Using Twitter to Drive Value to Your Business

Driving value into a business is what every business owner and/or leader needs to accomplish. Using Twitter, along with a common-sense marketing plan, can drive value to any business. Twitter is currently being used effectively by various sizes and types of businesses to connect with customers, build brand, advertise and increase sales – and you can too.

As with any type of marketing or communications (marComm), using Twitter should be done with planning and rigor. However, it can still be fun, creative and impulsive. Using the following elements in this simple equation will provide a solid foundation and set you free to tweet.

(Plan + Content) + Brand x Consistency (Followers x RT2) = Value

I’m not a math major, so the equation might not make perfect sense. However, let’s focus on the elements which make the equation work. This article will help you understand the basics of each element and how they drive value into your business.

Plan:  As part of your marComm plan, develop a high-level plan that drives goals and provides a strategy for communicating with Twitter. Simply state a goal to gain 500 Twitter followers and convert  5% of them monthly is a good start.

You will also need to develop a tactical plan of weekly and daily Twitter activity of when you will communicate and when you will market to your followers. Tools like HootSuite can help schedule tweets so you can keep working!

Content: Any marComm plan is only as strong as the content that you deliver.  Not everyone can film, edit and soundtrack a video that rivals professionally produced media, but you can still produce quality content that is in line with your followers’ expectations.

Good content can be as simple as your opinions and thoughts (based on your plan) or as complex as multiple media streams (photo, video, animation, illustration). Following industry thought leaders and reTweeting (RT) their comments, as well as your replies, is another good way to provide valuable content to your followers.

Brand: Brand is simply a relationship that is based on a set of expectations that drive a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over others with similar features and benefits. So, like any other relationship you have via social media, your Twitter followers should easily get an idea of ‘Who you are’ and ‘What you do’ so they can begin to understand ‘What you can do together’ and ultimately, make a purchasing decision.

Businesses that do not establish and reinforce their brand in marketing and communications, usually struggle to keep long-term followers. Establishing a strong brand is essential to drive value to your business.

Consistency: Before stepping too far out into the social world, you need a consistent voice and brand personality. The best way to develop your voice is to practice tweeting in smaller social venues (church, alumni group, friends, etc) not associated with your industry.

Driving consistency doesn’t mean all your content is similar, but rather it feels like it is coming from the same entity (person, business, organization, etc). Without consistency, your followers may feel as though they are developing a relationship with someone who has multiple personalities.

Followers: Quality trumps the quantity of followers every time. In Twitter, find people who post frequently in your industry, then follow and re-tweet (RT) their content if it fits inside your content strategy. Then, build a relationship with these ‘thought leaders’ and drive value back to them.

You can also use Twitter’s search function to find people and businesses in your industry. When they show up multiple times, follow them. To keep a high-functioning list, block and remove all spammers and content that is not ‘on your brand’.

Value: Follow your plan and deliver good content. Stay on brand and be consistent. Follow the right people and build your list. Including these elements will drive value to your business and leave more time for focusing on your real job.

Richard Whitney,
IUPUC Student

Works Cited

“How to Use twitter for Business” by Jill Duffy  |  PCMag.com  |  April 16, 2013
(http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2417647,00.asp)

“How to Use twitter for Business and Marketing” by Charlene Kingston  |  socialmediaexaminer.com  |  April 10, 2013
(http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-use-twitter-for-business-and-marketing/)

“10 Reasons Why Your Business Should Use Twitter” by Aaron Lee  |  askaaronlee.com  |  2013
(http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2417647,00.asp

What Do Your Walls Say About You?

Stop what you’re doing right now and look.  Look at the walls in your office if you have one.  Scan the top of your desk, your file cabinets, side tables, computer stations, ect.

If this person were an attorney, would you trust him with your case?

Look with fresh eyes as if it were someone else’s office.

What do you see?  Controlled chaos?

What does it say about you?  Neat? Disorganized?  Unproductive?  A potential fire hazard in the making?

Business professionals should be use to thinking about their appearance by now.  Every wise manager knows that, on the job, you dress for the position you want, not the one you have.  But how often do those same people think about what message their surroundings are saying to others?

Your work environment maybe be your happy place on the job, but the message it sends to others should be consistent with the one you’re trying to send through your appearance, your skills, your conversations, etc.

Impressive!

Do they clash?  Or do they support each other?

In today’s competitive market, don’t overlook this crucial piece of the puzzle. When it comes to your workspace, consider these items:

–         Does your workspace convey efficiency and organization?  Or are your walls lost opportunities to sell yourself instead?

–         Is your college degree (should you have one or more) prominently displayed on the walls?  If not, get it up there.  If you don’t have walls or can’t hang personal items, invest in a small table-top easel and place it on a filing cabinet or side table.

–         Do you have any awards, merits or other honors that are frame worthy and display friendly?  If so, put them out there too, but avoid clutter.  The idea is, if you have professional designations to brag about, do so in a tasteful manner.

Now that’s more like it!

–         Is your desktop some place where pieces of paper go to die?  If so, now is the time to get organized.  Raid the supply cabinet for hanging file folders, develop a system, then use it.

–         But don’t wipe the slate completely clean!  A wide open expanse of clean desk top may be nirvana to neat freaks but to others it may say this person doesn’t have enough to do. 

The point is, bring order to the chaos, promote your accomplishments and send a message that you’re organized and dependable.  If it looks and sounds like you know what you’re doing, people usually will believe you.

– Robin Fritz, Adjunct Lecturer, Division of Business, Indiana University – Columbus

Maintain the Message

Properly communicating the company message is the responsibility of everyone within an organization, from the receptionist on up to the CEO.  But how do you ensure that the person answering the phones is speaking the party line?

To guarantee a consistent message tape answers to frequently asked – and crucial questions – near the main phone bank.  But don’t post and forget it!  Check it on a monthly basis and update as necessary.  In challenging economies, information often grows stale quicker than you can say audit.

Also, provide updated facts and figures on a regular basis.  Communicate any noteworthy information to the receptionist and his/her backup ASAP – sometimes their need to know is actually more immediate than middle managers who aren’t necessarily speaking with the public and customers on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

Additionally, an intranet is a great tool for spreading the word to everyone while maintaining a consistent message.  For it to work and be effective, however, someone needs to commit to keeping it updated on a regular basis.  Also, the information needs to be pertinent, otherwise employees will soon recognize it as a waste of time and will readily drop it out of their information line up.

Last but not least, don’t forget those all important water cooler conversations.  Monitor the company grapevine and if the message you hear is NOT consistent with the message you want, it may be time to make a more concerted effort to communicate with employees.  Remember, if YOU don’t provide the information, someone else will.

– Robin Fritz, Adjunct Lecturer, Division of Business, Indiana University-Columbus

As Grammar Goes, Verbs are the Spice of Life

Inexperienced writers often suck the very life out of their prose by taking energetic verbs and turning them into dull, lifeless nouns.  Consider the following:

Example:    Today’s stock price elicited a disappointed reaction among the shareholders.

Revision:    Today’s stock price disappointed the shareholders.

 Example:    It is our expectation that we will see productivity improvement when the new computer system comes online.

Revision:     We expect more productivity when the new computer system comes on line.

 When revising a business report, press release, employee newsletter or company-wide email, be sure to look specifically for those weak noun structures and replace them with vigorous, active verbs.  Not only will you gain clarity in the process, but your writing will be leaner too.

– Robin Fritz,  Adjunct Lecturer, Indiana University-Columbus

What Makes a Successful Website?

How many of us have visited a “bad” website? What separates a “bad” website from a successful one? Since we are a technology-driven culture, we rely on websites for various reasons, including shopping, news and entertainment. Some of the characteristics that can define a site as “bad” or “good” are usability, credibility and attractiveness.

The usability of a site greatly influences its success. The website should have easy-to-use menus that are organized logically. When visiting a site, we usually have a predefined purpose in mind. We expect to be able to find what we are looking for quickly and easily.

A site’s credibility should be considered as well. We should look to make sure the information given within the site is up-to-date, and any sources cited are reliable and well-reputed. An easy way to check for the site’s credibility is to verify its security. If the website is asking for personal information, at the top of the page in the address bar the website address should be preceded by “https” instead of “http” if it is secure. In addition, the most secure websites will have a padlock image in the address bar and “https” will be displayed in green font. An example of a secure site would be Amazon (while signed in to your account).

Perhaps the most easily identifiable trait is the attractiveness of the site. The font of the site should be easy to read and consistent throughout. Two categories of fonts are serif fonts and sans serif fonts. Serif fonts have strokes at the end of the letters. Examples of serif fonts include Times New Roman and Garamond. Sans serif fonts are clean characters without strokes. Examples of sans serif fonts are Arial and Verdana. The color of the font greatly affects its readability. For example, a bright or flashy font will be more difficult to read than a black or solid-colored font. Any graphics used within the site should be relevant to the material. Graphics should not distract the reader from the written material. If too many graphics are on one site, the images may take longer to download, decreasing the usability of the site. Finally, the layout of the site should be well-organized, logical and clean. The material should be organized in such a way to draw the eye to the most important parts of the site.

To illustrate the points I made above, I have chosen two websites, one of which I think is successful and the other one I would call “bad”. The links are:

http://www.joust.co/

http://yvettesbridalformal.com/
You can compare and contrast the two websites according to usability and attractiveness. Notice the clean and easy-to-read font of joust.co.  The user can easily find the information he is looking for in the site’s menu. Yvette’s page does not use consistent font sizes or colors, making the text difficult to read. Graphics are used that are not relevant to Yvette’s bridal/formal theme.

In conclusion, a business’ website could either bolster its reputation or weaken potential customers’ perceptions. Careful thought, planning and a bit of creativity can go a long way in building a website. Usability, credibility and attractiveness are just three main points to keep in mind while developing a successful site.

By Kimberly Riche, Business/Marketing major, IUPUC

Communication Breakdown

COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWNS

 Lost Money

Communication breakdowns in the business world can be very costly. Many companies focus on increasing profit and decreasing their costs. What most companies don’t realize is how much of these costs come from communication problems between managers and employees or the business and customers. Millions of dollars are lost every day due to poor communication. United States hospitals alone lose more than $12 billion a year due to poor communication. The worst part is most managers realize that there are problems with communication but don’t realize how big of a role that they play in the miscommunication themselves. These communication breakdowns can be due to several reasons including:

  • Different generations not understanding each other
  • Long meetings where the employees fade in and out of conversations and only pick up bits and pieces
  • Poor documentation
  • Or simply misunderstanding a person’s meaning

Lost Employees

Money is not the only thing that is lost due to these communication breakdowns. Around 80% of all complaints by employees are due to some form of communication misunderstanding. Poor corporate communication can cost a business its best employees. Replacing key talent can cost anywhere between 70 to 200 percent of that individual’s annual salary. If this is a common thing in a business then they are going to waste a lot of money.

A good example of a breakdown between a boss and one of his employees is going on right now. Earlier this week Peyton Manning stated that he felt the current situation wasn’t “healthy for his healing” and stated everyone is “walking on eggshells.” Him saying this upset Jim Irsay who responded by calling Manning a “Politician.” This is an example of how wording one thing wrong can lead to much bigger problems. Originally all Manning was trying to express were his concerns about continuing to play for the Colts and how he was upset to no longer be working with old friends. The way he worded it made it sound like he was calling his boss out which is never a good idea.

 Loss of Public Trust

            Using poor communication with your customers is a quick way to have your business fail. If a company is unable to talk with its customers in a way that they both understand and trust then that company will lose its customers and therefor lose money.  A great example of poor communication ruining a businesses’ reputation is the British Petroleum oil disaster. After the disaster BP’S CEO admitted that he had previously received information that there may be a problem. BP’S CEO was later fired for his poor handling of corporate communication.

What It All Means

So what does this all mean? Good communication skills are essential to having a successful business. Even if you are not involved in business, having poor communication skills can cost you your job. If a business was ran and staffed by people who all had excellent communication skills, that business would save themselves a lot of time, resources, and money. A little thought and revision can go a long way.

Internet Consensus and IUPUC

If you go to the dictionary or Google the term “internet consensus” you won’t find much, if anything; believe me I tried. However unfamiliar the term may seem, the concept is something we are all acquainted with. Internet consensus is simply creating a format on the internet for people to collectively put their thoughts and opinions. Then you have a large source of information ready and available to you for whatever the purpose of collecting the data was for. I have three prime examples of internet consensus:

2002: M&M color change
Changing colors isn’t a new procedure for M&M’s. They changed their tan M&M to blue back in 1995. They had the choice of blue, pink, or purple and had to call a 1-800-FUN-COLOR hotline to place their vote. What about internet consensus?  It wasn’t until 2002 that M&M decided to introduce another new color, but this time voting was done via the internet. The choices were pink, purple or aqua. There were advertisements abroad, all over the world. Consumers were invited to go online to M&M Global Vote and vote for the next color. M&M marketed this new campaign to all sorts of media. In one particular instance M&M had put a voting poll on the AOL homepage, and in a single day registered over 600,000 votes! After the time was up, the internet consensus determined that purple was to be the new M&M color.

2009: Live Music by Mass Animation    <watch video here>
Mass Animation, a computer graphics company out of California, teamed up with Facebook to create an interactive consensus with Facebook users. People had the option to download software that had unfinished clips of a possible story line and make it their own. They then submitted their short film layout and people could then vote on them. The winning submission with the most votes won a Dell XPS System, and every week the submission with the most votes won $500 per shot. Once the polls were closed, Mass Animation studios then finished the short film and Sony then showed the short film on the big screen with Planet 51. The internet consensus produced a high quality and entertaining short film.

2010: DEWmocracy <get out and vote!>  <watch video here>
Pepsi knew it had a fan craze base with Mountain Dew products and wanted to provide tasty options to its many loving fans. They provided the simplest solution: give them what they want! Pepsi created a very comprehensive poll method allowing their fans to choose everything about the new product: the flavor,  color, name, label design and fans even had the option to choose which campaign companies would make the new commercials. That’s not all! Then they finally had the option to choose one of the three drinks they created to be the new mountain dew product. Geniuses.

IUPUC
With the knowledge that internet consensus is successful and can provide profitable data, how do we implement that at IUPUC? It would be simple for IUPUC to question their students with an on screen poll installed on all the lab computers. A lot of people are investing in smart phones and use an IU mobile app. IUPUC could use that app to retrieve poll answers. So what kind of information would IUPUC receive through internet consensus? IUPUC could ask the students and teachers about what kind of new lunch item they would like to see at the café. Ask the students what class they would really be interested in taking that isn’t provided. Come up with community volunteer ideas and let the students decide on which one they would like to participate in. Find out what pressing topics we are interested in and give those majoring in journalism an opportunity to write about what we want to know more about. Any information that IUPUC needs to come to conclusions or for research can be done through internet consensus via webpages, mobile apps, Facebook, Twitter and more.

By: Amanda Jo Lucas, Business Entrepreneurship Major – IUPUC

<additional dewmocracy video> <additional dewmocracy video>

Conflict has “bad” Connotation

Webster’s Dictionary defines conflict as a “fight, battle or war.”  My initial reaction to this definition was, can conflict be a good thing?  Conflict generally has a bad connotation surrounding it. Not only is there bad conflict but there is also good conflict and we see examples of both in everyday life. 

Conflict arises from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes or demands.  Conflict can be internal or external and all people deal with it in different ways, the most common form of resolving conflict is some form of confrontation.  I cannot go on without saying that there is another popular method for resolving conflict, which is ignoring the problem all together.  People who like to avoid conflict are often trying to keep the peace amongst people.  The problem with ignoring conflict is that the problem will still persist until it is dealt with or someone else handles it. 

In the 21st century change is continuous and always occurring.  The slogan leading Barack Obama’s presidential campaign “Change We Can Believe In” is one example of how the world is ready for change.  However, there is one setback; the more that change is added to an environment the higher the level of conflict there will be.  Conflict is often slower to arise between people and organizations in a normal environment without change.  Living a conflict-free life is all but impossible in a world full of change. 

How conflict is handled determines whether it is good or bad.  Many of us do not like conflict but it can really be a good thing, especially when it helps a team or employees identify the best possible ideas.  When emotional responses are set aside progress can really start.  A key for conflict to go well is to have good communication skills.  The tone of an employee’s voice alone can dictate how the conflict is dealt with.  There are always problems that have to be dealt with and if handled correctly they could make some good out of the bad.     

There are a number of reasons why conflict can go bad very quickly or even be doomed from the start.  The way that an individual decides to deal with an issue sets the scene for results.  The first attempt to deal with conflict should be non-confrontational and more of a relaxed approach to achieve the best results.  That method does not work with all conflicts and sometimes laying down the law is the only option.  Being knowledgeable of the situation and who you are dealing with is also very important.  When dealing with conflict avoid playing the blame game, not listening, being defensive and trying to win. 

Personally I like to think of conflict as either good or bad while some people see conflict as neither good nor bad and just something that happens in life that has to be dealt with for progress.  Both good and bad conflicts lead to progress, it just might not be the direction you had in mind.

By Gregory Kelley, Business Major- IUPUC

Pro and Cons of Telecommuting

I believe that telecommuting started to become popular in the twenty first century.  This is when computer and Internet technology really started to advance.  More people than ever before now own a cell phone.  Very powerful computers including laptop computers started to become very affordable and popular for people to own in their own home.  High speed broadband Internet became much more affordable and available to many more people than in the past.  There was also the desire for more people to be able to spend more time with their family at home than to have to travel to and from work each day.

The major advantage for someone to telecommute is the ability to work from home.  I do believe that this can be a major advantage for many people.  Some people have families with children where they would like to stay close to at home.  In this case telecommuting can be a major advantage to them if the job has very flexible hours working in a very relaxing environment at home.  Most people that do telecommute every day from home have a separate area in their home away from the rest of their family so that they can focus on their work.  I do believe that telecommuting is very popular for stay at home parents.

Telecommuting can reduce the amount of money that is spent on gas.  With gas prices over three dollars a gallon now in many parts of the country, it might make sense to work from home more often than to drive to work every day.  This can really benefit the environment.  The life of a person’s car can be extended as well by not driving to work everyday. The telecommuter might be able to focus more doing their work from home then having to deal with the daily office distractions.

Telecommuting might also open up the job market for some individuals.  The economy in the U.S. is not really doing well right now.  Some people might have to look for a telecommuting job online in another state.  In the past if someone wanted to work for a company in another state, they more than likely had to relocate to another state.  Now they can just work from home anywhere if they were to get hired.  Telephones including cell phones, web cams,  and video conferencing might be used if the telecommuter has to talk with coworkers and managers in another state.

The major disadvantage of telecommuting is that there is no daily social interaction with coworkers and managers.  This could make it harder for some telecommuters to get promoted because managers do not see their employees daily.  Telecommuters can also sometimes be lonely.  The telecommuter has to really be self-motivated to be able to work every day from home because some people consider the home to be a place to relax and not work.  Some people might have a hard time separating their work life from their personal life working at home everyday.  Telecommuters working from home might be easily distracted from work if they do not have a separate area in their home for work.

Telecommuting does have some advantages and disadvantages.  Full time telecommuting is not for everyone.  It depends on what the person’s personal situation is at home and what type of job they would prefer to do for a living.  I do believe that full time telecommuting is not for someone who is single because they might desire the social interaction with people by going to work every day.   A telecommuting job might be more appealing for someone that has a family at home.

Personally, I do not believe that I would like or enjoy a full time telecommuting job but I would consider a job with some telecommuting work at home after I am done with college.  I would be someone that would enjoy going to work every day and having interaction with my coworkers and managers than someone that just does their work on the computer at home every day.  There are many benefits to a job that has some part time telecommuting.

I do believe that telecommuting will keep on getting more popular in the future because technology just keeps on advancing.

By Eric Shepherd-IUPUC Business Major, Ivy Tech Alumni

Real World Examples of Groupthink and the Consequences

 

First, what is Groupthink?

Groupthink was discovered as an undesirable by-product of group cohesiveness by a psychologist named Irving Janis. He further defined groupthink as a “mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ striving for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.”

What are the symptoms of Groupthink?

Excessive Optimism                                      Assumptions of Inherent Morality

Suppression of Dissent                                 Desperate Quests for Unanimity

Stereotyping                                                  Rationalizing

  • These symptoms create a decision-making climate where the probability of making a poor decision is very high.

Real World Examples and Their Consequences

Corporate

Swissair’s Collapse: Thought to be so financially stable that people referred to it as the “Flying Bank.” Poor decision-making processes eventually led to its collapse.

Symptoms: The belief that the group is invulnerable and the belief in the morality of the group.

Lack of expertise, similar backgrounds / norms and pressure to conform were also present.

Consequences: Collapse of Swissair

Political

Vietnam: Groupthink is believed to be main reason for the war. Strategic advisors in 3 successive administrations rubber-stamped battle plans laced with false assumptions.

Symptoms: Groupthink prevented contradictory views to the war from being expressed and subsequently evaluated.

Consequences: 58,220 United States servicemen died.

Newly studied areas of groupthink outside of Politics and Business where symptoms were present.

Sports

Major League Umpire Association: In 1999, the Major League Baseball Association staged a mass resignation in a failed attempt to gain a stronger negotiating stance.

Symptoms: The umpires overestimated the power that they had over the baseball league and the strength of their group’s resolve. There was the presence of self-censorship; some umpires who disagreed with the decision to resign failed to voice their dissent.

Consequences: Failed strategy, Major League Baseball accepted their resignations, 22 umpires were out of jobs and eventually replaced.

Groupthink Consequences and Preventing Them

Previous examples show how groupthink can have devastating consequences. In some cases, thousands of lost lives have been associated with it.

How can we prevent groupthink?

According to Irving Janis, there are some things we can do to improve decision quality in cohesive groups but groupthink will always be a threat.

Most Important: Group members must always ask, “Are we allowing ourselves to become victims of groupthink?”

                Fundamental prevention measures:

  1. Avoid the use of groups to rubber-stamp decisions.
  2. Urge each group member to be a critical evaluator.
  3. Bring in outside experts for fresh perspectives.
  4. Assign someone the role of challenging assumptions.
  5. Take time to consider possible consequences of action.

References:

Kreitner, Robert. Management. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning, 2009. Book.

By David Rice, Business (Computer Information Systems) Major-Indiana University Purdue University Columbus

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