Thursday, July 31, 2014

9 Ways to Build Relationships on Social Media


Courtesy of Tight Mix Blog

What is the value of your likes, follows, and friends on social networks? Is more necessarily merrier?

Thanks to a recent episode on Michael Stelzner's Social Media Marketing podcast, I was intrigued with the notion of generating a Return On Relationship from Ted Rubin, an experienced social media marketing expert.

Relationships is the new social currency. Nobody buys from somebody they don't like. Often, decisions are made from the heart rather than the head.  

In a world flooded with billions of blog posts, Facebook fan pages, LinkedIn profiles, and Twitter accounts, the best way for us to differentiate ourselves is to build strong, authentic relationships with our communities.

There were many great ideas being shared by Ted and I strongly encourage you to listen to the podcast for yourself. The key takeaways I got from the podcast were as follows:

1) It is isn't the sheer numbers of fans or followers which count. Rather, it is the degree of engagement which your fans have with you that count. To up the fan-love, dedicate time and effort to building relationships with your listeners, followers and fans.

2) Being reactive and responsive is a vital first step in sustaining social relationships. When fans leave a comment or posts on your Facebook Timeline, do spend some time responding. Similarly, if a Twitter follower tweets about a topic related to your business, it pays to respond to them directly if possible. You cannot afford to ignore them and hope that they would come back to you.

3) Beyond being reactive, you also need to be proactive when you cultivate online relationships. This means that you need to get out of your Internet ivory towers and visit the Facebook profiles, LinkedIn profiles, and Twitter accounts of your fans/followers. Find out where they come from, what they're interested in, what they do at work, what groups they join, and what their family situations are.

4) Once you know who your fans are, consider personalising your interactions with them. This may include visiting their Facebook profile pages, Twitter accounts, and blogs to leave a message, or responding to their comments in a directly relevant way. For example, if you know that they are a teacher, you could say something about how your kid enjoys school so much because he has great teachers.

5) Go ahead, reveal some personal details about yourself. Share a little about your family life (Ted was upfront in revealing that he was a divorced father of a daughter), what your hobbies are, as well as the country or city where you live. Naturally, you need to fore-go some privacy, but the returns are likely to be worth the disclosure. Here I suppose some common-sense may be useful. For example, I'd avoid mentioning my home address or reveal the license plate of my car.

6) If you frequently speak at conferences, spend time to network with other speakers. While this may mean foregoing attending some of the sessions, it could be rewarding in terms of the relationships strengthened and gained. In any case, you probably already know most of the theoretical stuff anyway!

7) In the words of the legendary Dale Carnegie in his classic book How to Win Friends & Influence People,  a "person's name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language." Learn this age-old secret and address your fans by name if possible.

8) Get your brand advocates into the act. In fact, according to Ted, the best advocates you can have for your business are your employees. While this may not be possible in all organisations, you should endeavour to get as many of them to be your relationship marketers as possible. I believe the same principles then apply - showing an interest in your staff, encouraging them to express themselves, and connecting with them on a more personal level.

9) Finally, the best way to build relationships is to organise face to face gatherings. Nothing beats seeing your fans in real life (IRL) and to "press the flesh" with a handshake. If you've revealed enough about yourself and done sufficient homework on your fans, you would have lots of stuff to talk about despite meeting each other for the first time.

Beyond the above, what else can we do to strengthen the quality of our engagements with fans, followers and friends on social networks? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Six Qualities of Successful Bloggers


Have you voted for your favourite blogger yet? (from Singapore Blog Awards 2014)

Yes, it is time yet again for the Singapore Blog Awards. Organised by Omy.sg, this annual competition cum celebration of what's new, hot and happening in the blogging scene is in its 7th year running, with over $30,000 worth of prizes to be won.

This year's awards has a total of nine Editors'/Judges' Choice categories and three new Followers categories. Other than the old favourites like Best Family blog, Best Food blog, and Best Photography blog, a Best New Blog award category has been created to acknowledge newbie bloggers who started their blogs in the past year.

Once again, I'm honoured to be a judge for the awards. I'm glad to see that there is still enthusiasm in this digital art form and heartened to note how the awards has expanded its categories to include other social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.

While I would hardly consider myself a blogging "expert", I have noticed a couple of traits unique to successful bloggers after many years of judging the awards. See if you can emulate some of these qualities and who knows, you may be the next blog awards winner!

1) They are Obsessive-Compulsive

Good bloggers do not merely produce stuff like a production line. Rather, they are obsessive-compulsive, making it a point to consistently produce quality content. This may mean skilfully maneuvering themselves to capture the best photos, grab good soundbites, or record snazzy videos during events.

Successful bloggers are also meticulous to a fault. They fuss and fret over headlines that "hit you in the gut", select, crop and adjust their photographs ad nauseum, and spend hours polishing every word, phrase and sentence till near perfection.

2) They are Weird and Quirky

OK, maybe not that weird, but certainly quirky. After all, which ordinary human would automatically whip out his smartphone to snap his breakfast/lunch/dinner, spend his weekends writing on a keyboard, or sacrifice sleep to complete a blog post?

Beyond such "irrational" behaviours, good bloggers are also known for their unusual monikers. They exhibit extreme interest in a specific subject matter (food, fashion, sports, business or gossip), and a peculiar propensity to document every damn thing (and then some) during an event.

3) They are Gritty and Determined 

Blogging isn't easy. Not least when you have to balance a full-time job, parenting duties, or schoolwork. Unless you are Xiaxue, Lady Iron Chef or mrbrown, chances are that full-time blogging, YouTubing or podcasting ain't going to be a viable full time option for you (even then, these social media luminaries do sweat buckets to be where they are today).

Producing quality content requires lots of grit and resilience. In other words, gallons of blood, sweat and tears. While attending those glitzy parties look fun, those droolsome blog posts do require quite a bit of effort. Often those digital works of art are crafted when everyone else is either fast asleep or partying like crazy.

4) They value Relationships

Most successful bloggers are influencers with their own networks of supporters. They know that a blog, YouTube channel, Facebook page, or Twitter account is only as impactful as the community of readers, fans, and followers supporting it. 

While the "guru" class of bloggers may no longer need to work the street, many social content producers make it a point to attend events and functions in order to network with like-minded others. They also participate in get togethers and find ways to activate their fans. By doing so, they are able to expand their circles of influence beyond their immediate friends, family members and neighbours.

5) They Teach and Share

Trust, respect and likability are the social currencies of the digital age. To build goodwill, successful bloggers are often generous with their knowledge, time and effort. In a world flooded with competing channels and content, people are only going to follow you if you provide utility and value.

Beyond creating and sharing useful content, successful bloggers appreciate the power of reciprocity. They know that growing one's community requires one to participate and contribute in other communities. By doing so, they strengthen the magic circles which they are a part of.

6) They Learn and Experiment

Finally, successful bloggers are insatiably curious about the world around them. They keep themselves updated with what's new and hot in their respective domains. This means that they either read up on it, meet others, sign up for courses, or attend events to keep abreast of the latest developments in their field.

Beyond continual learning, successful bloggers also make it a point to constantly hone and improve their craft. Standing still is not an option. Every post, video, photo or tweet is an opportunity to find out and test what works and what doesn't. In the long run, blogging success isn't just a destination but a life long journey.

What else can we learn from successful bloggers?

PS - If you haven't already voted for your favourite blogs, do hurry! Entries close on 31 July so you only have a few more days to do so!   

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Crowdtivate Unveils 12 Asia-based Projects for Crowdfunding



Do you wanna fund a start-up?

If so, good news! StarHub's Crowdtivate - an Asian-focused crowdfunding platform launched in April this year - now has 12 Asia-based projects available for support. As a rewards-based platform, Crowdtivate mandates that listed projects should provide different levels of rewards for funders of differing quantums, with a minimum sum of S$5. Often, funders will enjoy a special "early bird" price for a new product as its backers.

Spanning the three categories of creative works, digital technology and assistive technology, 5 of the projects are world-firsts. They are a mechanical smartwatch hybrid, a standalone device that works with air conditioners to save energy and ensure comfort, an electricity-free bamboo speaker for mobile phones, a mobile app that allows mobile users to use the main camera of their phones for selfies (SaySelfie), and a device which "hijacks" a vehicle driver's FM radio to alert driver that a cyclist/jogger is nearby (Radio Bike Lane).

Three other projects are firsts in Asia. They include a wearable fashionable device that sends out emergency signals with the push of a button, and a smartphone input app for stroke survivors.

Sharing at the launch, StarHub i3 (Innovation, Investment, Incubation) Head Stephen Lee shared that they have received some 400 proposals since the platform's launch in April. Over a three-month period, the StarHub team together with their partners to seive through the projects, curate them and assist participating entrepreneurs in their marketing and promotional campaigns.

To further expand their reach in the Asian market, StarHub inked a deal with Indosat - one of Indonesia's largest telecommunications services provider. Through this partnership, both telcos hope to grow and support the fledgling ecosystem of crowdfunded enterprises in the area of marketing, mentoring and funding.

Let us shine the spotlight on some of the more interesting projects.

WaryBee

Designed to increase the security of your loved ones, WaryBee allows you to call for help at the push of a button. Once activated, the device sends an SMS to your loved ones which provides information such as your location as well as a number to call. This device is available in various colours (see below) and can be embedded into jewellery to make it fashionable and indistinguishable to a potential "attacker".






Targeted amount to be raised: S$50,000.

Ambi Climate

Considered the "star" of the crowdfunded projects, Ambi Climate by Hong Kong based entrepreneur Julia Lee is touted to be world's first standalone device which pairs with a home air conditioner unit to deliver predictive and personalised comfort to occupants. Apparently, this helps to save between 10% to 30% of energy!

You can see how the device looks like below.



Working with any indoor air conditioner so long as they have an infra-red controlled remote controller, the device helps to adjust the indoor temperature in a graduated manner (like an intelligent thermostat). It also has the ability to monitor ambient room temperature and modify the air flow and temperature accordingly. 



Targeted amount to be raised: S$50,000.

Kairos Watches

Another world's first, Kairos Watches is a mechanical smart watch hybrid. It combines a traditional mechanical watch (complete with "hands" and chronometers) with the smart technologies available in mobile computing. While the technology behind smart watches which are linked to your smartphones isn't particularly new, the novelty in this gadget is probably its "coolness" factor as you can see below. 



Targeted amount to be raised: S$20,000.

iBam 2 Singapore Edition

My personal favourite, the iBam is yet another world's first. Inspired by the kampongs (villages) in Indonesia and its traditional musical instrument the angklung, the iBam 2 combines ethics, aesthetics and natural engineering. Designed by Muhammed Ibnur Rashad of the Ground Up Initiative, this compact electricity-free bamboo speaker works with any mobile phone.

In the photo below, you can see a slide on how the iBam 2 helps to support disadvantaged families (like single mothers) and village communities in Indonesia.  



A second photo with Ibnur Rashad showing how a mobile phone can sit snugly in the iBam 2 speaker. Having heard the speaker in action, I must say that it was pretty impressive. I am certainly going to place my dollar in this - especially since it is waterproof and battery-free!



Targeted amount to be raised: to be determined.

Ruby Chen's Album "Life's Precious"

Finally, the lead vocalist of local group Singapore Char Siew Bao Ruby Chen seeks to raise enough funds for her first Mandarin album. Semi-finalist in local talent competition "One Moment of Glory", Singapore Char Siew Bao performs regularly at venues like Hood Bar and Cafe, Jewelbox, Fivebar and Da Paolo. You can check out their music from their YouTube channel here.




Targeted amount to be raised: S$15,000.

How To Support These Projects

To support these (and other) projects from Crowdtivate, do sign up for a free account or log in with your Facebook or Linkedin user ID and password to browse projects. Contributions are made through PayPal or major credit cards.

To date, over $11,000 has been raised from about 135 funders for 8 of the projects. With between 28 to 58 days left to the end of the campaign periods for the first batch projects, I am sure that these entrepreneurs will do their utmost to raise the estimated S$400,000 or so needed for their projects.

Depending on the response from backers, Crowdtivate may provide additional support in terms of business incubation, access to test users, marketing support, infrastructure support and other areas of development.

For more information, do check out Crowdtivate today!