Archives for posts with tag: Brand

Fans of my blog know I love word clouds.

I use them in presentations, blog posts and even in reports. They show the proportional use of words, in a graphic form. And word clouds can give real power, visually, to analysis.

I decided to see what my Tweets looked like in a word cloud. Tagxedo has a great tool for this, which allows customization in many ways, including the word cloud’s layout, color, fonts and shape.

Using the tools on the site, I typed in my Twitter ID and downloaded information from my Tweets. I chose to remove (or to skip, as it’s called on the site) Twitter handles, so the words in the graphic included only those within my Tweets. Then, I played around with aesthetic aspects, picking fonts, colors and a shape I liked…

…a quote!   

With the specifications I chose, Tagxedo’s tool created a visual representation of my Twitter stream — what I Tweet, ReTweet, post and comment on in chunks of 140 characters or less! While simple and fun to do, this exercise actually serves a very useful purpose: it is, essentially, a visual representation of my brand on Twitter.

What about yours? Does it look like and say what you want it to?

We all want customers or clients who are so thrilled with us (and our work, service or results) that they voluntarily and enthusiastically spread the word among their contacts and networks. But how does this work if you’re not a superstar brand with a ton of money to spend?

You need to do four things:

  1. Know your customers and what they want
  2. Give them something they perceive to have real value
  3. Don’t attach any strings or hide any gotchas
  4. Make it really fun

Here’s a quick case study based on an experience I had today that shows all four elements at work, really effectively.

We have an annual pass to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. When it opened about two months ago, the aquarium seemed like it would be a super cool place to visit, especially during the months in Cleveland when it’s important to have    indoor options to keep kids busy and entertained. (We have two boys, ages 3 and 7.)  My husband went once with our 7-year old son. At the time, we decided to get an annual pass.

Here’s why: if our family of four went to the aquarium together, and bought tickets for just that day, it would cost us $75.80. (Tickets for adults are $21.95 and for the kids [aged 2-12] are $15.95. The annual pass is $130 for a family. So, if we go even two times a year, together, the pass becomes the better deal. I had planned to take the kids, too, but hadn’t fit it in, yet.

Last week, an email arrived announcing a special Toddler Time party for annual pass holders with children aged two to four. It would give the 40 or so respondents who RSVP’d access to the entire facility from 8 am to 10 am, before it opened to the public. But the little ones wouldn’t just get to roam, unfettered, around “40 tanks of all sizes, which are home to thousands of living creatures. From the Ohio-native brook trout, to the ferocious piranhas, as well as the sand tiger sharks that reach more than seven feet long,” as the aquarium’s website touts.

As well, the inaugural Toddler Time party featured music, dancing, touch exhibits staffed with plenty of friendly aquarists, snacks, juice, storytelling, Captain Neil (with a booming brogue) and friendly, furry costumed sea creatures to cuddle and wave at. Oh, and the lovely folks at the aquarium set out hot coffee for the parents, too.

We were truly treated to a special, private and fun time. It cost an additional $7. But I would’ve paid five times that and still felt like it was a deal. My three-year old, Max, had fun, too. (And he ate three packages of Teddy Grahams!)

The experience converted me into a brand ambassador, for sure. Here’s how the aquarium delivered on the four elements:

1.  Know your customers and what they want

The set up is exactly what works with this age group: space, movement, food, things to touch, music, animals and water. And, it was what the parents wanted, too. About a 1/3 or so of the caregivers at the Toddler Time party were guys/dads — a much bigger chunk than I expected. The morning timing and location (the aquarium is downtown) made it a great way to fit in some fun time and wrap it, smoothly, into the rest of the day. I did the same thing.

2.  Give them something they perceive to have real value

It wasn’t just the thoughtful additions of snacks, drinks and coffee or music, dancing, stories and characters that made this so great. The private access made us feel like we were truly special guests. The staff welcomed us warmly and showed us around with pride. It wasn’t at all crowded. We got to feel like we were being honored as annual pass holders. Smart! I’m not going to be the only one who talks this up, and that’s bound to entice more folks to become annual pass holders.

3.  Don’t attach any strings or hide any gotchas

No one made me sign anything or promise to send anything in. I wasn’t hounded to buy one thing. In fact, the gift shop was closed — which was a sigh of relief to this mom, who dreads the parade past the goodies in the grocery checkout line because of the pestering. The experience was all treat and no tricks, just the way it should be when a business is trying to show customers extra value. Problem is, it doesn’t always happen like this. Customers notice.

4.  Make it really fun

This is almost the easy part, if you nail the other three elements. The aquarium took care of everything, including making it fun for the grownups. I had such a good time that when I dropped off my son at day care, afterwards, still chatting about it, our caregiver said she’d look into joining so she could take the kids. (She looks after five toddlers and takes them to the zoo and concerts and plays for children, so this facility would be right in line with those fun excursions.) And I am blogging about it. And I’m posting pics on Facebook. And I’ll Tweet. How much in advertising would that publicity cost?

The upshot is this: if you want to turn customers into brand ambassadors, it takes forethought and planning. But it doesn’t take a ton of money or a huge marketing staff. The effort is mainly in giving your customers what they want as well as value and fun, like this Toddler Time party. I want to share about it through social media because I now consider myself an ambassador of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium and its brand.

When advising clients or others about seizing opportunities on social media or through other marketing channels, keep in mind the experiences you have when you are the customer. That’s a great way to test out the ideas to see if they are authentic and would work. This experience with the aquarium is just one example of how to do that.

My social media profiles on XeeMe

One of my current favorite social media sites is XeeMe. And I’m pretty sure it’s going to stay that way for a while. It makes so much sense: it’s a tool that takes the panoply of social media profiles, handles and identities many of us have and allows those to be cataloged and discovered in one place. It has other benefits and uses, too. (Lest it appear otherwise, I have no financial or other ties to XeeMe, pronounced “see me.”)

But in my view, the most valuable aspect of XeeMe is that it lets you bundle together in one place all of your social media affiliations that you want your blog audience, potential employers, clients, associates, friends, professional contacts and family to have.

Just above is a screen shot of mine.

So, you can choose to include, say, a personal Face Book page and also the Pinterest account you use to pin images related to a hobby. And in the same grouping of social media profiles, you can include your LinkedIn account as well as a work website (which, cleverly, can be “disassociated” when you switch jobs). I included those four, and 14 others. XeeMe currently enables users to list a profile on about 200 social media sites.

Founded by Axel Schultze, XeeMe describes itself on its website as:

“A social media software company focusing on social presence management. The social presence is the sum of all social profiles of an individual or brand and the foundation of any social media engagement. A ‘XeeMe’ lets users or brands organize, grow and monitor their social presence in an easy to use and professional manner.”

“Social presence”

Until I read that phrase and found XeeMe (thanks to this great post by Mark Q. Todd ) I hadn’t thought about this idea, in this way. But, of course, that’s exactly what we have: a social media presence — call it a brand — that is the sum of our links, connections, interactions, posts, shares and contributions across social media.

One analogy that comes to mind dates to the early 2000s, when cell phone numbers in the U.S. weren’t portable. It was madness because any time you switched carriers — or even, sometimes, phones — you had to get a new mobile number. That ID is an anchor for our contacts. Today, we routinely keep our mobile number even when moving to a city with a different area code because changing it is just too disruptive to our personal and professional networks and to the ability to stay in touch with contacts easily.

Personal and professional brands are converging

Commonly now, our tracks across social media seem to also follow us indefinitely. References, posts or tags you erase can often be found cached. And who knows where control of Face Book’s timeline will eventually reside. It’s just easier to watch what you post than try to keep up with the latest policies about turning off or on privacy screens on social media sites.

I think this convergence between our personal and professional brands is inevitable and absolutely wonderful. It’s also convenient. And it simply makes sense. Forcing a wall between them seems artificial in many, if not most, respects. (Especially when the account holder controls which pages and profiles get linked or assembled, as happens on XeeMe.)

So why isn’t Google+ there, yet?

However, through Google+ I have been extremely frustrated in trying to accelerate this process. Let me explain. I have a personal Gmail account. Separately, my work email is also on a Google platform. I love Google. I love my Google calendars. I love Chrome. Google docs, etc. I’m. A. Big. Fan.

So, after Google+ came out, I signed up with my personal Gmail account. And I started circling people. Very soon it became apparent I wanted to circle work-related contacts. But I didn’t want to do that using my personal Gmail account. Why? Because the name attached to that account includes my married last name. I don’t use my married name for work. I was a journalist for more than 15 years. My byline was my maiden name. And it remains my professional ID. My professional brand. And the name of my company.

Yes, the brands are converging, but I will always have some spheres where I use my married name: at church, in the neighborhood, at school and so on. And I will have other spheres where I use my professional name. My contacts should be able to find my brand through my social media footprints whether they come there via a professional or a personal relationship.

A mess of circles

In the end, I signed up for Google+ using my work Gmail, too. And then it got really crazy. A couple of folks I know personally somehow found me through my work Google+ profile. I’ve got a few people circled in both accounts. But most are separate, as if my two Gmail accounts are held by different people. And at one point, Google+ sent a note to Becky Gaylord McDonald asking if she wanted to circle Becky Gaylord. I think I still have one profile in the other one’s circles, but not the other way around. It’s nuts.

I have sent notes about this to Gmail and Google+ pros in the social media community. I also initiated an exchange that produced a response from a manager directly connected with the Google+ product. And while I nearly begged Google to let people merge their accounts and thus, their circles…so far, nothing.

Yes, I know you can post other social media sites and links on your Google+ profile. And I’ve done that. But it doesn’t deal with my main gripe. If I want to merge these accounts — which together represent my brand — I should be able to. And if you don’t want to merge yours, you should be able to keep them separate. (Although I think it’s folly to think there won’t be people who stumble across more than one profile being maintained by the same user.)

My point is: this should be easy, not just to make it convenient. It should be easy because it would acknowledge the brand convergence trend that’s well underway. I want to help my network — which includes many personal contacts, many professional contacts, and many who fall into both categories — to see me across the full range of social media I use.

And on Google, I can’t. The problem is compounded on Klout, because only one of my Google+ accounts could be registered by Klout and thus, tracked and monitored by Klout. (Perhaps Klout could start allowing users to put in more than one Google+ account?) I think it would also be a huge leap forward to include XeeMe in a Klout score.

I can’t be the only one who has two Gmail accounts who wants to be rid of confusing, frustrating, senseless segregation between them.

An idea of what it could look like

I’d like to be able to switch between accounts when I +1 something or share something publicly. As it stands, my tracks across Google+ depend on which account I was logged into at the time I was searching or posting. What I want is something like a drop down that lets me click on a +1 or share with either Gmail account and toggle between them. Something, in fact, just like I’ve had on email for years: I can choose among several of my email addresses when sending a message. For example, a message going to my son’s teacher uses my personal email. And one going to a client uses my work email.

It’s just not that hard.

Okay, so that’s much more than I expected to say. Thanks for hanging in there. I’d be thrilled to hear any suggestions or comments from you.

Oh, and Google, I still love you, but please hear my plea! In the meantime, my entire social media presence is here: