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Using Twitter, Facebook
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Newsletter Article

Using Twitter, Facebook
To Reach Business Clients

Editor´s Note: This is the second of three stories on social media in the newsletter for members of RiskProNet International. This month we´ll begin bringing you ideas from six cutting-edge companies, whose business volume reflects that of RiskProNet members, in locations ranging from New York City to Pitt Meadows, British Columbia. Last month´s article focused on discussions from the Personal Lines and IT practice groups, as well as the growing use of social media.)

A mortgage company has 13,411 followers on Twitter, and has cut its pay-per-click Internet advertising budget in half. The marketing director´s wife is in life insurance, and is about to give up local newspaper advertising in favor of Twitter. (See vocabulary at end of the article if you aren´t sure what a Twitter follower is.)

YouHere Productions LLC, (www.youhere.com) which specializes in corporate videos, can track two new clients specifically to its use of social media.

A trade association uses Twitter and Facebook to reach out to college students, viewing it as a long-term recruiting tool for the industry.

More than 270,000 people watched an online video posted by Grasshopper, (www.grasshopper.com) which makes virtual phone systems for entrepreneurs. Twitter, Grasshopper officials say, has allowed the company to reduce traditional advertising expenditures.

"We´re Finding People with Cutting-Edge Ideas"
"Twitter, Facebook and our blog have changed the way we do business," said Robert Haufler, director of marketing for Somerset Investors Corp., (www.somersetmortgagelenders.com) a mortgage-banking firm in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. "People can get mortgage rates on a daily basis. We talk about new programs or updates on existing programs. Cutting-edge people come to us, and they´re the ones with good ideas." The audience is a combination of homeowners and realtors.

In recent months Twitter and video blogs and posts have produced better results than Facebook, Robert said. As a result, Somerset has shifted its emphasis accordingly.

"Using social media has moved us up in the search engines and gives us a better page rank," he added. "Every tweet or posting gives us more exposure. We were spending $20,000 a month on pay-per-click advertising. We recently cut this in half because of the exposure we are getting on youtube, MySpace, Twitter and Facebook.

"When we do press releases, we tweet about them. About six publications have done stories on our use of social media. That, in turn, increases our page rankings. When we tweet about the stories, we get even more exposure.

"For example," Robert said, "go to Google and type in ´divorce buyout.´ The first organic (nonpaid) listing is ours." (Editor´s note: Robert made this comment several weeks ago; Somerset still came up at the top of the page when we repeated the search a few days ago.)

Somerset has two employees devoted exclusively to social media at an annual cost of about $100,000. One has a public relations background and previously worked with Internet media in the medical field. The other was a nightclub promoter.

"We moved to social media because we realized the world was changing," Robert added. "Everybody is busy. People don´t watch much television and they fast forward through the commercials. We weren´t getting the responses we used to. But when people type ´divorce buyout´ or ´mortgage rates´ into a computer, you know they want to hear your message."

As a result of these efforts, page hits have increased 148 percent since July.

Robert´s wife, an assistant to a member of the $1 million life insurance roundtable, has started moving away from ads in smaller, local newspapers to Twitter and Facebook.

In addition to the "Big Three" social media -- Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, Somerset uses AOL´s BBO, Google´s orkut, Digg, Deli.ci.ious and Yahoo! Buzz. Somerset submits information to more than 1,200 Web sites, working with 50 to100 of them each day.

Robert finds LinkedIn to be the most useful for researching business contacts.

Connecting with College Friends
Ursula von Rydingsvard,
chief operating officer of New York City´s YouHere Productions, found one client from a Facebook connection with a sorority sister, whom she had not seen since her graduation in 1991.

"There´s a certain trust factor that comes from having known someone previously, even if it has been years," she said. "Twitter is more anonymous and more random. However, a company in North Carolina saw ´video´ in my profile on Twitter and called. We´ve done two videos for them, and they pass our name on to other people.

"I wouldn´t say that social media has been a windfall, but it´s been good. If you don´t try it, you´ll never know if you can get business that way," she pointed out.

Ursula initially used Facebook for personal contacts, and four months ago started a business fan page, which now has 206 fans. She began using Twitter six months ago and has more than 1,200 followers.

"Try to avoid selling to your friends and family unless they becomes fans," she pointed out. "But you´d be amazed at how organically your friends also become fans."

She recommends putting links to Twitter and Facebook at the bottom of your e-mail signature. "It s a nice way to get attention but not shove it down someone´s throat," she noted.

YouHere posts all of its client videos on Facebook, Twitter and video sites such as youtube. This, of course, assumes that the client gives them permission to do, and most clients are happy to have additional exposure.

Engaging the audience
The Certified General Accountants Association of Canada (www.cga-canada.org) has found that Facebook and Twitter are good ways to reach out to the public. They´ve also been a "great resource for developing relationships through networking, conversation and sharing ideas and questions with other-liked minded people, including the media, members, influencers and the general public," said Taylore Ashlie, director of communications.

The association began using Twitter about seven months ago, and Facebook, two months ago. About 700 people read both regularly.

What advice does she have for professional service firms? "Begin by listening to what others are saying and contribute to the conversation. Provide content that is valuable. And most importantly, social media takes time and effort. Don´t assume that if you build it, they will come."

Editor´s note: Definitions and links to sites mentioned in this article follow. Next month we´ll have more on Grasshopper, as well as hints from Tranzeo Wireless Technologies, a Canadian-based company that sells wireless Internet service equipment, and Pacific Steel & Recycling in Great Falls, Mont.)

-- a message posted on Twitter.
Follower -- someone who has signed up to receive messages from a specific Twitter user.
Fan -- someone who has signed up to receive messages from a business on Facebook. On Facebook, people have "friends"; businesses have "fans."

* * *

Click on the links below to find Web sites, Facebook and Twitter accounts mentioned in this article.

Somerset Investors Corp.
Twitter: http://twitter.com/SomersetMtg
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Melville-NY/Somerset-Mortgage-Lenders-Co/49873613385?ref=ts

Certified General Accountants Association of Canada
Twitter: http://twitter.com/cgacanada
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cga

Twitter: http://twitter.com/youherevideo
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/New-York-NY/YouHere-Productions/37514704283?ref=ts

For Part 1 of this series, click here.

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