Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Will A Klout Score Damage Your Business Brand?

With news that Klout launched scores for businesses, how will that impact your brand?

Will it decrease engagement? Will people think that there is no longer a reason to promote a brand to friends and family if a business has a high Klout score?

Will people trust the Klout business scores? Consider all the things in the news recently about Yelp, and how positive reviews for businesses mysteriously disappear.

Will a high Klout score actually damage a business because it will dissuade fans from becoming enthusiastic brand advocates? Could this result in a loss of fans? Could a Klout score also result in a decrease in a brand's engagement across all social channels?

According to the company's announcement, "Klout for Business will continue to develop into a portal where we intend to help brands and agencies streamline their understanding, management, and engagement with this important segment of the digital population," explained Matthew Thomson, Klout VP of Business Development, "Our goal is to help brands and influencers build relationships that transcend the current advertiser-consumer dynamic."

I don't know about you, but that doesn't address any of my questions about Klout business scores.

Back in October of last year, Klout integrated Facebook into Klout scores. According to a press release at the time, "Klout integrated Facebook pages into its Klout score calculations, which should result in higher scores for page users." But consider this, if higher scores are the result by linking social profiles, then the score is just a combination of connections among all linked profiles - and that is not an accurate reflection of actual klout. How many conversations are ongoing? How many retweets are shared? How many other variables are not considered that should be?

With all of these unanswered questions, it makes one wonder how long the strategy sessions lasted at Klout before launching scores for businesses.

So, here's the question of the hour: will you promote your Klout business score? Please chime in.

Monday, March 18, 2013

How to Build Your Brand on Twitter

Source: Twitter.

If you are one of the millions of who watched last month’s Super Bowl, then odds are you remember that the lights went out before the third quarter started. But if you also use Twitter either for personal communication or business marketing, then you know that Oreo was the real winner on Super Bowl Sunday.

The reason is simple: Twitter provides the opportunity to comment and respond in real time based on whatever is happening. The ability to tailor comments, target audiences, and engage with customers or prospective customers is an incredible advantage over static advertising, television broadcasts, and taped events.

As a midsize business, Twitter can be an effective marketing tool. While the lights were out in New Orleans, the Oreo team got busy in a conference room. They designed an image and carefully chose the short message, or in Twitter lingo, the tweet: “Power out? No problem.” The image’s message was, “You can still dunk in the dark.”

So, are you still on the fence about Twitter? Yes, you need to decide how Twitter fits into your overall marketing and social media strategy. Yes, you need to create a Twitter plan. And yes, you need to allocate resources to maintain the Twitter account. But once that is all said and done, there is no doubt that Twitter can help to build your brand. Here are five tips:

[1] Understand your brand promise, your competitive advantage, your unique selling proposition. Now, keep this in mind with every tweet. Naturally, every tweet cannot be a sales pitch – then you’d probably not have any followers. But, remember the value that you provide to your audience so that you create interest and engagement. Also, respond in real time whenever possible, so that problems can be solved. If problems are solved, your customers will become brand advocates for you via all social platforms.

[2] Think of your audience before your tweet. Will articles, photos, or quotes be best? What will your audience value? But remember, Twitter is a hodgepodge of conversations, so many things might constitute your strategy.

[3] Create a hashtag that is unique for your brand or company – this will be a great way to monitor every time your brand is mentioned and talked about.

[4] Create and host a branded tweetchat (same time and day every week) to discuss new product launches, interview company experts, or interview industry experts, etc. This is an excellent way to get your brand heard and talked about – and to participate in the talk.

[5] Follow others in your industry – this may include industry leaders, industry spokespeople, and even your competitors. But the reality is, you cannot hide under a rock and work in secret. Everyone sees everything thanks to social media.

The most obvious Twitter branding tips are to use your company name or most famous brand as your Twitter handle and your logo as your Twitter avatar. As with all corporate collateral, websites, promotional give-aways, etc., you want your company name, logo, and tagline to appear in social media.

And last but not least, above all, BE CONSISTENT. Speak in a unifying voice for all tweets. Know who from your team will be your company’s Twitter voice, and make sure that the individual or individuals have set time responsibilities as well as some standard replies for specific issues. And a timeless reminder, your tweets should always be friendly and welcoming.

To see some funny Twitter comments during Super Bowl 47, check out my post:

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Importance of Mentorships

If you run a business of one, you must be the rainmaker, the finance department, the personnel department, the technology department, the chief marketer, the electrician, the coffee guy, and the copy guy. If you work in a large business, you tend to be a number and can get lost in the shuffle. But if you work in a midsize business, you have the time to be a mentor and the ability to make a genuine difference in someone else’s professional life.

In the words of John Crosby: “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”

If you think back through your years of business experience, between all the completed projects, countless meetings, highs, and lows, you have to admit that there is something about your business that you enjoy. There is some aspect of business for which you are considered an expert. This is why your employees respect you and are advocates for your brand. So, consider the value that a newbie, someone just starting out in business, would place on some in-depth conversations with you over coffee.

As a mentor, you could meet for 30-minutes every couple of weeks or an hour a month. Your mentee (the person who is being mentored) would create an agenda, a list of questions, and key objectives for the mentorship. You would be the sounding board, the idea man (or woman), and a voice of reason with a dose or two of reality. You would share your experiences, what went wrong, and what went right as you built your business, expanded, co-branded, acquired other businesses, sold businesses, etc. You would listen to questions and give advice about how to anticipate and navigate demographic and market shifts. Your insights would help the mentee become a better planner, and in the process, create a more stable business.

Imagine if you had a mentor in your early days. If you run a technology company, what would you have asked Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), or Ginni Rometty (IBM) if any of them had been your mentors? If you run a household goods and d├ęcor company, what would you have asked Martha Stewart? And if you run a furniture company, what would you have asked Ingvar Kamprad (IKEA)? Sure, these are all big names from industry leading companies, but the reality is, all leaders have much to contribute to start-ups. The truth is, sometimes, what we consider simple tasks (for example, writing job descriptions, writing marketing plans, analyzing revenue spreadsheets, and creating sales forecasts) can be huge stumbling blocks for new business owners.

I met Eric Jacobson several years ago when we served as committee members for an international mentoring group. Eric has more than a quarter-century of experience in successfully leading employees and teams through times of revenue growth, new product development, change, integration, and re-engineering. His passion is helping individuals to become effective leaders at work, within organizations, and wherever they are called upon to lead and inspire. Eric shares his insights on management and leadership on his blog at Without knowing it, Eric serves as a mentor to all who work with him.

When I asked Eric to explain the value of mentoring in a nutshell, he said, “Mentoring can be very rewarding for the mentor. Each time I’ve mentored someone, I’ve learned something from my mentee. Often, it’s learning about a business that I didn’t know much about previously. Sometimes, it’s from hearing the questions the mentee asks that provide me with ideas about how to be clearer in my sharing of information for future mentoring experiences. Mentoring has also made me a stronger leader by teaching me how to be even more receptive for the next times I find myself in a mentee role.”

So, are you ready to become a mentor? If you need help in finding people to mentor, the first step is to look outside your door. Many of your employees want mentors. But don’t stop there. Check out local chambers of commerce and online business groups. You’ll be glad you paid it forward – and you never know, you just might discover the next Mark Zuckerberg.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Effective Leadership + Engaged Employees = Brand Advocates

I’d like to welcome Michelle Braden to my blog. Some may know Michelle as the President/Emerging and Executive Leadership Coach of MSBCoach in Charlottesville, Virginia. Michelle has served in leadership positions for large corporations and non-profits, has written leadership training manuals, and advocates for leadership development. Recently, Michelle and I had a discussion about the importance and alignment of effective leadership, employee engagement, and brand advocates. Below is our collaborative post. We invite your feedback.

What happens when what a leader says and what he or she practices are two different things?  The truth is, several variables and unintended consequences come in to play when a leader’s words and actions do not line up. The ultimate consequence is lost trust. Yet, a large majority of employees are disengaged (72%), and much of this “disengagement” is a direct result of poor leadership.

Most leaders think (and would bet their reputations on this belief) that they are good leaders. In fact, few, if any, leaders will admit, “I am not a good leader and need help.” So where is the disconnect? The latest Employee Engagement Survey* performed by The Gallup Organization revealed that only 28% of employees are “engaged” employees. This leaves a whopping 72% of employees who are disengaged. 

So, you might wonder, what does an engaged employee look like? According to Wikipedia, an “engaged employee” is one who is fully involved in, and enthusiastic about, his or her work and will act in a way that furthers an organization’s interests. According to a Dale Carnegie Training** white paper, engaged employees are motivated by three drivers: relationship with the immediate supervisor, senior leadership’s ability to lead the company and communicate its goals, and organizational pride (the vision of organization and corporate social responsibility).

After 25 years of research, over 80,000 in-depth interviews with over 400 companies globally, Gallup revealed 12 elements that must be present for employees to be engaged. They include:

[1] Do you know what is expected of you at work?
[2] Do you have the materials and equipment to do your work right?
[3] At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
[4] In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
[5] Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
[6] Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
[7] At work, do your opinions seem to count?
[8] Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?
[9] Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?
[10] Do you have a best friend at work?
[11] In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
[12] In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?

When a leader first reviews this list, he or she may say, “We do this” or “I provide these variables for my team.” But, the research mentioned earlier reveals the contrary. Latest numbers are as follows: Engaged employees – 28%; Not-engaged employees – 54%, and Actively Disengaged – 17%. To put it bluntly, 71% of the workforce is either underperforming or actively undermining their work.

Bottom line, it is the responsibility of all leaders to create a culture for employee engagement. Leaders must move from theory to practice – and practice what they preach. We have the research that tells us exactly what our people need, we also have the research to show the consequences if we do not provide the tools for our employees to do their jobs. But above all, we have a responsibility as leaders to behave in a way that we set admirable examples for younger employees who will step into leadership roles in the not-too-distant future.

Take another look at today’s workplace. As a result of social media, instant communication has taken the front seat for many marketing initiatives. This means that every employee has the potential to represent your company’s or non-profit’s brand. Therefore, as a leader, you must ask yourself, “Do the employees have enough information to explain our competitive advantage? Can they articulate the brand promise in one or two sentences? Do they know who handles customer service complaints or press inquiries, etc.?” If the answers to these questions are no, then ask yourself this important question: How can my employees be enthusiastic brand advocates?

That final question may be rhetorical, but hopefully, it will make you think and force you to act. Create a culture where innovation is promoted and recognized, where questions are answered, where good work is rewarded, where leadership is transparent. Engaged employees will emerge. And then, the best result of all, dedicated employees will become enthusiastic brand advocates who live the brand on a daily basis – without any urging from the leadership team.

Has this happened at your company? Please share your success story.

*Read the Gallup Employee Engagement Index.

**Download the What Drives Employee Engagement and Why It Matters report.

Connect with Michelle Braden on Twitter ( and Facebook (