarrassment, discuss concerns one and one and not generally in groups
4. don’t make assumptions, ask for feedback and input, ask the manager how they suggest resolving the issue
5. If the manager indicates that they have some issues to resolve personally, contact your company’s HR dept and connect the manager with your EAP if you have one
6. explain expectations and consequences going forward
7.  I have found this tip especially helpful: ask the manager to write up an outline of the conversation as they understand it by the end of the day – this will allow you to document that you both have the same understanding of the matters discussed and an additional opportunity to clarify your agreement going forward

What are your tips from an employee perspective for dealing with a toxic work environment?
It’s tough to deal with a negative personality but there are a few things you can do. If the person is generally a good person going through a rough time, acknowledge their feelings and let them know you’re sorry for what they’re dealing with. Keep it short and get back to the work tasks at hand.

If the person doesn’t take the hint and goes on and on, stop asking and acknowledging the issues and stick to work conversations. Keep interactions short. Form “alliances” with co-workers who understand, and ask them for help keeping the atmosphere and conversation topics more positive in nature.

None of us likes to feel like a tattle tale, or like we’re throwing someone under the bus, but there are times that you will need to go to your supervisor to ask for help dealing with the situation. It may start off as a confidential conversation in which you ask for some coaching on dealing with the negative behaviors – this lets your boss know there is an issues but also demonstrates that you aren’t looking for he or she to intervene while taking the initiative to deal with the issues. If all else fails, you will need to ask your supervisor to intervene.

If the issues escalate, or the manager doesn’t take appropriate actions it’s time to call HR – some large companies allow employees to call in these issues anonymously, but be prepared for being identified as the caller. Be honest, be kind, be brief and always handle yourself in a way that will make you feel proud later, at this point you’ll have to let the chips fall where they may.

What are your tips for creating a positive work environment?
It is everyone’s job to create a positive environment at work. First, make sure you aren’t one of the people who are putting others down, joking around too much, distracting others, or constantly complaining.

Leadership should be able to stand by every hire, and should consistently work at preventing toxic environments. I like to recommend that mid-size and large companies utilize personality assessments and multiple or panel interviews during the hiring process.

They should also create opportunities for ongoing education and training for both employees, middle managers and execs – for example, I provide corporate training that helps middle managers and leadership identify their own issues with self-awareness exercises, I show them how to identify issues developing among their teams and how to nip problems in the bud through my  business therapy™ program.

A positive work environment and quickly resolving toxic relationships at work pays off in the long run – you will keep your best and most productive employees. Have you ever had an employee or a co-worker that you considered to be toxic? How did you handle it?

Have more questions on this subject? email me anytime