Discover The Pulse for ideas for your business and read my new blog posts!

MYOB delivers accounting software for Australian businesses for over 20 years. They have a mission to make it easier to run a great business.  Their blog “The Pulse” is their platform to share news, views and ideas for businesses.

When the opportunity presented itself to blog for MYOB, I gladly accepted. I believe in sharing my knowledge and expertise about the online space with Australian businesses and help them be more successful in digital.

Pulse is a great platform to stay true to my belief and amplify my blog posts with this vibrant community. You can now find my latest blog posts in The Pulse along with many other fellow contributors.

This simple step can be the difference between success and failure in your campaigns

I need a panadol?
I work out at a gym, and they recently announced a new service: Dry cleaning business shirts. Considering most guys have to deal with 5 dirty shirts a week, it’s a handy solution.

They created an ad for promotion. Yet the ad  just doesn’t work with the target market. The insight here is that guys don’t stress with ironing.  Being one of the target audience, I know we simply don’t care enough to stress about it. Yet we’re always on the lookout for practical solutions so we don’t have to deal with it. Think of the dry cleaners close to train stations advertising you can drop by dirty shirts in the morning and pick them up on the way home. Voila!

Second part of the image is this stressed lady. I think she is more suited to a Panadol ad. Again, it isn’t working out as I don’t even want to look at her face. Basically, the essential parts of the ad; the headline and the image is actually preventing me from engaging with the message.

How to make it work

Maybe if I see a guy in suit in a hurry, checking his time and holding  his shirts, I would identify with myself and pay attention.  Or a split image a pile of dirty business shirts on side one and a guy catching up with friends having a good time on the other.

Copywise, these would get my attention” Your ironing: Sorted” or “Never waste a second of your life with ironing, again.”

Takeaway

Keep your audience in mind in any business activity you do. An activity that doesn’t resonate with your audience won’t lead to the action you desire. If you don’t keep them in mind, it’ll be harder for you to craft messages that will engage them and make them behave the way that’s ideal for you. This simple step can be the difference between a campaign that succeeds or fails.

3 reasons why you should pay attention to Meet Up

If you ever tried to organise an event, meet like-minded people, or want to be part of a local group with similar interests, you may already realise the current social networks are not that efficient.

Enter Meet Up, a website with a focus on making it easier for people to self-organise in their local communities.  The website is very easy to use and packed with many interesting groups.  Being an active user in MeetUp, I wanted to share some of its benefits by personal stories.

Business networking

I came across Meet Up when I moved to Inner West of Sydney. Not knowing anyone in my new neighbourhood and keen to meet other local SME’s and local people, I was looking for some events to attend. I found out a MeetUp group for Inner West (now closed) made up of local people or businesses.  They met regularly and very quickly I became part of a valuable network.  Not only we talked business, but it was a quick and easy way to find out the best baristas, the good restaurants and what else is happening in the neighbourhood. Business networking events are very common in MeetUp.

Getting people with similar interests together

Earlier this year I created a dining experience called “Social Dinner Club*” The club events feature great wine, world cuisines, food professionals  such as food journalists, cookbook authors as speakers,  chefs, fun games and gifts.

The events are getting great reviews but the success of the club is not any of these features. It is the food lovers that come to the event creating a special atmosphere. MeetUp  introduced Social Dinner Club group to the foodies.

Although the group is also popular in other networks such as Facebook and Twitter, the most loyal and passionate foodies have always been the MeetUp group members.

Connecting ideas with people

Recently I found out Product Mavens group. The group is for sharing product knowledge, exploring new product ideas, and testing out new theories.  Two business ideas were dissected at the MeetUp I attended. Brainstorming tools were used to test out the business ideas and they were significantly improved at the end of the session. The attendees had diverse backgrounds and provided many useful suggestions to help the owners of the ideas.  Without MeetUp, it would be very hard to bring these people together or it would be a costly exercise to hire a professional firm to run a similar workhop.

Next steps

Decide on how you or your business can benefit from using MeetUp. Joining the groups is free. If you like to create your own group, you have to pay monthly fee.

Visit http://www.meetup.com/ and search by your postcode or topic or interest to see what’s happening.  It is very easy to set up a profile or you can login via your Facebook profile.

* If you’d like to know more, watch this one minute video explaining  the Social Dinner Club

Obama is in Foursquare, Facebook Check In Deals is in Australia, should I even bother?

Australians love their smartphones. Nearly half of us have a smartphone or about to buy one. Smartphones have features such as built in GPS offering new marketing opportunities based on the location of its owners. These new opportunities are especially in the retail and hospitality industries.

The opportunities are based around the owner of a smartphone “ checking in” to a physical location. For example, I can check in to a local café by using check in feature of a social network using my smartphone as I head there for lunch. There are many social networks offering similar functionalities. Currently in Australia Foursquare and Facebook are the leaders of the pack.

Foursquare

With more than 10 million users worldwide including President Obama, Foursquare is popular. Yet Foursquare’s presence is nowhere near mainstream in Australia with around 60 000 users.

Foursquare creates an experience based around smartphone owner’s checking in. You can find out what is around you, tips about restaurants, discover new places or redeem a special offer by checking in. The last feature is the holy grail of the location based marketing. A business can generate additional revenue or build loyalty by rewarding the users who check in to redeem the special offers.

The special offers that work better are the ones that offer a great value for each check in at the time of the check in, not at the 5th check in.  A good example is Hudson Meats in Sydney giving 1 kg of thin grass fed beef sausages when you spend $30 in the store between 9-5 on a Friday. The reward is instant and of substantial value.

Next Steps

Claim your business in Foursquare. It is quick and easy, and done in a couple of steps

Create a user profile for you to see what kinds of tips users leave, what is around your location and what kinds of specials are offered. You have to sign up before you can create your page

If you decide to run a special ( it doesn’t cost to run a special other than your time) make sure there is a real value and your team is aware of the special and how to implement it.

Facebook

Facebook has more than 10 million Australian users, yet the Facebook Places feature which allows you to check in is not that popular. Privacy concerns, not being sure of the value of check in or not wanting to show off are some of the reasons.

Now you can see the value of a check in as  Facebook  launched Facebook Check In  Deals in Australia last month.

Currently it is used by brands such as Commonwealth Bank, 7- Eleven, KFC and Westfield. Small businesses are not able to create check in deals at the moment but they can register their interest. Facebook deals are similar in functionality to Foursquare’s special offers. Yet the main difference is a business can offer a deal to a group of friends instead of a single user.

Next Steps

Register interest for creating check in deals for your business

Final say

You wouldn’t be missing out if you are not trialling a campaign using checking in. It is still the early days. Yet keeping an eye on what’s happening out there is always a good idea. Besides if you run a successful campaign, you may also enjoy the first mover advantage and even some publicity as it is a hot topic.

Achtung! Your attention is needed. Now

Have you heard the survey  about ‘IE users had lower average IQs than users of other web browsers.’ Yes, the fake one.  This hoax was reported in respectable publications such as BBC, CBS News, The Huffington Post and our very own The Sydney Morning Herald (via Mashable news website).They haven’t checked their facts before publishing. One of the core tasks of journalism is fact checking. Similar mistakes are becoming more frequent these days. Everyone is so busy and mostly  don’t  pay the attention required to do their job properly. Scary yet true.  2 quick tips to help you deal with situations where attention is the key:

When you are communicating

Keep it simple. Simplicity. It is not simple. It actually requires thinking and putting yourself in the mind of who you are communicating. Yet noone has time for this. The irony is, quite often messages are misinterpreted and more productivity is lost when more communication is required to understand the misinterpreted message.   In a previous post, I wrote about how to communicate with busy people and reading that will assist in introducing simplicity when communicating.

When you are listening

Yes in the business, we have to make quick decisions to make the most of opportunities. Yet we shouldn’t be in the “ auto-pilot” mode in business. We have our gut feel. We do have our brains and we can ask questions or research instead of blindly accepting what is presented to us.
Making a decision, we should consult to our brain and gut feel. If something doesn’t feel right or if it doesn’t add up: Pause. Don’t act. It may be better to waste an opportunity if that opportunity is not the right one. It is more work to rectify the situation if the opportunity isn’t as real as it sounded.

We’re only going to get busier so we have to have methods in place to deal with this attention issue.
Have you been in similar situations where you were a victim of lack of attention? Have you got any tips to share?

What I learnt from a blog that failed

lessons from a vlog that failedNot everything in life goes according to plan. As long as we can learn from our mistakes and  try our best not to repeat them, it is a learning experience.  Here is a failed blog story that turned out to be a great learning experience.

Background

Once I was given the task to raise the profile of a restaurant. After my research, I recommended launching a chef’s blog. This was way before Masterchef , there weren’t many food blogs around and  practically no chef blogs.
Chefs are busy people.  One chef, many hats. This chef was probably working around 60-70 hours a week. Cooking for functions, as well as cooking daily for the restaurant. He didn’t have a good support team around him so sometimes he had to work even longer.

When I explained him the concept of the blog, he got really excited. He saw a world of possibilities and the sky was the limit. I was a bit more reserved. I even started to think it would be unfair to give him more responsibilities; he was already way too stretched.

Yet the decision was to go ahead with the blog. I trained him, get the blog set up, gave suggestions for blog posts, and showed him examples of great blogs .I told him I can even write some blog posts for him- especially when he was too busy to write. We bought a camera to keep in the kitchen so he could take some photos of his masterpieces. I recommended some incentives to management team. My reasoning was that if he was given incentives to add blog posts or if blog posts were added to his KPI’s, there would be more reasons for him to blog.

Worst case scenario- what could go wrong with a blog launch?

Call it a marketer’s sixth sense, I set up some requirements before pushing the blog live.  He would have to post 3 times a week for 3 months.  That would make 36 posts. The blog would go live in 3 months when he hit 36 posts or earlier  if he was quicker.

He was confident he would get there in less than 3 months.

He wasn’t comfortable with using computers and didn’t have a habit of writing regularly. These are important skills for bloggers. I thought 3 months was enough to develop skills and habits. He would also find his writing voice and most importantly decide if blogging was for him.

No reader likes a blog that has only one post when they visit a blog for the first time! We would have sufficient number of posts when we launch and so a first time visitor would have a good idea on what the blog is about and would have reasons to come back.

What went wrong with the blog?

He got even busier. He got nowhere near the number of posts. He chose not to get more support or get me to write posts for him. He was already way too stressed working overtime and the blog just didn’t help. We decided to unplug the project. Yet because the blog was never made public, it wasn’t a big fiasco.

What are the lessons learnt from a failed blog?

Setting up requirements before making the blog live was a great decision and saved everyone from embarrassment.  These type of requirements work well with a pre-determined number of blog posts. By the time, the number of posts are written,, the blogger would have the skills and  created the writing habit. The blogger would find her voice and got comfortable with the blogging space.

KPI’s: Professionals are very much goal driven and KPI’s are part of working life.  If the blogging is a “ nice to have” project and KPI’s and metrics are not build around it, it becomes one of the first things to be dropped.

Content Strategy: It wasn’t explicitly mentioned but I believe the chef was not comfortable with what to write and when to write despite thel training. Having a content strategy with an editorial calendar would be of great use in these conditions.

We’re going to dive into content strategy in a future post, meanwhile would love to hear some of your “ lessons learnt” examples!

3 Effective Examples of Personal Branding in the age of Social Media

“ You are your brand” You might heard this ever since personal branding concept became mainstream by an article “ The Brand Called You” published at Fast Company in 1997.

1997;no Google, no Googling someone, no Google vanity search. Popular social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin didn’t exist. You wouldn’t be able to build your personal branding empire one update or tweet at a time.

Here are 3 great tools for personal branding, they are all integrated well into social media enhancing their value.

http://paper.li/

Why not have a personal paper to compliment your personal empire! Here is how paper.li explains itself: “ paper.li organizes links shared on Twitter into an easy to read newspaper-style format. Newspapers can be created for any Twitter user, list or #tag.”

I’ve been following Ken Burgin’s daily paper for a while and recently found out international thought leaders and great personal brand ambassadors such as Problogger Darren and Brian Solis are using paper.li, too.

I asked to both Ken and Darren about their experiences using paper.li.

Ken: “Using paper.li was an experiment to see what types of links would come together with some ‘auto-curation’. The one with my personal name has worked well, and generally puts together interesting content creation each morning, although sometimes a little repetitive.”

Darren “ I guess they compile an interesting list of links from your community which could be useful to identifying hot topics but also building relationships with some of your readers – however because it’s all fairly automated and you don’t actually have to do anything to create it seems slightly impersonal.

flavors.me

This website is a great way to combine your social network profiles http://flavors.me/cenkbaban in one location and make it look visually attractive. There is a free version which allows you to add services (social networks) and decide on your design, to create your own URL. Flavors work really well if you are into design and you can get really creative with it. A good way to use would be to display your portfolio samples and send your URL to your client for their reference.

The paid version is $20 for a year and includes listing in a directory, statistics, custom domain name and contact form. Not a bad investment for $20 yet, when about. me is launched to public which includes statistics and is free, the competition for flavors.me will intensify.

about.me

The new kid on the block, currently it’s not open to the public. The power of it lies in its analytics feature. This feature allows you to understand how many people visit your profile and more importantly what they do with the information they see. This website is all about personal branding integrating the image of the user and their copy as well as their social networks.

What I really like about this website is the creativity of the first set of users.The copy they have is engaging and the images they use really compliment the copy. The user pages remind me of the great coffee table books. I already chose my image and looking forward to get my profile up and running.

Have you tried any of these tools? What are your views? Do you believe personal branding is here to stay and should be complemented with these kinds of tools?

Google + 3 suggestions to ensure you don’t miss the boat

You thought you were safe. All the angles covered, all the social networks sorted. You had your Social Media strategy
and you had your favourite social network. Enter Google +. Things changed. Again.

First of all take a deep breath. Now.  Noone has found the business value of Google+ for SME’s yet, not even your  competitors. We are currently on a discovery period, think of it like the first date. We’re checking each other out and trying to find out if we’re compatible. In business terms, we are currently learning this new network so we can invent  the business value of it. If you come to this post waiting to find out what Google+ is, there are couple of good links in conclusion*. Yet this  post is to give you 3 suggestions to get you up to speed on Google+

 “Hands on” Google+, make up your own mind about Google+

There is nothing like being hands on. At the end of the day, Social Networks are personal. Indeed they are.  When I train businesses, I find out that everyone has his favourite social network based on personal taste.  You can’t decide if you like a network based on what others are saying. You have to dip your toes in and find what you like or don’t like.

Next step

Join Google+ (you have to have/create a Google account) and play with it

Follow influencers and thought leaders and see how they use Google+

They are out there; they already have huge followers in other social networks. They are the first ones to fully immerse themselves in Google+. Following them would help you to tap into their and their followers’ collective wisdom. Their feeds are where the most interesting discussions about Google + take place. Just by following them, you would tap into this collective wisdom first hand.  These feeds can act as a filter that helps to shape your views on Google+

Next step

Here is a great list of  influencers to follow

Read the industry publications and find out how the general public is using Google+

Google+ is heavily used by early adopters and mostly geeks so far. As with most things Google, there is extensive media coverage. Media is a great way to become familiar with a topic. It introduces different perspectives and examples on how other people are using Google+. Media is great at story telling and some of the stories on Google+ may inspire you to use it or help you to completely remove it from your life. Both are better results than being totally indifferent to it.

Next step

Mashable

NY Times

SMH

Conclusion

It is early days to make a final assessment on the impact of Google+ and the business value for SME’s. Yet following some of these suggestions will help you to stay up to date with Google+. You may even be the first to discover new  tricks and outgun your competitors.
*For how-to tutorials on getting started, here are some great presentations on getting started with Google+

What does Google’s new search features mean for your business?

Life without Google is hard to imagine. The search engine giant is not resting on its laurels and is always improving its search functionalities. If you aren’t up to date with them, here is a brief introduction on Voice Search, Image Search and Instant Pages and their implications for your business.

Voice Search

Voice Search was a popular feature on Mobile and now it is available on desktop computers. Basically instead of typing your query, you will speak to the mic of your computer and your results will be displayed on your computer.

Image Search

Similar to Voice Search, Image Search has been limited to mobiles and now is available on desktop computers. To search using an image, go to images.google.com and just put your picture in the search box. You can either click the camera icon in the search box and upload a photo from your computer or paste the URL of an image from the web.

I tried it, chose an image that  is relatively obscure and was impressed with the result. Actually I was even more impressed with the fact that I learnt the history of the statue I chose which is from my hometown Istanbul.

Google Instant Pages

If Google is confident about the search results of your query, it starts to load the webpage and when you click on the result in the Instant Pages , the result page is delivered much faster. This video has a comparison of the traditional vs Instant pages and is convincing.

What does the new Google features mean for you or your business?

It is too early to determine the business influences of the new features as they have just been rolled out. The initial view is that these features are there to help you get your results faster (Instant Pages) or by using different formats (voice and image). Again the view on this is not a change in your business’s  Google ranking but just an enhanced user experience.

It can be a challenge to stay informed with Google’s changes but a recent Google blog “Inside Search” aims to bring a wealth of information on search including search shortcuts. Definitely worth bookmarking. Have you used any of these new features? What’s your view on them?

Is the future of Google good or bad?

Google is our gate to Internet. Since 1998, they made the Internet an easier place to find information. What they do, how they do it and their plans for future are always of interest for both businesses and consumers.

Two recent blog posts discuss the state of Google now and what the future holds for Google. Not surprisingly the posts are both criticising and praising Google. Here are the summary of those posts and my personal view about them.

The State of Google

Business insider made an interview with Steven Levy who just wrote a book about Google.  The  highlights of the interview are in the blog post and the interview is available as an audio file.

Google X

Sounds secretive doesn’t it?  The post explains that it is a bunch of Google engineers working on some secret projects. I find this fascinating.  Getting smart people to collaborate and build up on good ideas can be very powerful.  I am a big fan of Google’s 20% time and I believe there is more innovation to come from Google. The challenge is to be able to turn these innovations into successful products.  Google doesn’t have a great track record in launching new products. Remember Google Wave and Google Buzz. Yet they can come up with a breakthrough product, just like they did with Gmail and Google Adwords.  They could be easily working on the next big thing with this talented team of engineers as they have all the resources in the world to make it happen.

Google 2015: what will it look like?

Robert Scoble is a very influential tech blogger and his blog is one of the most respected in Silicon Valley.  His recent post highlighted the trends for the next four years and provided a snapshot of Google in relation to these trends.   The post is more of a critique as the implication Google is losing its innovative edge is the conclusion.

Google and Social Media

Google still hasn’t cracked the code in Social Media. There have been couple of attempts, not much traction. There doesn’t seem to be a grand Social Media strategy for world domination to match the ambition of Facebook.  The article makes references how Google is missing the boat on Social Media. Although I have faith in Google’s coming up with an innovative product or technology, I don’t think this will be in Social Media.

The dynamics of Social Media is unique and is based on human behaviour, not algorithms.  Google tends to be good at interpreting data for technical innovation. Yet I believe the future growth of Social Media will come from interpreting the human behaviour and finding ways to enhance and improve this behaviour. An example is Sonar App which introduces efficiencies in the way we behave and leverages Social Media for real world connections.  I am not sure if Google has capabilities to innovate in the human behaviour arena, as their forte seems to be data and algorithms.

What do you think about Google? Do you see the future good or bad for Google ?Add your comment below.