Hello from Mt. Webster!
This is Jack Graham, writing the inaugural post for my new blog, Ex Machina. I’m an interactive producer working in Boston, Massachusetts (more about me here). When I’m not working on my own projects, I daylight at a well-established direct marketing firm in the travel industry. When the economy started to hurt their old way of doing business, my employers turned to new technologies to help them stay competitive.
Before last year’s downturn, things like blogs, mobile, and social media weren’t on my company’s radar. They were pet projects of mine, stuff I experimented with as time allowed. Our web site and direct e-mail were the focus of my work. Then one day, someone hyped Facebook to our management; suddenly, social media was a fundamental part of my job. Luckily, I was mostly ready. Mostly.
Ex Machina will focus on how people in my job – interactive producer – and related careers (such as interactive marketing directors, database marketers, copywriters, and interactive designers) can leverage new technologies to meet their customers and engage with them. This era is about having a conversation with your customers, not shouting your offerings at them. Things like blogs and social media are amazing tools in this respect; you can have that conversation that gets a customer ready to work with you. And you can have it with a lot of them, all at once, in a way that leaves no one feeling like they were just talking to a robot.
Thanks to my smartphone, I know how to cook collards.
Meanwhile, new mobile tech, particularly smart phones, is turning computer and internet access into something you wear, rather than a piece of furniture at which you sit down. This changes everything. Example: I bought a bunch of collard greens a few days ago. I would never have bought them, except for the fact that I had a smartphone in my pocket on which I could call up a recipe for cooking them that sounded good. Companies that want to stay competitive now have to figure out how to link up with customers who have the closest thing we’ve invented to ESP sitting in their jacket pocket.
5 Ways Small & Mid-size Businesses Can Start Integrating New Internet Technologies Today
- Get a Twitter account. In fact, get multiple Twitter accounts.
Not every company will want to dive in to full-on social networks like Facebook, but Twitter is an application like e-mail. Every company can use it for something, and probably will in the future. Jump on it now; the namespace is getting crowded. I’ll have a lot more to say on how to use them, but some areas where they can help you out include customer service, marketing, public relations, and vendor relations.
- Set up a social network presence.
Look at your demographic. Is it a Facebook or a Myspace demo? If you don’t know, you have some research to do on the two sites. Perhaps you’re in a position to do both. But if you’re not lucky enough to have boundless resources to throw at social media, do yourself a favor: focus on only one of the two if possible.
- Keep a blog.
Blogs are hard to understand as a marketing medium, but they have some real utility for small and mid-size companies. First off, provided you’re posting useful content (meaning stuff that people with no interest in your product or company would actually want to read), they’re a great SEO tool. For those providing services, they’re a way to discuss how you do what you do and sway a customer. If you’re using Twitter, blogs give you something to link to that has potential value to followers, rather than pure just marketing content. They balance marketing messages, which helps you to keep more followers. Finally, your customers may use them to communicate with you by commenting on posts.
How's your web site look on this jeejah?
Consider smart phones when designing.
Everyone is going to have a smart phone soon. Learning about them now is a good idea. If you’re reading this blog, your company probably isn’t one that would benefit, today, from having a presence in smart phone application markets (unless it’s somehow core to your business). Smart phone users will see your web site instead. What are they seeing? Can you make a stronger showing with smartphone users with some minor redesigns?
- Educate your organization about new technologies.
Social media and related technologies suffer somewhat from what I’ll call the Twentysomething Factor. If I had a buck for every time I’ve heard managers express a desire to hand off social media to “younger, more computer savvy” co-workers, I could buy a plane ticket to Chicago. This means if you’re working around my level in the rat race, you’re in the sometimes awkward position of selling your managers on best practices that they don’t agree with because they don’t quite get the medium. Meanwhile, many of your peers won’t get it, either. How do you successfully make them all get it?
I’ll be going into a lot more detail on all of these topics, so you can take this as an agenda for the subjects on which I intend to post. And I hope this blog will turn into a conversation about best practices with people on my career path and related ones.
Thanks for reading!
Photo credits for this post: Me (by me), Collards (from Wikimedia commons), Smart Phone (by Craig Jewell via stock.xchng).