Building a Door-To-Door Canvassing Team

Canvassing is a form of engagement marketing, this article will help those looking for door to door canvassing information and managing a department.

Canvassing Definition
Canvassing is a form of engagement or experiential marketing where the company or political representative interacts with the potential customer or constituent face to face. This is usually thought of as going door to door. Homeowners are usually the focus of door to door marketing, but stopping by or cold calling businesses can also fall within this definition.

History of the word canvass (as in door to door canvassing)
It seems that the word to canvass is associated with sifting ideas as though  sifting and separating grain from the chaff by tossing on a piece of canvas. In the early days it was a way to put yourself and your ideas out in public for other to examine.

This article is the results of my research on door to door canvassing for a job proposal.

From a Friday to a Sunday I spent over 30 hours researching what goes into building a door to door canvassing team. I did this as a proposal for a company I wanted to work with. I am offering the insight I gained to my readers who may be interested in this type of marketing. For some reason I find the subject of door to door canvasing quite fascinating. I have participated in canvassing as part of political campaigns and I have also done some door to door canvassing to increase awareness of my public access Television Show. I have also done engagement marketing in stores to generate leads for a home improvement company. It appears that door to door marketing combines all three of these experiences.

Effectiveness of canvassing door to door
One of the first things I noticed in my research is that door to door canvassing can be quite effective. Many businesses are finding it harder to reach people with outbound telemarketing. The reason for this is a lot of people are now on do not call lists. In addition a lot of  folks don’t even have a landline and only use a cell phone.

No matter what you think of door knocking, political canvassing campaigns have proven that it does work. I think we could make canvassing and door to door campaigns work even better using  integrated marketing that also includes digital media such as mobile, online, video, and social media?

In political campaigns canvassing is more than twice as effective as calling on the phone.

Door To Door Canvassing is More Effective Than Phoning
Door To Door Canvassing is More Effective Than Phoning

By studying the lessons of political canvassing we can develop better insight into door to door canvassing for business and  sales.

Is door to door selling sustainable?
While door knocking is still effective if overused there will be a backlash that will bring harsher laws and diminish its usefulness. Many local governments have already implemented laws to control door to door canvassing. There are always several people per neighborhood who very much dislike people coming to their door uninvited.

I predict in the future local governments will establish an allocation system to divide and regulate canvassing zones. When local governments do regulate door to door canvassing it will become much more expensive. By following the rules and developing polite, considerate, and courteous policies as an industry standard we may be able to postpone overly hash regulations.

What kind of products or services are best for door to door sales
Compared to other types of marketing, canvassing has a relatively high cost, therefore products or services that generate a high lifetime customer value do best. Some good candidates for door to door marketing are products or services with recurring sales or charges. Several that come to mind are financing, food delivery, lawn services, pest control, water filtration, magazine subscriptions, home alarm and security services, as well as cable TV and internet services.

Another category that can work well for door to door selling are high ticket services like home improvements and construction. Solar is one of those product that can hit both of these. New roofs can be good too.

Traditionally products that need some consultation have done well using door to door marketing. A few that come to mind are cosmetics and beauty products, think Avon, as well as vacuums and cleaning items.

Door-to-door sales

From what I can tell there are two basics style of initial engagement for door to door sales. The first is to give a company name and the canvasser’s name.

The second gets right to the point and leads with neighborhood information and tries to look and sound official.

Just about all blogs, articles, and videos online recommend sticking to an assumptive close. These can range from conversational and friendly to high pressure.

The presentation after the initial greeting can be quite varied. I developed three three sample presentation as part of my proposal. I think I gave them two and I was saving one for the in person proposal presentation.

  1. One was a traditional introduction pitch/presentation
  2. The second was more official, leading with neighborhood information
  3. The third was an official sounding questionnaire.

If I was organizing and managing a canvassing department I would test them all.

Canvassing jobs

Craigslist canvassing ad intelligence and research
For many people, working as a canvasser is quite challenging. The pay ranges from minimum wage to about $25 an hour with commissions. Most businesses are afraid to put what they pay in a help wanted ad. Personally when I see no pay I think that means minimum or just above minimum wage. Some companies pay a bonus ($500 ) for staying with the job for 1 month, others do it at 60 days.

Many companies pay canvassers form $13 to $16 an hour. Some of the solar companies pay up to $25 plus commission. A couple water filtration companies have a base pay of around $2,000 a month, I know at least one of these is part-time.

I read one ad that pays $12 an hour plus they buy lunch.
Many companies mention the chance for upward mobility.
Quote from a solar ad – “Up to $1000.00 per closed lead plus weekly base pay and overrides on your team. Commissions are paid on the size of the system. Minimum is $500 Max is $1000”

One of the most important parts of succeeding at this kind of work is good company training. Sending people out on the street to do door knocking without the right training will make the individual salesperson less successful and it will be less efficient for the company as well.

Some companies have quotas. If you work for a company with quotas and no training and you do not have experience in door to door sales, be prepared to not last very long. You may be one of those who is very gifted and you’ll do fine. But the odds are against you.

The two things to look for in a canvassing job are good training and upward mobility. It’s best if the company is interested in investing in you and has a path for your advancement.

Many companies mention the chance for upward mobility. Some ads use very weak and vague language. These ill-defined stepping stones to career advancement amount to unclear wishful thinking. They often seem to be afterthoughts that are added on as a semi-desirable lure meant to catch extra hungry fish. When I see a wishy-washy description of future opportunities it appears the company is only looking for throw away labor.

A canvassing help wanted ad needs to show a clear path to growth and upward mobility, not just empty promises or hopeful wishes. Career advancement and having achievable goals to work toward are some of the most important elements for employee satisfaction and retention. Since retention is a huge problem with managing a canvassing program, descriptions of career advancement become an important part of the recruitment process.

Canvassing manager
Canvassing manager salaries
Glassdoor says the average salary for a canvassing manager is $42k – $45k.
If you manage a solar canvassing program you can make $100,000 a year according to indeed. I have read that $80,000 to $120,000 is reasonable for developing a canvasing program and running it. Especially if it covers several geographic locations.

Building a new canvassing department is not easy. It requires the dedication of resources and a commitment by management. Many people warn that it may take several tries before a business finds the right formula or system that works. It seems that three attempts is not unreasonable.

If you have determined that canvassing is a good marketing strategy for your business and your first attempt doesn’t work, don’t give up too soon. Take what you’ve learned and give it another try. This trial and error approach can be costly. To mitigate the cost and increase your chances for success do as much prelaunch research and planning as possible.

There are three main areas involved in running a door to door canvassing department.
1 Hiring
2 Training
3 Management

Hiring
It is my understanding that hiring is extremely difficult in this industry. The job has a negative stigma, it’s hard work, there is rejection in spades, and a lot of people really don’t want you on their property. In addition it appears that a lot of companies think of canvassers as throw away workers. It’s not uncommon for companies to also have such low pay that if the commissions aren’t coming in, people quite to do something easier.

I have read on many forums that even when hundreds of people respond to ads only a few to none show up to interview. I have also read more positive comments as well, but it seems no one has an easy time recruiting.

There is also a lot of churn. Not only is it very hard to get good canvassers but keeping them is just as difficult.

One of the greatest skills of the canvassing manager is hiring well. From my research, reviewing applicants and interviewing them will take about 8 or more hours a week. I don’t think that includes advertising and/or outreach.

There is a lot of deception in help wanted ads for canvassers. I have seen numerous extremely vague ads making the job seem almost enjoyable. A lot of them look for sports minded people or those that are persistent. While these are traits that will help with doing door to door canvassing, there are other variable that contribute to success as well.

I think that recruiting should be done just like any other marketing. First I would start with a recruiting website. The website will give someplace to send people who develop interest from your help wanted ads and advertising. It can also highlight the company values and lifestyle. Of course since I am a video guy, I think it should also include video.

Next I would post in help wanted directories and classifieds. The ones I would start with are

  • Craigslist
  • College job boards
  • Facebook jobs (its new)
  • LinkedIn (on linkedIn canvassing jobs have very low application rates)
  • Careerbuilder
  • Monster = $250 per month I would not start with monster, to use this you should have a well defined canvasser profile to advertise against.

To accomplish the best recruiting results you’ll need to develop a persona for the ideal canvasser. These personas will be used as your canvasser profiles.

I would start with A/B testing posts on craigslist and Facebook. I also think targeted ads on Facebook might work well. That is until a lot of people start doing it.  Run Facebook ads targeting those who fit the profile of your ideal canvasser.

Look into college job boards and get recommendations and referrals from the college financial aid counselors.

There should be recruitment literature to give out (business cards, small postcards, etc.) There are usually several people in a good sized company who can give a job recommendation to someone  they know who’s looking for a job. Field crews can also recruit when they meet people interested in your company.

Create a well defined and clear path to growth and upward mobility, not just empty promises or hopeful wishes.

The selection process

  1. There should be a behavior profile that is used in the selection process. You may need to go to an outside company for this.
  2. First do a phone interview
  3. Then face to face
  4. Then training
  5. If they pass the training they go into the field

Additional recruiting resources:

  1. Resume search sites, these are somewhat expensive and I’m not so sure how effective they will be. They will be much more effective if you have an accurate persona to work with. It would cost less than a dedicated one on one community outreach recruiter. The one I priced was $575 per month for 100 resumes. However, the resumes look like they are of questionable value. You could get better results by doing better and more refined searches. To do better targeting you would need to have a good canvasser profile.
    One On One Community Outreach
  2. Events
  3. Meetups
  4. Home depot (most people I know at home depot do not want to confront customers to ask for a lead or sale. But there are some who will)
  5. Lowe’s
  6. Vocational schools
  7. Employee referrals.

Online Outreach – I am still researching this one I thought Reddit may be good, but looks like that’s not the place. I am now looking at Twitter.  I think Twitter would be effective if you used third party software to find the right people. There are a few business canvassers on Twitter, but when I looked, it was mostly political canvassers in the UK or Ireland.  The post I found most amusing was with a tank and machine gun asking people not to be too hostile to canvassers. If you’re using Twitter think about setting up a dedicated Twitter account just for recruiting.

If you hire well everything else will be easier.

Training
Training should be based on scripts. Even if you let you people adapt to the situation and ad hoc opportunities, everyone should learn the script. The original part of the presentation should be scripted and so to should the answers to overcome objections.

I think learning how to get more information and helping homeowners make a wise choice is the most important part of the training.

From what I have discovered in my research it is advisable that whenever you give more information to test with some kind of assumptive close.

Overcoming objections is a huge part of the conversation, but you need to close. In Fact you should always be setting up the next friendly assumptive close. If it didn’t work the first time it was just a test close. Move on, get more information, give more information, and then try another close.

Your salespeople need to overcome objection and close without  thinking about what to say next.

It is recommended that you do not allow your canvassers to schedule appointments. Have them get the information. Getting the information can be an important part of the final close. After they get the required information they can call the office to confirm the the appointment time and date in front of the customer. Next they put the customer on the phone to confirm and actually make the appointment. I have found this to work well when lead generating in stores as well. Again it can be helpful if the canvasser has a scrip for this process.

Management
Door to door canvassing is regulated by local governments. Regulations can range from simply alerting the local officials you are in town to fairly expensive and restrictive licensing. Your organization will probably need a separate license for each city where you do door to door canvasing.

It’s management’s job to know and be responsible for researching and documenting the ordinances and regulations. In addition, management  should maintain other important details and contact information on local law enforcement, city planning departments, and licensing departments  for each canvassing zone.

There needs to be training for canvassers in how to politely respond to the arrival of police. Another problem that can come up are neighbors trying to keep the community safe and crime free. In various business capacities I have encountered both of these problems.

To maintain a uniformed response and prevent as many problems with authorities as possible, standardize your representative’s response with a scripted reply. Develop a “response to authority” script, just like you develop a sales script. I have had people threaten to call the police on me and I have had a few people say they are going to report me to the city for littering. It is important to note that If you pay for a license you are canvassing if you don’t you are littering. If you litter you may incur the fines for littering as well. I do believe the fines you receive for littering are more expensive than the canvassing licenses.

Develop official policies for standardized, and may I add polite, community interactions.
There needs to be training in how to avoid upsetting homeowners. Polite and courteous behavior will help avoid negative interaction and possible encounters with authorities.
Some behaviors to be avoided are knocking too loudly on the door, machine gun doorbelling, knocking for too long, and one of the big door knocking mistakes – ignoring the “No soliciting” signs.

What are the door to door canvassing laws in the areas you operate?
It’s management’s responsibility to plan for problems and most importantly prevent as many problems as possible.

You can usually get information about canvassing laws from the business licensing department. I would suggest keeping a copy of the canvassing/peddling laws on file along with city phone numbers.

It’s a best practice to have an attorney look at the local ordinances and draw up a letter stating how you are in compliance. Once you have the letter don’t leave it lock in a drawer. Furnish the letter showing legal compliance to your canvassing department. All those who may encounter the police or other authorities should have a copy. This includes door to door canvassers, Field managers, and the canvassing manager. Some cities require canvassers have a copy of the permit on them when in the field.

If police arrive a well thought out response should diffuse the situation. However, if they do say you can’t canvass an area don’t argue. Good planning will ensure you can still put in a full days work. There should always be a standard standby location in the event it is needed.

There are other times a standby location may be needed. Two I can think of are if there are swarming bees in a neighborhood and aggressive loose dogs.

Picking the canvass area
Depending on the extent of you canvassing campaign it may be good to start door knocking in neighborhoods where you already have customers.

It’s recommended that you keep a list of all the streets in each of you canvassing zones. Standard information should include listing the year the house was built, home values, neighborhood affiliations, and last door to door and/or phone campaign dates.

Data and tracking the houses visited.
There are varying levels of doing this from simply listing the neighborhoods visited to keeping detailed information on each house.

Collecting detailed information
Set up a database in which to keep track of houses visited. Create a spreadsheet for each neighborhood with columns showing the address, if a canvasser spoke with someone, the date visited, the person’s response, and follow-up plans, such as a consultation. If you are doing other types of direct marketing in the area it may be wise to include these as well. I do believe there is an app that can help track this information.

One low tech way to do this is to have the canvassers fill out the paper version of the spreadsheet while in the field. Then at the end of the day it is entered into the database by the office.
I think if I was setting up a canvassing department as part of an engagement marketing company I would outsource this to an office assistant or a virtual assistant. If I had a good crew that was stable and not transient I would use an app.

There are phone apps for this purpose and they may be worth investing in. ‘the ones I have seen provide a software as a service model. So you will need to pay a monthly fee and the costs go up with your activity. I think you could also set this up as part of a company website. You may also want to look into creating your own online app to access this part of the company website.

Keeping detailed records may take more time than both the canvassers and management want to invest. Collecting data will take time from door knocking. I think canvassers will look at doing paperwork as taking time away from earning commissions. To maintain morale and cut down on churn it may be necessary to pay more per hour if you require filling out paperwork. Inputting data by the canvassing manager may also take too much time from a more than full schedule. I have read that it’s not uncommon for a canvassing manager to work over 65 hours a week.

This detailed canvassing information can also be used for recruiting. However, you will need a little additional information such as which houses you received an appointment/lead from, which houses you made the sale with, and the commissions earned on the sale. If you can show new potential employees how many houses the average canvasser needs to visit and the number of sales they make with commissions it will make recruiting easier.

Assigning daily canvassing areas
Print maps of the neighborhoods you plan to canvas. Print directions to these areas as well. Make sure you have directions from one area to the next, so drivers don’t spend time getting lost. Each canvasser needs to have a map illustrating the string of houses to be visited and it’s also advisable they have a cell phone. There should be an agreed upon place to meet when the string of door knocking is over.

There should be safety procedures in place to address canvassers wellbeing and emergencies. Pinpoint the location of emergency hospital in the area and provide police and animal control’s phone numbers to your drivers and field managers. Reporting stray and loose pets can be a sensitive issue. Employee training should also go over how to handle encounters with animals.

Checklist
Have a checklist for you field managers and/or drivers.

Dress
I have read that wearing a safety vest increases initial acceptance by homeowners. I have also seen that having a large photo identification badge with the word Permit on the top is helpful. The badge should also have the company name and the canvasser’s name. I think I would use both of these if I was doing a door to door canvassing program.

I would also suggest dressing business casual, such as khakis and a polo shirt or button up shirt.

From spending a lot of time walking and other physical activities I think good shoes may be one of the most important parts of dress. If your sales people are uncomfortable they will not be at their best. In the summer make sure to provide plenty of water.

That about does it for my brief summery of starting a canvassing department. I do hope this helps those looking for door to door canvassing information. It should also prove helpful for those who are thinking about whether a door to door marketing strategy will work for their business.

Follow me on Google + to comment and connect
twittergoogle_pluslinkedinrss

Share this
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Number 1 Reason To Not Use Social Media Marketing

When Social Media Marketing Will Hurt Your Business More Than It Will Help.

This post came about because of a somewhat challenging marketing problem a friend, who at one time was a client, introduced me to. My friend referred me to an online company who was looking for some marketing guidance and thought I could help. I went into the interview not really knowing what kind of help they needed. I did know they were an eCommerce company and had been around for several years.

Social Media and SEO as eCommerce Objectives

They said they wanted to increase sales through social media, improve their SEO, and they were also interested in using video. I thought, perfect, those are all areas I have some expertise in.

Magento
They seemed a little concerned that I hadn’t used their preferred content management system (CMS.) But I didn’t think posting on their CMS would be a problem. To be extra sure I could use their system I build a site using Magento over the weekend. This is the CMS they were using. I talked with them on a Friday and by Monday I had installed Magento, learned to do several different kinds of posts, and I also had a chance to do a quick SEO and social media audit.

Beauty And Wisdom My Simple Magento Site - Building This Site Was The First Part Of Their SEO and Social Media eCommerce Plan. I recommend not to use social media marketing until a website's fundamentals will support positive social comments.
Beauty And Wisdom My Simple Magento Site – Building This Site Was The First Part Of Their SEO and Social Media eCommerce Plan. I recommend not to use social media marketing until a website’s fundamentals will support positive social comments.

My eCommerce Test Site
There is not much on the site I put together, but it did give me insight into this CMS. Here is the site and it is for sale if anyone would like to buy it. http://beautyandwisdom.com I added a few things I had around the house as test products for the site.

Large Japanese Noodle Bowl I used as one of the items for the Magento eCommerce test site.
Large Japanese Noodle Bowl I used as one of the items for the Magento eCommerce test site.

The biggest insight working with Magento was learning about its search engine optimization (SEO) quirks. It doesn’t look too bad, but there are a few things I found interesting. I really need to take a look at it in Google Search Console. One thing that bothered me at first was that most of the online audit tools didn’t see the H1 tag. When I look at the source code in a browser I can see they are there. I also think there are some add ons that would help improve the SEO for these sites.

The quick SEO audit I did showed that their site did perform better than 50 percent of other sites. Technically it seemed okay. Although I did have some questions about the backlink profile.

Website Copy Was Technically So-So to Okay 
While the website functioned well enough the copy needed some work. It read like it was written by someone who was highly skilled at English as a second language. There was nothing really wrong with the text, it just didn’t read well. Oh wait, there was one huge problem with the copy and text.

The Big Marketing Problem

The biggest problem I found in the text, with the website, and the business objectives is that much of the text was misleading.

The social media audit proved that customers felt the same way. If I was to develop and  implement an effective social media strategy for this company they would need to change their entire value proposition.

I would not recommend using social media marketing until the website fundamentals have been improved.
You can’t do effective social marketing if people have mostly bad things to say about buying from you. I could get social buzz for this company, but without change, I think it would be more harmful than helpful.

Tea Cup And Basket Used On Magento Test Site
Tea Cup And Basket Used On Magento Test Site

I wrote an overview outlining what I thought needed to be done but they never got back to me. I also wrote a sample post as an example of what would be needed for an integrated strategy to boost sales, provide internal links to site videos/products, increase positive social comments, and get back links.  In the long run this type of site strategy would build the trust needed to move customers from buying on third party sites to shopping on the company’s site.

This would not be a quick fix and would require cooperation from the entire management team.

I did not put together any suggestions for a separate video strategy. I though in the beginning the videos would be used in a rather straight forward way to support the site revision. My plan was to start with product videos. While product videos aren’t my favorite type of video they can be done with some artistic and business creativity. Sometimes it is best to start with the basics. While the video usage did seem basic, it had a subtle but very important purposes of developing a market oriented mindset in management and to promote a company culture.

I imagine they thought the cost and effort was a bit more than what they wanted to invest. They will probably do just fine sticking to their current strategy and tactics. But, it will be informative to see how they evolve over time.

Follow me on Google + to comment and connect
twittergoogle_pluslinkedinrss

Share this
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Developing a puppet for video presentations and engagement marketing – This is New Media Mingling With Traditional Media

Scarecrow Puppet Project From Concept to Creation.

My Scarecrow Puppet Project started with two events.

The first event was at work when I was chatting with a colleague about engagement marketing and lead generation.  Ever since I started doing this type of marketing I have wanted to use more props and a puppet. The first puppet I was thinking of for my current job was a tiki, but a friend did not think that would work so well.

The other event that defined the Scarecrow Project is after seeing a client I realized that I needed a new computer (brain) to maximize the effectiveness of my video projects. The first thing that popped into mind was the scarecrow singing if I only had a brain. That was a fairly strong visionscape that has driven the theme and direction of this entire project, promotional campaign, and possibly my business as well.

The scarecrow myth is a good little narrative that fits many of life’s struggles, goals, and dilemmas. 

Unfinished Scarecrow puppet without a nose. It does look like I had the final lower jaw on this version.
Unfinished Scarecrow puppet without a nose. It does look like I had the final lower jaw on this version.

While planning on how to use the puppet for a street performance I started researching American history. I started thinking about American history between the mid 1700s through the early 1900s. One thing led to another and I went from pioneers in the Ohio valley up to the 1939 Wizard of OZ movie.

What I was looking for was some Americanism that tied everything together. Well, you know what, I found it. Yep, I found a thread that connected several events right up to Lyman Frank Baum books.  If you guessed he is the author of the Wizard of OZ, you would be right.

The story I uncovered is a long journey of twists and turns.  I will tell more about the story in the future.

The Scarecrow Puppet Build
I started off planning to build a modified Japanese bunraku style puppet. Bunraku is a traditional Japanese style of puppetry that officially was started in 1805. Although it’s based on an older style of puppet performance called ningyō jōruri which is from the early 1600s. The  bunraku puppet is operated by three people wearing all black. The main puppeteer controls the right arm and the head, the second puppeteer controls the left arm and the third puppeteer controls the feet.

The bunraku puppet arms are controlled by a somewhat sophisticated rod mechanism. The head is made by a master craftsman and can feature several styles of special effects.

Another interesting aspect of bunraku that’s different from my style of presentation is that in bunraku the puppeteer does not speak. In bunraku there is a special narrator sitting to the side of the main performance. The narrator is also accompanied by a musician. I have been thinking about how I may incorporate this feature into my performances as well.

While I have kept some of the basic concepts, the final puppet turned out quite different than my original plans. My original plan was to make a traditional bunraku style body and rod mechanisms for the arms. The original head was going to use a combination of a traditionally placed head using the modular design that I am currently using.

However those plans have been modified many, many times since the initial impetus for the project. What I ended up doing is using a Halloween skeleton as the foundation for the Scarecrow character. This decision has had a huge influence on the project and how it has progressed.

Scarecrow Skeleton
Scarecrow Skeleton

One thing I have learned is that each design decision will have a far reaching effect on the overall project. If I was aware of how the project would be implemented, I would have done the build a lot different. Not only have I changed the design several times, but the scope of the project has changed as well.

Originally the project was going to be used only for a street performance to raise enough money to get a new computer and a few other necessities for going back into production with my “On The Road” Public assess show.  I also wanted to build a Long Beach directory to highlight some of the places I enjoy in long Beach.

Now I would also like to use it for other types of engagement marketing as well. Perhaps promoting Long beach businesses or special events. I have also thought about using the scarecrow on Hollywood Boulevard to encourage tourists to visit businesses that have a listing in my local directory.  I am always coming up with ideas, while they might not be very good ideas, they are idea. I could probably come up with better ideas – if I only had a brain. Do any of my readers have an idea or two to share?

Mission Creep
If the puppet project ever becomes popular there is now a chance this could turn into a brand/franchise on its own. The development of a YouTube channel has always been part of the plan, but its scope has now changed.

I always thought the YouTube channel would be secondary and the street performance would be the main focus. It would be great if the YouTube channel becomes the main focus of the Scarecrow Puppet project. But I still think face to face will be the best initial use of the puppet.

While the video below has a link to my ScarecrowShow website on the YouTube page I believe I am going to focus on building the LongBeachScarecrow dot com site and brand.

There have been many changes as to how the puppet will be manipulated and the type of performances we will do. This has had a big impact on the final design.

I originally planned on just adding some clothes to the skeleton and a few decorations. Then I started working on a bit more elaborate head. I did not want a flat face. So I did a bit of sculpting. I also wanted a movable lower jaw, which ended up being the most difficult part of the whole project. It is the lower jaw that sometimes makes me wish I had started with a different design. But it works great now, although it can be a bit temperamental and sometimes requires a fine grained touch. Additionally it needs to be adjusted more frequently than I would like.

One Of The Modified Versions Of The Original Lower Jaw. This Design Almost Worked With Every Modification. But It Never Worked The Way It Needed To.
One Of The Modified Versions Of The Original Lower Jaw. This Design Almost Worked With Every Modification. But It Never Worked The Way It Needed To.

I do have ideas for a complete redesign, and may do this in the future, if I need a second puppet. The new design would utilize all the lessons I learned while building the initial puppet. But for the time being, I plan on staying with the old design.

I have added a few pictures of the original build process. I wish I would have taken more pictures, but often I was in a rush to get as much done on my day off as possible.

You can learn a lot about planning and decision making by developing a puppet/costume and the corresponding production.

One thing I am running into over and over again is the decision to start with an interesting but not standard foundation for the puppet. This has given me several design problems at just about every point in the project. However, it has also taken me in a direction that would have been more difficult to see if I went with a more conventional design.

It seems that I constantly need to find a solution to some unusual and unplanned design issue. Need I say, these are unwelcome uses of my resourcefulness. So far it seems that it takes at least three times to find something that works. If you change one element of the design, don’t be surprised it you need to go back and modify one or more of your other design elements. A puppet can be a holistic system. Like many things in life,  you need to get the gestalt right for it to work properly.

We started by deconstructing and modifying the jacket.

Cutting Shoulder Pads Off Jacket With Swiss Army Knife
Cutting Shoulder Pads Off Jacket With Swiss Army Knife

Along with the padding we sewed the shoulder pads onto the foundation.

Sewing On The Shoulder Pads
At a Friend’s House Sewing On The Shoulder Pads

The head was too small so I added a much larger head. It looks like I did not get any pictures of this. The new head has had several major modifications from what we started with.

Scarecrow Puppet hand With Glove
Scarecrow Puppet hand With Glove

The fingers were enhanced with tape and then the gloves were modified and tied on.

I made the upper part of the face as a module that could be reused on additional platforms. Originally I was going to have this as both a puppet and a costume. This dual purpose was one of the biggest reasons I made the puppet with a modular design. I have since decided to not pursue the costume performance.

After cutting the jacket up we added some body padding to the foundation. I was originally planning on using more traditional material for this, but I decided to use what I had on hand. I created some padding from packing material that a mannequin came wrapped in.

Scarecrow Puppet Skeleton With Padding
Scarecrow Skeleton With body Padding and shoulder pads

I added a t shirt for extra padding. To hide the packing material, and to tie the look together. Everything required some type of modification, even the t shirt.

I originally made the sleeves so they could be manipulated somewhat like a bunraku puppet. However, I decided to use a different presentation style with the right side of the puppet and modified that sleeve by making the opening larger. I have kept the left sleeve true to the original design. The left arm is controlled by a simple rod and the performer can also grasp item by partially inserting their hand under the puppet’s hand in bunraku  fashion. I am not planning on using this feature of handling objects with the left hand much, but it is good to know I have that option. I think in most presentation the performer’s left hand will be used to manipulate supporting props and other characters. As of the time of this writing I am planning on making some modifications to the left arm rod so it will be more useful with the current presentation style. While it won’t have the wrist action of a bunraku puppet it will have  a wider range of animation and liveliness.

I added the straw to the sleeves and pants.

Straw For The Arms Close Up Of Tied Construction
Straw For The Arms – Close Up Of Tied Construction

 

Making The Straw For The Arms Tied To String
Making The Straw For The Arms Tied To String

There is a learning curve to the process of adding the straw trim. I started with hot glue. That is not the best solution. I found the best results from tying the raffia straw to  a cord and sewing this into the clothing.

Patches On Scarecrow's Pants
Patches On Scarecrow’s Pants

I added a few patches to the pants.

I made the shoes out of felt and hot glue. They are tied on, not much special, but they work. I plan on changing these in the near future. they are okay, but not at all what I now want for this character

Scarecrow Shoes
Scarecrow Shoes

Padding was added to the arms and legs.

Arms and legs. This photo also shows the longer neck mod.
Adding Padding To Arms and legs. This photo also shows the longer neck mod.

I had to rebuild the neck piece to increase the range of movement for the lower jaw. There are some internal parts that needed to be replaced as well, so it was a little more complex that it looks in the picture.

Just when I thought I had the working model finished, it seemed that I was faced with the need to totally redesign the structure of the head. The problem was that the lower jaw needed more room to move. Fortunately I was able to redesigned the jaw so I could use the original head design.

Instead of redesigning the head I totally redesigned the lower jaw

Working On Redesign Of Lower Jaw
Working On Redesign Of Lower Jaw

I made a body mount so I can more easily work with the puppet in a standing position.

Building Main Body Mount For The Puppet
Building Main Body Mount For The Puppet
Mod For Puppet Body Mount. I bought the upper piece which did not work. I made the lower part and it works much better
Mod For Puppet Body Mount. I bought the upper piece which did not work at all. I made the lower part and it works much better

To get the mouth to hold its shape I used wire and tape. However I needed to get the original shape before I added the more permanent under-structure. To get the burlap to stay in somewhat the shape I desired I used Modge Podge. The Modge Podge held the original shape until I could install a more permanent solution.

Getting The Mouth To Temporarily Hold Its Shape
Getting The Mouth To Temporarily Hold Its Shape

I do not have a picture of the final part that holds the scarecrow puppet’s lips in-place. As I remember I did this part in a hurry before work one morning. Permanently connecting this under-structure to the lips did slightly change the position of the lips, and that I am a bit unhappy with.

I also do not have pictures of making or installing the tongue. As with many of the parts, I first made paper patterns for the tongue before I cut into any of the material.

I thought a different color scheme would work better.
I have changed the under color of the puppet from green to orange because in the future I may want to use a green screen. The change was a good decision because I’ve decided to change some of the original color schemes.

The Scarecrow before I modified his under skin and before his first nose fell off.
The Scarecrow before I modified his under skin and before his first nose fell off.

There you have it, 6 months of work boiled down to one article. During this build it was my constant wish to take five continues days off work to concentrate on the puppet. My primary puppet lab/work area  is outside and it rained a lot during this puppet build. The rain was a constant source of frustration. However, now Mr. Scarecrow is operational and I have enjoyed producing a few test videos to get the hang of its operation.

There are still some changes I want to make in the costume and the operation.  In the future I will be adding an article about some of the other character I made that will act as supporting cast for the Scarecrow show.

And that’s the way it is.

Follow me on Google + to comment and connect
twittergoogle_pluslinkedinrss

Share this
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Curating Content For Social Media – Part 3 of 3 Part Series

Curating content and The Art of Building An Audience.

There are many different strategies and tactics that can be implemented when executing a curation campaign. Is your business ready to start a social media curation program? Those who read my blog know I like being authentic when using social media. Being authentic means you’ll get a lot of my personality injected into my curated posts. I know there are social media people who because of company policies need to post according to specific style guides. However, I believe harnessing the personality and style of a social media professional will lead to a more organic feel and therefore seem more authentic.

In this article I’ll go over some of the tactics, behaviors, and theories I use when curating media for social posts.

I do quite a bit of content curation. This is primarily what I do on Google Plus, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I’m also starting to share more on  StumbleUpon and some on Reddit too. Fortunately I have also had some success on the first two platforms and I am beginning to see some traffic from the last two as well. Reddit looks like a very promising platform. I plan on writing more about the different social sites I use over the next 12 months.

Finding worthy content

Finding content that’s worthy to post can be quite time consuming. I spend about 4 to 7 hours a day finding content for Google Plus and between 1 and 3 hours looking for content to post on LinkedIn. Recently I have been trying to keep my content prospecting to no more than 4 hours a day. I will usually re-post at least some of the content across the rest of my social sites. The new content discovery workflow has me doing a lot of this work in my downtime. Now I am looking for content as part of my recreational social media time. I imagine this pushes the hours up way past the 4 prospecting hours I was planning on.

One Week of LinkedIn Posts - Page 1
One Week of LinkedIn Posts – Page 1
One Week of LinkedIn Posts - Page 2
One Week of LinkedIn Posts – Page 2
One Week of LinkedIn Posts - Page 3
One Week of LinkedIn Posts – Page 3

When curating information and media I usually post content that I enjoy and think my fans will also like. I have to admit that the categories of content I curate is influenced and shaped by what my friends and followers share and like. If one type of post gets a lot of shares, comments, and likes when another doesn’t, I will start posting more of the popular one.

Reinforcement Schedules in Content Curation

I imagine I’m responding to a well documented schedule of reinforcement in the way I post. I had not thought about it before writing this, but I can see my posting influenced by the reinforcement schedules of the various communities and platforms. There is definitely a response pattern linked to reinforcement schedules and their associated extinction pattern. Also of interest is the difference in posting frequency on the different platforms.

Reinforcement on social media responds to the same rule outlined in B.F. Skinners book “Science and Human Behavior” and can be seen in our daily live when training our dogs.
Reinforcement on social media responds to the same rule outlined in B.F. Skinners book “Science and Human Behavior” and can be seen in our daily live when training our dogs.

I imagine the platforms are tracking this and modifying their algorithms to manipulate the posting rate. If they are not doling out reinforcement now they soon will be as Artificial Intelligence becomes more widespread.

Curating content is a constant give and take in a reinforcement feedback loop.
I locate and post content I find reinforcing and that I think my fans will like. My fans vote with likes, comments, click-throughs, and shares. My fans and followers’ engagement reinforces and shape my posting behavior. If I get no response from friends and followers then posting that category of content undergoes extinction and I try something else. Performing a lot of behavior will usually lead to finding something that works. Like Thorndike’s cat in a puzzle box, finding the solution eventually begins to happen quicker and quicker. That is, until the rules change. Then other variables come into play, such as past conditioning and successes.

Past successes can get in the way of finding a new solution to what looks like an old problem.
Sometime what we have done in the past works so well and for so long that it can get in the way of doing something new. There are many reasons for this, but it’s best if we can learn to identify when the rules have changed in a way that requires us to change our behavior.

Experience teaches subtle patterns that influences our decision-making.

Experience was talked about a little in Tom Peter’s popular business book “In Search Of Excellence.” in the book the author said that “The real value of experience in business is that we develop a rich vocabulary of patterns that are part of our long term subconscious memory.”
Experience was talked about a little in Tom Peter’s popular business book “In Search Of Excellence.” in the book the author said that “The real value of experience in business is that we develop a rich vocabulary of patterns that are part of our long term subconscious memory.”

Experience can also expose you to patterns that let you see a clear path to a new way of responding. The benefit to experience is that you develop the ability to recognize patterns before it’s too late. Data can also serve this purpose and is becoming ever more popular.

In theory, the more familiar you are with experiencing the extinction of behavior the quicker it occurs and the sooner you will start using more effective responses.

When a behavior is no longer rewarded it begins to undergo extinction. The process of extinction has some rather interesting characteristics. One of these is that the behavior will often increase before it begins to decline. Another useful aspect of the extinction process is that the topography of the behavior changes. This change in the shape of the behavior is very important for developing new more effective responses.

As behavior increases and changes we can see what could be described as exploratory behavior.

Exploratory behavior is a leadership trait found in many species and cultures.
Exploratory behavior is part of leadership and is a necessity when finding what will work for your online audience. You need to constantly test older forms of content while exploring new content categories. In addition, social media professionals need to continuously explore new types of responses, interactions and platforms.

I frequently experiment with new categories of content. Sometimes I’m quite surprised at finding a new category that followers in one of my communities like and find engaging. I also post and curate some content that I really enjoy, even if I think it won’t be a big hit with my fans. I do feel it’s good to let my followers see some of my personal likes. This is especially true because in the future I hope to share with my fans television shows and video that I create about these subjects.

Curating content can be much more time intensive that one would expect. Not only do you need to find the content but you often need to add information to give the post context. It’s not uncommon for me to look at over 800 pieces of content a day. Investigating a great deal of content is often needed to find what I will curate and share for a day. It’s a constant and never ending search for high quality content. My work flow does change according to what platform I am primarily using and where I am sharing it. I like to manually share to Google Plus and LinkedIn. I usually use a scheduling service for Twitter posts. One of the advantages of scheduling content for twitter is that is incorporates a link shortener and I can better track engagement. With Tumblr I usually schedule within the platform itself.

Sharing is part of the curation workflow.
Curating content is a more refined form of sharing than hitting the share button.

Partial list of the type and quantity or posts I curate in an average month.
Partial list of the type and quantity or posts I curate in an average month.

Queuing content
As a general rule I recommend always adding a summary or reason you’re sharing content. However there are always exceptions to the rules and queuing content for curation is one of those. Earlier in part 2 where I talked about engagement on social platforms, I mentioned that it’s best to always add commentary to your posts. Well, this rule is not necessarily true if you have an account used only for archiving and queuing content for future posts.

I have several social accounts where I don’t add much or any additional information or commentary. Some people may think these are low quality shares, but they have a very good chance of getting re-posted to my larger audience. Being shared to my larger audience could earn them far more views and much more exposure than if I did a higher quality reshare on the accounts in question.

Post Collection Accounts
These are usually accounts that are used to hold or queue content for future examination and use. I sometime need to read the post better before I’ll share it to my fans. At other times I want to check the user experience on a different computer. If the site offers a good user experience on a tablet but is a spamomatic advertising-porn machine on my desktop, I usually won’t share the site. I also use these accounts to hold post that need added commentary before they’re ready for my main accounts.

I am always adjusting my use of social media and I am starting to add more commentary to these holding accounts. I imagine using these accounts differently is because I have started to collect new types of analytics and data.

Another scenario where I will do a simple re-share without commentary is if I’m only using an account to add visual interest to a website’s sidebar widget. There is not much benefit to this other than making a site just a little more interesting. In general I would say this last type of sharing is not really worth the time, unless you have a very specific reason for doing it. Using these widgets may even be a bit detrimental to the user experience and SEO (Search Engine Optimization.) When using a social sidebar widgets make sure you have a good reason and understand the consequences.

What’s Your Style?
Once you find high quality content to share with your fans you’ll need to determine how you’ll share it. What style will you cultivate? I suggest giving author attribution to your content source or at least not claiming it as your original content. I will usually quote the original post. I also recommend not posting or curating content that has an obvious copyright on it.

When curating content it’s useful to provide additional information about the post to give it context and/or help people understand the information. Often it’s the contextual information that  makes the post popular. At other times you can spend hours researching additional content only to have a low context photo outperform your researched piece. It is not uncommon for me to research some interesting and hard to find information and then have few people appreciate it.

Research is often only the first part of adding context. Sometime you will have a photo to share but the only information you can find is on a site with a copyright. When this happens you’ll need to rewrite the information in your own words. This process may require distilling information from several sites and writing a short or long post depending on the subject. At other times you will need to rewrite/edit a translated text. I have several curated posts in the queue waiting for me to find time to write a worthy post. Most of these curated posts are too spectacular for a short description.

Curation is a form of quality control
Curating content is giving other people a glimpse inside your online world.

A very important but not often mentioned added value of curated content is providing a certain level of quality control.

The quality of much content found online ranges for down right terrible to life-changingly good. I find Google Plus collections have fairly high quality content compared to most groups. More and more Google Plus Collections are becoming my go to source for content discovery. This is especially true for information about business and marketing. Many years ago I used twitter as my content discovery engine and for several years I have used Tumblr, but Google Plus collections seems to outperform the rest. This is at least true for business content, I still like Tumblr for other content. I would say that my two main discovery sites are now Google Plus and Tumblr with Reddit moving up quickly.

About half of my curated LinkedIn post are now found on Google plus. Another half of my business posts are from Tumblr. Many of the websites I review during the day are either low quality or the site provides a very poor user experience. I try not to share these low quality sites or sites I find aversive.

Tactical use of curated content
I sometimes will use specially chosen curated pieces of content to attract, test for, and identify my target audience. I have some fairly large communities and I always like to know if those who I someday will be creating video for actually follow me. I am always experimenting with ever more refined uses of social content for audience segmentation.

I have noticed that my demographics have changed over the last several months. I think my core demographic might be getting younger.

Because of the poor user experience on most marketing websites I am starting to think about creating more content for my Google Plus Marketing and Social Media Collection as well as LinkedIn. Even if it’s rewriting content from other sites. I am not a big fan of this kind of content, but I also value my followers and I don’t like referring followers to sites with excessive popups and popovers.

Since starting this article I have added an ad blocker to my browser, now it’s harder to  weed out the spammy sites. But the internet is now a lot more usable. Without the ad blocker many sites where totally unusable. An interesting development is that Google has recently started to penalize sites that use intrusive pop ups and popovers.

Creating content
Creating your own content is the most time intensive form of media. I will need to talk about content creation another time. It may be of some interest to those reading this that I have invested over 50 hours producing this three article series.

Part 1 Social media marketing for your business and How It can be used to share and curate content
Part 2 Engagement and How To Do Social Media

Follow me on Google + to comment and connect
twittergoogle_pluslinkedinrss

Share this
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Engagement and How To Do Social Media in 2017 – Part 2 of a 3 Part Series

This is the second part of the “Social media marketing for your business and how it can be used to share and curate content”

Engaging with others – Likes and Pluses

Compared to creating content engaging with the content of others is an online activity that often takes less time than finding, creating, and posting your own content. However, it still requires reading posts and interacting with content you find valuable. It’s ideal if you engage with the kind of content your target audience finds of value too.

Likes on Social Media From LinkedIn
Likes on Social Media From LinkedIn

Liking other people’s content can ease you into learning the culture of your chosen social platform. As I post this I am starting to learn the ins and outs of Reddit. I have started my Reddit adventure by liking or up voting posts and comments. Reddit is a social site with a lot of rules and cultural norms that can discourage new users. I plan to write more about Reddit later in the year.

The Google + (Plus)
I regularly use a Plus 1, the Google Plus version of a like, to acknowledge people who have commented on my G+ posts. It would be best to reply to each comment, but I simply don’t have the time. Now that I am creating more of my own content I have even less time for responding to comments on all of my social accounts. Managing an active social profile can be more than a full time job. While content creation is taking more of my time, I still manage to regularly post to my accounts and experiment with new social platforms, but there is now more of a time crunch.

Liking content is the easiest way to get started on a social networking site.
A person can Like, Thumbs Up, and Plus other people’s content with the least time commitment.

The nice thing about many likes and pluses is that they will show up in your social stream. Thus allowing at least some of your followers to see what you like. This and clicking links are the most common types of social engagement.

Because of how easy it is to like a post some social media folks discount the value of a like. I do think the value of a like depends on what platform you’re using. I value likes on LinkedIn quite highly and on Google plus too. A like on LinkedIn can work in a slightly different manner than a plus 1 on Google. But they are both very useful. Likes can also be useful on Facebook. While they are nice on Twitter, I have not noticed them being of much value there. If you have found likes to be useful on Twitter please let me know.

Engaging with others by Commenting

Commenting on other people's content requires much more effort than clicking like. This is from my G+ profile
Commenting on other people’s content requires much more effort than clicking like. This is from my G+ profile

Providing meaningful comments does take more time than a quick like here and there. As one would expect, it’s less common too.

Thoughtful comments can help establish you as an authority. I know there are many people who follow me who are much more knowledgeable about subjects I’m interested in than am I.  I’m almost always thankful for their insight and expertise. One of the most enjoyable and intellectually stimulating aspects of having a fairly large following is that they provide insightful and valuable information about the content I post.

It’s not uncommon that I’m short on time and post something in haste, without the proper research, only to find one of my highly intelligent followers has discovered an error or that I left out some vital information. Sometimes the errors are obvious and at other times they’re rather esoteric. But the knowledge of the people who follow me is always amazing to behold. Usually it’s welcomed as well. When I find insightful comments somewhat troublesome is when they have good information but are presented in a confrontational, racist, proselytizing, or insulting manner.

One thing about having a robust following is that when you don’t know the answer to an obscure event or question there is usually someone who will. The good side to this is I am always learning new information from my online friends.

Commenting Builds Your Reputation
By commenting people build a reputation. Some people are very knowledgeable, others are humorous, there are also those who are argumentative and troublesome. While commenting is a great way to build authority, it may be necessary to comment with some tact and finesse. If what you say is at all controversial you will need to be even more careful. I’m always amazed at how a perfectly innocent, accurate, and helpful comment can turn into a heated and sometime hateful dispute.

If you run into trouble and another commenter decides to argue with your position or you, it’s usually best to stick to a position and not attack the person. Although there will be more than a few who will attack you, especially if they don’t agree with your position. I’m afraid how to deal with online confrontation is a bit beyond the scope of this article. But I can say if you run into trouble on one of my communities let me or a moderator know and we will look into it.

When cultivating an active social profile, managing the comments can be a large part of of the process. I do try to keep my social stream as friendly and clean as possible. The larger your follower base becomes the more difficult is this task.

On social I think commenting is where community is really built. For me this makes comments on my posts quite valuable. On my favorite channels comments connect me with others. This connection then develops into online friendships. For me it turns followers into friends, so I don’t think of my social following as a target market but more as friends. This can create its own problems, like looking out for their best interest instead of exploiting the relationship for profit. However, this is more a weakness in my personality than in the channel.

As mentioned before, comments from others on your content or your comments requires a much larger time commitment on your part. I feel almost compelled to at least look at all my comments. This can take quite some time when there are 100s of interactions in a day.

I do suggest that even after you establish a large following it’s still nice to go in and support the people you know and like with some engagement. I admit I sometime find this difficult. There are many a night I spend the last hours trying to get through all of my comments and I usually spend the morning trying to get new content posted. Often there is little time left for interacting with the content of others, but I try.

If you’re strategic instead of friendly you will also want to prioritize who you interact with. The strategic workflow is to interact with those who you think can help you the most. I tend to be more personable and less mercenary, which means I interact with people in a more organic fashion. Probably if I was posting as/and for someone else’s business instead trying to start my own, I would be more strategic.

Engaging with others by Sharing content

Social Media Sharing on G+
Social Media Sharing on G+

Here I am referring to sharing content on the same platform the post was originally shared on. Sharing other people’s content can take a bit more time than liking, but it will also help raise awareness of your profile.

Where comments build relationships and community, others sharing your posts and content is how you grow your following. Some of the new followers you get from having your content shared will become part of your community and perhaps become friends as well, and some of them will not.

When I used to study with a Taiwanese (Chinese) group this attraction to the community was known as an affinity for the group. One of the desired results of social media for business is to have shared content attract those who have an affinity to be part of your community.

I would say that having content shared by other is the type of engagement most valued by marketers. The marketer in me also finds the number of shares quite rewarding. The number of shares I get in a day is one of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) I watch and measure. However, I have recently started to pay a lot more attention to comments as well.

On Google Plus there does seem to be some correlation between the number of shares I get and the number of views I get. I believe there is still a correlation between the number of shares I receive and the number of website visits too. I know this was the case when I was doing my social to website experiment. I started getting too much traffic for my bandwidth so I shut down that experiment.

The new Google Plus Insights Panel is and attempt to measure the number of shares, likes, and comments a G+ profile receives in a week. The problem is, it does not show the most important insights, which is for the current and possibly previous day. As behaviorism and learning theory teaches us, the most important reinforcement and feedback happens within a short period of time. In this case a day or less.

There are high quality shares and low quality shares. Depending on your users it may be very difficult to tell a low quality share. So I recommend you appreciate them all. I will talk more about this in part 3 in the section on curation.

Social Media Comments Shares and Likes on Google Plus
Social Media Comments Shares and Likes on Google Plus

Sharing Best Practice
If you are sharing someone else’s post it’s a best practice to add some commentary. You want to let your current and future fans know why you think the post is shareworthy.

Adding information to your shared content not only makes the share more valuable for your social profile, it can make it more valuable to the original poster too. The added commentary will also give the original poster an opportunity to interact with your profile.

I will also share content to stay connected with offline friends. If I find the content on a different platform than I’m posting on I will often mention who brought the material to my attention with a +name or @name

Sharing and mentioning the person who made the post can be used as a tactic for getting likes from the post’s author that in turn may show up in the social stream of the original posters profile. I suggest that you do this kind of post as authentically as possible. I will often Plus a post that has been shared by someone I know on Google plus. Depending on the added text and information I may also comment on the post. Sharing content while mentioning the author can provide an opportunity to interact with the author. However, if it seems manipulative it may not work so well. If you use this tactic posting as a business be extra careful and do it sparingly or provide some real value to the original author.

I have seen several people repost content to associate their website with a post. With these post the URL is often the only content added to the share. These I think of as low quality shares. Sometime they try to make it look like their site is what should be clicked on to get more information. It is one of those online tricks that is not in the best interest of fans and could be detrimental to one’s reputation. I do need to warn that this can be seen as a kind of spam.

The next installment of this series will go over one of the ways I have built many online community and that is by curating content.

These are certainly not the only tactics to build a following, but they have worked for me so far. As the online environment changes, tactics and strategy need to change as well. I am moving toward creating more of my own content and sooner or later will curate much less content than I have in the past 5 years.

Part 1 Social media marketing for your business and How It can be used to share and curate content

Part 3 Curating content and The Art of Building An Audience

Follow me on Google + to comment and connect
twittergoogle_pluslinkedinrss

Share this
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Social media marketing for your business and How It can be used to share and curate content (Part 1 of 3 Part series)

Social media is the art of narrative; it’s the art of liking, sharing, curation, creation, and media.

You are reading part one of a three part series.
Part one explores the role of social media in your business.
Part two will go over Sharing on social networks
Part three will dive into Curation on social media sites.

In the future I plan on adding a fourth part “creating content,” but that is not started yet and may take some time to finish. At this time I am starting to shift my resources from curating and sharing to content creation.

What place does social media have in your business?

“What does social media mean to your business” is more than a rhetorical question. How you answer will determine how you use media. Your answer will establish the role social and other forms of media play in your business’s processes, structure, and culture. Your business’s narrative shapes and is shaped by your company culture. No matter how clever your marketing/media strategy is, if it’s not aligned with your company’s culture it has a less than good chance for success.

Business Narrative
A narrative is what defines and differentiates your business from its competitors. Within your narrative is your unique selling proposition.

Many companies think too narrowly about media and especially social media. Of course it does depend on the needs of the company. But even businesses that only want simple social posting can get much more out of social (digital/new media) than they are aware of.

Instead of thinking only about posting the same things on all your social networking sites try to think in broader terms. There may be good reasons for posting the same thing on all sites, but you need to know what they are and why you are doing it.

Online social networking can be thought of as interacting with others. Being social is a big part of social media. Often a major element of an online social strategy is sharing, curation, content creation, and posting media on sites where you can interact with your fans. All of these elements can help with lead generation and ultimately sales.

Being Social Over Lunch With Social Media Influencer Chris Voss and his Husky
Being Social Over Lunch With Social Media Influencer Chris Voss and his Husky

Thinking of your content as both social and media may be helpful when deciding on what content to use in your digital marketing and promotions. Are you posting useless dribble or are you posting to attract your target audience? Are you being intrusive and clobbering your audience with unwanted advertising?

While broadcast TV may not always be of the highest quality, they do try to air somewhat entertaining content. Entertaining is subjective and can include educational content and news.

What kind of information will your customers find useful for understanding how your product or service can help them. When I had a dog training business I tried to give potential customers a taste of what they could expect from working with me. I have quite a bit of information on my websites, I gave away a free puppy training booklet, and I had an inexpensive online training course where people could sample how I worked and what we would be doing with in-home dog training.

I am starting to develop resources for my promotion/media business so that I can help others in my new niche in a similar way. I plan to write a book about my experience of starting and bootstrapping a business at a time in life when most folks are retiring. I hope to chronicle the business journey from start to finish. This site will be part of that journey, so if you are at all interested you may want to follow this blog. I am also working on documenting my 7 step program oriented toward business and marketing.

Incentive

Incentive The Contingencies Of Reinforcement by Skinner

The media you create should have some incentive for your target audience. Understanding your audience is paramount to creating engaging content. Incentive is the foundation of my marketing trilogy. Without incentive there is no interest. The other parts of the marketing trilogy, attention and acceptance, are special attributes of incentive. Attention allows you to engage with your audience. Acceptance involves earning the trust needed to move forward with the sale.

In today’s market customers are currently doing much of their research online before contacting a company. Social outreach and promotion can help generate interest when people start their research. This is thought of as filling the top if the sales funnel. The proper use of social media can also help build trust, thought leadership, and demonstrate expertise. Trust does become more important towards the the middle of the funnel and towards the end when the purchase decision is made.

Who is doing your social media and how important are they?
Your social outreach talent/personnel can range from low value staff to creative staff that are versatile enough to be integrated into your business’s strategy team. Those involved with a business’s daily social media are in a unique position to provide critical business insight and intelligence. Your social staff can be used like the unorthodox troops mentioned by Sun Tzu as necessary for a winning strategy.  In The Art Of War Sun Tzu said “in battle one engages with the orthodox and gains victory through the unorthodox.” Sometimes online marketing is like a battle. Even if you don’t use unethical unorthodox methods you should be aware of them. If you’re to do well without a big budget you must be able to come up with ethical unorthodox methods.

I do think digital marketers should use standard promotional tactics. However, social media/digital marketing staff should always be ready to use more unorthodox (and ethical) methods when the opportunity or need arises.

Learning the market and the social landscape.
Those in social can act like anthropologists as they pursue the study of humans in their natural online habitats. This can become even more fine grained by the comparative study of different online cultures.

I used to spend a month every year watching the wild dogs in Taiwan. This is the realm of the ethologist.

Skills borrowed from Ethology, the scientific and objective study of animal behavior, are useful for observing online social behavior. These observations can then be applied to marketing objectives.
Skills borrowed from Ethology, the scientific and objective study of animal behavior, are useful for observing online social behavior. These observations can then be applied to marketing objectives. The photo shows a pack of feral dogs hunting rats.

I use these same observation skill in my job as an experiential marketer. While I have enjoyed engaging with and observing people over the last three years I now think it may be time to move into something new. There are new jobs I would like to dive into, but it seems like a new business is more realistic.

By Incorporating observational skills with the reinforcement theory of behaviorism we can come up with some new insights, solutions, and approaches. However, this formula is still missing a component.  The missing link that makes information useful is mythos. Mythology is born from narrative. Many people will not be able to incorporate new information into their lives without a compelling narrative.

Using observation, reinforcement, and narrative as points of reference can lead to the development of new products and promotions. These three points of reference are also used for implementing new sales and marketing programs, lead generation systems, and thought leadership.

While I may talk about these three areas as points of reference in relation to marketing they are only components of the 7 primary points of reference in my 7 step program.

Some of the areas your social staff can monitor and influence are:

  • Trends
  • Keeping up-to-date on technology
  • Keeping up-to-date on social platforms
  • Search Engine Optimization – Someone good at social should be useful for SEO as well
  • Depending on style guides they can differentiate one business from another
  • Gain market insight and build competitive intelligence.
  • Can bring some social clout to the company from their personal online footprint. (it is often easier to build social trust from a personal profile than a business profile.)
  • Network with other people in the industry, social, and media
  • Creative integration of all the various digital marketing components
  • Help integrate online promotions with offline
  • Research products, people, and businesses

Social media is not easy and it takes time, often a lot of time. It’s not unusual for me to spend over 10 hours a day working on social networking. I spent up to 16 hours a day to build the over quarter of a million member Dogs community.

Google Dogs Community
Google Dogs Community

Many people fail to realize how much time is involved in doing social well. When Google Plus Communities were new I worked quite diligently to build the Dogs Community into a thriving spam free place for dog lovers to post their dog’s pictures and make new friends. It was not uncommon for me to spend  over 16 hours a day interacting with members and promoting the community to outside social networks. That group now has over a quarter million members. I no longer spend that much time on social media but I still spend a good chunk of time being social.

There are a lot of articles about using online tools for managing and curating social content. In part 2 and 3 I’m going to tell you a little about how I do most of my social sharing without using a lot of fancy tools at all. I believe that social is more about relationships and stories than what kind of tools you use. I do think automating the social process can make it a bit less social.

Follow me on Google + to comment and connect
twittergoogle_pluslinkedinrss

Share this
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

New Google Plus Profile Insights Panel Analytics Dashboard First Impressions.

I am extremely happy that the Google Plus team listened to the G+ user base and added analytics. The new G+ analytics in found in the Profile Insights Panel. More information about accessing it is at the end of the post. In the past I have used a guesstimate to figure out the number of shares, plus 1s, and comments I receive.

Classic Google Plus (Old Google Plus)
The new notification system that has been used for several months makes it more difficult to get a feel for the number of shares. Having shared posts grouped according to collections has lead me to estimating the number of shares by taking into account what was normal in the past. Using past references is not entirely accurate because I feel Google plus interaction has decreased since the New G+ has been introduced.

The way I used to estimate my interaction is first add all the shares I receive in a day and multiply it by 2. Before the new G+ notification system I would add all the shares for the day and roughly count how many old posts were shared. Often the total number of shares on old post would exceed the number of shared new posts.

I don’t have any numbers for comments in the past on the classic interface. Generally I was  only aware of comments for the day and didn’t try to account for comments on old posts.

To get the number of views I would simply track my estimated views by watching how much the views increased each day. It used to change at specific times during the day. Sometime it would change twice a day, but the usual pattern was once a day. I think Google plus was doing some experimenting with this feature before we got the system that is in use now.

Website traffic from G+
When posts linked to one of my websites I would get about the same amount of traffic or more from old posts as I would from new posts. Traffic to the site averaged around 1,000 to 1,500 visits a day from my social media.

While this is not a huge amount of traffic I thought it was interesting that it was only coming from my social media accounts. I had search engines blocked on that site.

More than 95 percent of this traffic was from Google Plus. Most of the traffic was from my most active collections/communities. Compared to my larger collections, traffic from my less active collections was minuscule.

Posting from my website gave me a much better picture of the engagement dynamics on Google Plus posts.

New Google Plus
I find that there are some discrepancies between what the New Google Plus analytics report and what I count on my profile page. The culprit could be what we find in the bottom left of the Profile Insights Panel where it says “New data may take up to 48 hours to appear.”

I think the difference between what is reported on the profile page and on the dashboard is too large even for the 48 hour gap.  I will need to watch this more closely over the next few weeks and see if I can find a pattern.

Google Plus Stats New data may take up to 48 hours to appear
Google Plus Stats New data may take up to 48 hours to appear

The numbers – Profile Posts
On my profile page I counted 46 posts while the New Google Plus said I made 18 posts.

Post shares
Post shares are one of the metric I pay particular attention to. I find there is quite a difference from what I counted and what was reported on the G+ Insights Panel dashboard. I counted 325 shares of posts made in the last 7 days, this does not include the shares of any older posts. The G+ dashboard says 120 of my posts were shared in this time period.

I know that the number of shared posts, both new and older posts is less than it used to be. I have not been paying that much attention to my older post shares until I started writing this article.

While my older posts still get shared quite often the amount of older post sharing is way down. My new estimate is that they should account for somewhere around 100 to perhaps 150 additional shares. I think the new notification system is probably better and more streamlined, I simply need to get used to it. I’ll need to watch my numbers over the next few weeks to get a better feel for what is now normal. There could also be a bounce if my G+ friends accept and start using the new Google Plus at the same rate as they did the classic G+.

Plus 1s (+1s = the Google Plus “Like”)
Plus 1s are useful because liked/plussed posts often show up in the Plusser’s social stream. This means that the plus 1s/Likes quite often go out to the person’s G+ social stream of friends and follows. I think plus 1s are an important part of the Google Plus experience and expand your G+ footprint.

When I counted the number of plus 1s I came up with 4957. Google’s Insights Panel analytics said I received 2,642 +1s. Again I only counted the +1s from the last 7 days, I did not account for +1s for older post in this number.

Comments
I counted 469 comments and the dashboard said I had 260. I usually don’t keep track of the number of comment I have. I just try to look at all of them and respond to as many as possible.

Views
I think the views count has always been more of a vanity metric, but I have used it to get a feel for Google Plus as a whole. It kind of helped Gestalt the Google plus posting experience, as did the old Ripples. The old total views is not a feature of the New G+. I looked through my files to see if I could find screen shots of two recent days in a row. I did, but it looks like they were all after Google stopped supporting the views feature. I can tell you how many views I used to get. At the height of G+ collections I would get between 200,000 and 300,000 a day with 500,000 views not uncommon. If I remember right, some days I would get more than 800,000 views. Over the last couple of month it seems to be around 100,000 to 250,000 views a day.

The image shows the view count from two days in 2015

Google Plus Views Received In A Day - From 12-8-15 to 12-9-15
Google Plus Views Received In A Day – From 12-8-15 to 12-9-15

As you can see G+ dash board says I receiver 300,785 views. I will start using these numbers, but I am questioning how accurate any of these are, old counts and the new one too.

Surprisingly the profile follows is pretty much what I would expect. The collection follows are also in line with what I would expect.

How to access the Profile Insights Panel Dashboard
You get to your Profile Insights Panel Dashboard by clicking on the tree dot menu which will open the “Your Influence” drop-down box.

Google Plus Analytics Three Drop Icon
Google Plus Analytics Three Drop Icon
Google Plus Profile Insights Panel Down
Google Plus Profile Insights Panel Down

click on the drop-down box and you’ll be in you private dashboard. You can change the time range for your analytics in the upper right corner of the Profile Insights Panel Dashboard.

Google Plus Profile Insights Panel Dashboard Time Selection
Google Plus Profile Insights Panel Dashboard Time Selection
Follow me on Google + to comment and connect
twittergoogle_pluslinkedinrss

Share this
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

First impressions of The New Google Plus on my most active account

The New Google Plus is still the best social networking site available, but now it requires more effort to use.

I have been using the New Google Plus interface on a separate account for several months. On that account it seems to work fine for me. However, I don’t post much on the new G+ account and I don’t get very much interaction.

When using it on a very active account the story is much different.I believe Google Pus is still a superior social site, but now it takes more work to use it.

The Good
First let’s talk about what I do like about the new User Interface. I think it is quite nice for scrolling through content others have shared. The new look should make it convenient for content discovery.

Ever since the introduction of collections I‘ve thought content discovery is one of the reasons more people would be using Google Plus. Collections contain curated content from individuals you more or less trust to post quality.

On the other hand, I have found groups on all social sites, if not highly moderated, full of so much useless information it’s hard to find anything that resembles quality content. Most unmoderated groups have an extremely high amount of noise and very little good content. At the moment I think following social accounts of individual’s is the way to discover useful content.

The Very Good

Update 1/30/2017
I really like the new spam filter for comments. It does catch most of the really bad spam.  I can’t monitor the profile 24/7 so it is nice to not worry so much about having my friends and followers exposed to the bad guys.
End of update

There is a new analytic in the New G+ that look nice. I have not had a chance to really dive into it yet. I did notice that the new stats might be at odds with the numbers from the vintage version of G+.  I do miss the total number of views. While that numbers may not have meant a whole lot, it was useful for correlating views to shares.

I plan on writing about the new analytic later in the week.

The Not So Good
The new UI is much slower to use. Selecting photos from posts is a little clunky. On my computer I can only go through photos forward – no back – and then I end up on a blank screen before I get back to the first photo.

Google Plus Photo Selection Blank Page
Google Plus Photo Selection Blank Page

There are now more steps to select the collection for a post.

You will need to click The See more if you curate a broad range of posts.

Google Plus Select Collection Menu
Google Plus Select Collection Menu

You will be taken to the menu with all of your collections and you can then select the one you want.

Google Plus All Collections Menu

I can’t have my screen big enough to easily read my notification, which means I need to read them at a size that is not as efficient .

Google Plus Preferred Screen Resolution
Google Plus Preferred Screen Resolution
Google+ Required Screen Resolution
Google+ Required Screen Resolution

The screen size does not seem like a big difference. But the bottom screen size make it harder to read notifications.

New Google Plus 1-25-2017
New Google Plus 1-25-2017

Conclusion – the new Google plus makes it harder to post and harder to respond to comments.
I am hoping a more streamlined posting system can be developed. Or they could support the old G+ alongside the new- maybe call it G+ desktop (good for desktops) or G+ easy (Easy to use) or G+ vintage Aged to a comfortable degree of convince.) Or just use what we’ve always called it Classic Google Plus

I believe Google Pus is still a superior social site, but now it takes more work to use it.

Follow me on Google + to comment and connect
twittergoogle_pluslinkedinrss

Share this
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Digital media in 2017 will social media change this year?

What changes can digital marketers expect in 2017?

New media, new forms of social, and the evolving digital landscape.

Predictions

  1. Dark social and 100 percent mobile apps will become more popular
  2. The rise of voice search
  3. Video will grow to a point where it begins to lose its effectiveness. To quote Gary Vaynerchuk “Marketers ruin everything.”
  4. The rise of social media sites created by youngs and super youngs.

Bonus question
Will people start to leave Facebook?
I did an article about how I plan to use social in 2017. Although this could change, and in fact it already has. I am working on a new article about alternatives to Facebook as I’m experimenting with a few of these social websites. I could simply give you a list and a little history about the different sites, but you can get that a lot of places online. I want to let you know if I find them useful and if I think they would be useful to others.

New Google Plus for everyone on January 24, 2017
In order to make time to explore new sites and crate more content I am going to need to change my workflow on my favorite Facebook alternative, Google Plus. I get a lot of engagement on Google Plus. It’s not uncommon for me to spend over 6 or even 8 hours a day interacting and growing my Google plus communities. I am certainly not complaining, I do enjoy my Google Plus friends. However, at this time I believe I need to make time to create more content and spend just a bit less time curating content. As I write more I have cut the number of hours I spend on the G+ platform.

For me community development has been a passion and a focus ever since the very early days of Google Plus. However, with G+ forcing everyone to the New Google Plus on January 24, 2017 I am reorganizing how I manage and respond to comments and other types of engagement on the platform. I am still committed to the platform, but I think the new UI will change my rather intense workflow.

I don’t think people will leave Facebook, but I do think many will start looking for better content and less noise.
There are some interesting news apps that are coming online to curate news. I believe these are in response to the fake news that was and to some extent still is prevalent on Facebook.

Mobile
I have notice a decrease in engagement across my social accounts over the last several months. There seems to be an overall  trend of moving from social media sites to mobile platforms. While most social sites have mobile apps, I think some of the old social traffic is moving to mobile first/only platforms. I believe one trend we’ll see in 2017 is the rise of dark social. I imagine that dark social will be more difficult to track than other forms of media.

Prediction 1 is that dark social and mobile only apps will become more popular and social media websites will lose some of their user base.

 

Dark Social is one change digital social media we can look forward to in 2017
Dark Social is one change digital social media we can look forward to in 2017

Digital personal assistants
We will see an increased number of searches done on digital personal assistants.
With Google, Apple, and Amazon all pushing their personal assistants I think we’ll see an ever increasing rise in the use of these devices for getting answers to life’s questions. Digital assistants will provide opportunities for some websites and businesses. They will also create some unpleasant consequences for others. I don’t think any of us know exactly how voice search will affect our online footprint, but we have some really good guesses. For one thing I believe that it will become an even more competitive environment with only one winner per search. It may be helpful to linguistically seed search terms through branded promotions.
Prediction 2 The rise of voice search

Video
Video will grow in popularity and may reach the saturation point. I believe that 100 percent video content plays/models will reach a point of diminishing returns within 3 years. This will mean that video will be looking for a sustainable business model in the coming years. This could be the year that we see peak-video. I hope I am wrong on this one.
Prediction 3 video will grow to a point where it begins to lose its effectiveness.

Mineral millennials
Businesses will continue to target the under 34 year old demographic and  discount older net citizens. Marketers will treat this group like rare and valuable minerals to be mined and the rest of humanity as the matrix rock that needs to be discarded. There is a trend to love those under 34 and  rather dislike people over that age. I think we will see several social startup created by very young people. I can see this making some sense when they target the younger demographic. But I think we will also see this trend of “youngs are hot olds are not” trying to promote products, services and websites to older adults as well. From what I can see almost all businesses prefer very young celebrities as the ideal archetype for message distribution. Doesn’t everyone believe in and trust the judgement of a 12 year old?
Prediction 4 the rise of social media sites created by youngs and super youngs.

If you would like a free 15 minute, old fashion phone chat to talk about marketing and/or video, just reach out and contact me.
As always I am wishing everyone the very best.
Andrew Ledford
My Google Plus

Follow me on Google + to comment and connect
twittergoogle_pluslinkedinrss

Share this
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Art In The Making – My Projects For Fun And Profit

Can Art And Marketing Be Best Friends?
I tend to be a little on the messy side and a picture of
Pablo Picasso I recently posted on Google Plus inspired me to take this picture. I was inspired by the messy sate of Pablo Picasso’s room. It gives me inspiration that my creativity has more valued than I think.

I do believe art can be an effective form of marketing. What do you think? Is it just spiritual inspiration or is art the engine that drives promotions?

Art For Promotional Art Art Projects Waiting to be Created and Assembled - Its Art In The Making
Art For Promotional Art Art Projects Waiting to be Created and Assembled – Its Art In The Making

I am getting close to having my most recent performance art project done. That project is running into some technical difficulties. I hope to work through the design issues as soon as I have a full day off when it’s not raining.

I think I am going to need an adult walker as a performance platform. So, if anyone in the Southern California area would like to donate a walker with wheels, brakes, and a seat, please get in touch with me. It also looks like I am going to need a load bearing harness or vest as well. After experimenting with a backpack I think I will use a traditional Japanese sash instead of a load bearing harness.

One project is almost done and now it’s time to start thinking about the next project. What will it be?

There are two projects I am thinking about doing. The first one combines video and local travel with making art. I am thinking it may have an experiential/performance element as well.

The second art project is a lot more sophisticated and would require a big commitment of time. I anticipate that the second project idea would be almost 100 percent experiential/performance based. I believe the second project would take a considerable amount of time to complete.  However, it would be a fun performance/exhibition for me and has the potential to be a high profile project.

One of my longtime friends says I have a lot of cool and creative ideas and she would like to see at least a few of them manifested into reality.

At this time I am planning on using art to fund the start up cost for my business which includes the New Media Mingle site. I think we can find not only inspiration but also precedence for this strategy in Japan’s history. After the Tokugawa period the new Meiji Government needed to bring Japan up to modern standards as quickly as possible.  At that time Japan used art to support their emerging industry and to gain recognition on the world stage.

As my projects come online I will be sharing them on YouTube.
Stay tuned to this station for further instructions.

Follow me on Google + to comment and connect
twittergoogle_pluslinkedinrss

Share this
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail