Monday, July 18, 2011

Participating in Twitter Chats

One of Twitter's amazing secret-sauce ingredients is the ability for an unlimited number of people to participate in "chats" on Twitter. By using a certain #hashtag, users can chat and network based on similar interests.

I realize two ironies as I write this post: (1) First of all, people are flocking to Google+. Yes, you can video chat with 10 people, but there's not the same ability to share information in a Google+ Huddle. (2) Twitter is down as I work on this post. :) Oh Ef.

The best way to find out when live chats are happening on Twitter is to check out the ell-managed Twitter Chat Schedule, hosted on Google Docs and maintained by Future Business.

This list is a powerhorse for networking on Twitter. Anything you can think of you can find a chat for and meet others sharing info on that topic. Some chats pick a subtopic each week. There are currently 462 chats listed!

Here are some of my favorite chats which consistently offer engaging content. You can find them and many more on Twitter Chat Schedule list.

#smcedu    Discussion about Social Media / Higher Education. Hosted by @yongclee on Mondays, 12:30pm EST.

#fem2    Chat for feminists, womanists, and progressives about modern day women's issues. Hosted by  @fem2pt0 @katie_stanton on Sundays, 10-11pm EST.

 #mculturalfam    A biweekly chat for multicultural families, in which we talk about bilingualism, multiracial parenting, interrracial relationships, recipes, and more. Hosted by @mculturalfam on Mondays, 7-8pm EST.

#journchat   Conversation between journalists, bloggers and public relations folks. Hosted by @PRSarahEvans @journchat on Mondays, 8-9 PM EST.

#4change    A monthly discussion of using social media for social change projects/campaigns/work. Currently on hiatus.  Hosted by @tomjd @amyrsward on 2nd Thurs each Month 2-4pm PST, 5-7pm EST.

#bebetter    a chat for entrepreneurs trying to balance their business and the rest of their life. Hosted by @lisajohnson @susangiurleoson on Thursdays, 8:30 PM EST.

#fbbiz    Weekly chat to talk about the effective tactics for marketing on Facebook and all topics relating to business and Facebook. Hosted by @fbbiz on Tuesdays 7-8PM EST.

#CEOKidsChat    We talk about raising entrepreneurs, supporting next gen leaders, best biz practices, parenting strategy. Hosted by @RaisingCEOKids @SarahLCook on Thursdays, 5:30 - 6:30 PM PST.

#VAjot    A social networking night when Virtual Assistants come together as business colleagues/friends to connect, share and discuss our accomplishments the past week. An evening to JOT down everything on our minds, from introducing new members to discussing positive flows within our businesses, we guarantee it will be a fun and informative social night for all to hang with their peers in the VA industry! Hosted by @VAnetworking at 7PM EST 1st and 3rd Wednesdays.

#cmgrchat    A  for Community Managers to discuss tips, advice, common themes and projects.  Discuss  as a tool for the profession. Hosted by @JPedde @kellylux on Wednesdays, 2-3pm EST.

#MomBlogBiz    Chat for "mom bloggers" (and others) to discuss taking their blog into the business area    @RobynsWorld on Thursdays 9-10pm CT.

#SmallBizChat    Helpful tips and advice geared toward small business startups and those that have been in business for less than five years. We host a different guest & questions each week. Hosted by @smallbizchat @smallbizlady @CathyWebSavvyPR on Wednedays  8-9pm EST.

#smmchat    A discussion tailored to Social Media Managers who use social media on behalf of a brand/company/corporation or business. We narrow-in on corporate SM topics. Hosted by @jen_mccoy on Thursdays (Every other week).

#smNPchat    Weekly chat sharing marketing and fundraising resources for the 1-person nonprofit development shop.  Hosted by  @pamelagrow on Fridays 12-1pm EST.

Enjoy! Don't forget to follow me, I'm @PowerfulHER.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lessons Learned At #Blogwell

I attended #Blogwell as a live blogger! Read my posts:
InterContinental Hotels Group: Inside Out: How Private Communities Catalyzed Our Social Media Efforts and Intel: Listening, Learning, and Changing.

Things I learned at #Blogwell:

1. Start somewhere. Marketing execs at Kaiser, Chevron, IHG and Intel all shared that they picked one platform and did it well. Chevron chose LinkedIn and excelled in connecting with energy industry people. Kaiser responded well to negative compalints on Twitter. IHG started private online communities to get deep feedback. Intel collapsed 250 Facebook pages into one in order to have control of their FB presence. Each company began listening to their customers and responding through a platform that worked for them.

2. Even the huge companies don't have giant social media marketing teams, rather they grow as they find they have need. These big companies use trial and error too. Social media is changing and growing so fast that the even marketing pros are setting goals and seeing how it goes.

3. Big brands have found a hard truth: integrity matters. I was surprised how often phrases like "integrity" came up at a marketing conference. Speakers openly admitted the temptation of cooking reviews or offering promotion programs without proper disclosure. I can see the lure: a fake buzz can be measured by numbers (albeit very shallow numbers). But the point was driven home: be honest because it actually works, which leads to point 6:

6. Find better ways to measure engagement, such as benefit to customer or company, or feedback channels. Numbers don't always tell a lasting story and it's important to stay on to of what's out there about your brand. Speakers spoke about actually reading through posts or tweets, even laboriously. Execs at Intel were reading 200 blog posts per hour to understand what was being said about a product recall. Kaiser discouraged only monitoring by keywords by showing an example of two tweets with keyword fails. They were something like:

Been waiting at Kaiser for an hour. Awesome.
They are so quick at taking blood at Kaiser they could be blood burglers.

Only a human reader could understand the sarcastic "awesome" in the first tweet and the positive remark about "burglers" in the second. :) Marketers must read to understand!

4. All these companies proved one thing: make your job easier by enlisting the customers. You already know they are social and talking about your brand, but given opportunity, your customers will be more than willing to give feedback, content and pictures. IHG got rid of generic stock photos and collected customers' own pictures instead. Customers were excited to share. That's what community is all about, right?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Does Virtual Work Save Businesses Tons Of Money?

Hiring someone to work for you remotely can be scary at first, but fears can be eased once you understand the value your consultant or virtual assistant (VA) brings.

Bloomberg Businessweek found the number of self-employed who work exclusively from home increased from 3.47 million in 1999 to 4.34 million in 2005 (from the latest U.S. Census data available). More folks than ever are working from their home offices and that means more businesses are hiring these workers for jobs that used to be based on-site.

My curiosity on this topic peaked when I read this tweet:

 Irene Koehler 

Irene was questioning this chart, found on VAnetworking- a community of 10,000+ people who work online:

Virtual Assistant
Hourly Rate of Pay
Fringe Benefits @ 35%
(Health/Dental/Life Insurance, Retirement Plans)
Overhead Rate @ 50%
(Office Space, Equipment & Office Supply expense, UI Insurance, Worker's Compensation, Overtime Pay, Administration Costs)
Total Effective Rate of Pay
**Hours Per Year
2,080 hrs.
480 hrs.
TOTAL Annual Labour Cost


Is it too good to be true? Can you really save $60,000 by hiring a virtual worker?

My thought: While it's hard to put a value on good work, at some point numbers must be a metric to evaluate value. The chart points to the value of not paying virtual workers benefits or overhead, but the more important value isn't in the cash difference-- it's in the hours. Anyone can get more work done for less money, but getting more work done in less time is valuable.

"No more paying for socializing, hour long lunches or frequent trips to the washroom. Your employee's 8 hour day can be crunched into 3-4 hours with a Virtual Assistant," the VAnetworking article goes on to say.

Virtual workers are held to a strict standard of completing tasks. Once a solid contract is composed, the business can know if the virtual worker is meeting expectations. Virtual workers should have detailed assignments and noted deadlines so they can know what is expected and just do it, thereby saving money and time.

Many virtual workers are skilled in the work they offer and enjoy it, equaling fewer disgruntled workers. Virtual workers also enjoy their flexible hours and home offices, so they are happier and more productive.
My answer is yes, I think virtual workers can save businesses tons of money, but more importantly, they get your work done in a quick, professional and happy way.