Make Decent Videos 2

Video is exploding on the Internet, and companies that incorporate video into their social marketing strategies have a decided advantage over companies that don’t. While web surfers accept—even prefer—amateur video productions over slick, professional recordings, don’t let this lead to sloppiness. Your videography shouldn’t distract from your message. If a video is bad enough, even very interested viewers may click away to something a bit more polished.

This is the second installment in a three-part series about creating decent video for your social marketing effort. My point isn’t to turn you into a master videographer. Rather, I hope to encourage you to improve your product. If your viewers aren’t thinking about the production quality of your video messages, they’re more likely to focus on the messages in your videos.

While Recording Video

In part one of this series, I posted seven things to fix before you start shooting video. In this post, we look at seven things to do—or not to do—while you’re recording:

Fill the frame. The subject of your video should be front-and-center. If you’re teaching about planting herbs in pots, make sure your viewers can see the herbs and the pots. I’ve seen video demonstrations in which the presenter filled the frame, but the items the presenter was demonstrating were too small to discern clearly. If you are the most important thing in your video, then place the camera appropriately. However, if you’re demonstrating something, arrange the camera so your demonstration is easy to see in the video. If your video camera won’t focus at close range, use a digital camera to capture detail and include the digital stills within your finished video.

Record multiple takes from several angles. For videos that feature a person talking, a single take from one camera angle works well. And, for many demonstrations, a single camera angle is adequate. Doing multiple takes from multiple camera angles increases the chance of capturing detail that’s relevant to your demonstration. Sometimes your hands interfere with a shot as you demonstrate a procedure simply because you didn’t anticipate the full range of motion you’d employ. Do the demo twice and move the camera between takes; this will probably result in sequences you can edit together to tell your story well.

Put the camera down. This may be the most important point in my discussion about making good video: Don’t hold the camera while you’re recording. Get a tripod and learn to use it. Even if you’re following a moving subject, mount the camera on a tripod and limit the camera’s movement to horizontal or vertical pans. Please, please, please don’t hold the camera and walk while you’re recording unless there is no other way to get the shot you need.

An amateur videographer once asked me what equipment I used to make videos—we had created videos at the same venue. Before answering, I watched his recording; it was very shaky and hard to follow… though the image quality seemed quite good. I could see that his video camera would have made a great video if he’d mounted the camera on a tripod.

Pan slowly and rarely. Panning means moving the camera across a scene. There’s a lot of crummy panning in Youtube videos: people swing this way and that to follow action, and they leave viewers feeling dizzy. Try to record videos from a stationary camera. If you must pan, pan slowly… and if you think you’re panning slowly enough, pan a little slower still. If you really must pan quickly, it should be to follow a moving subject… and keep the subject in the frame so viewers have a decent place to focus while the rest of the scene is a blur.

Don’t one-hand the camera at your face. Seriously. This is so cheesy. Get a tripod or a friend.

Zoom in and out only if you must. If a scene requires a long shot followed by a tight shot or vice-versa, do viewers a favor and cut the two views together. Watching a scene zoom rarely increases understanding of the subject matter the scene presents.

Pause often and long if you’re narrating as your record a scene. Why would I suggest this? When you play back a recording, it’s likely you’ll spot bits that you ought to leave out of the finished video. But, if the original recording contains an endless stream of narration, it’s tricky to cut without creating awkward transitions. If stream-of-concsiousness is the best delivery mechanism for your massage, go for it. If you want to present a clear, understandable message, pace yourself and pause often so your video will be easier to edit.

 

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An Ugly Twitter Presence

If you’re incorporating Twitter into your social marketing strategies (you should), I encourage you to mind this list of Twitter “don’ts.” While many Twitter marketing “experts” tell you to do at least some of the things I believe you shouldn’t, for truly social Twitter users, these are complete turnoffs.

“Social Twitter users?” Well… it’s a social network, not an I’m here so you can sell me stuff network. When you offend the social members of the network, they’ll take action. They may share annoyance about you with their followers, or they may report you as a spammer. What they won’t do is read your sales pitches and buy your products or services.

Six Don’ts for Marketers on Twitter

  1. Don’t be obsessed with how many followers you have. Sure, having a lot of followers means you have a lot of marketing reach. However, having 700 followers who share your passion for your market space is better than having 12,000 who are followers just because.
  2. Don’t let your obsession with your follower count lead you to tweet about it. It’s so distasteful to read “I’m only two followers away from 1,000! Who else will follow me?” Tweet something like that and you sound needy and whiny; that’s an awkward position from which to start a meaningful relationship. A corollary to this problem: don’t boast when you hit some target number of followers; that’s so high school.
  3. Don’t use a “system.” Yes, Twitter offers a terrific opportunity for marketing… and I’d bet more Twitter users are in it to promote something than are in it for a pure social experience… but you don’t endear yourself to people by gaming them. If you or your company is already famous, followers will flock to you because they can. If you’re trying to become famous, do so by being interesting and interested… not by running a game.
  4. Don’t follow someone back just because they followed you first. People may judge you by your followers, but they’ll judge you far more by who you follow. When you follow every random “person” who follows you first, you end up following the number-obsessed crowd, people who are tweeting purely to sell stuff, people who hope you want to look at naked people, and automated accounts that magically build up followers for their owners. If you run with that kind of crowd, that’s the kind of crowd you can hope to attract.
  5. Don’t chum for followers. By this I mean don’t start following someone with the sole intent that it will get them to follow you back… and then dump them because they don’t follow you back. This is really crass behavior. There are at least 50 tweets I’d be following today had they simply continued to follow me after they first started. I generally review new followers and decide who I’ll follow back every two-to-three weeks. In that time, chummers who start following usually stop. When I see this, I assume the followers were never interested in me or my twitter stream; they started following only so I’d follow them back.

    I’ve seen “people” follow me four times in a three week period. This means they followed, dumped me, followed again, and so on. If it was so important to them for me to follow back, why didn’t they just tweet me about it?

  6. Don’t expect anything from your followers. If you choose followers because they tweet about things that interest you, let that be enough until you get to know each other. If they really do interest you, you’ll follow them even when they don’t follow you back. If being followed back is so important to you, don’t chum. Rather, follow and engage: tweet a few replies to their tweets; re-tweet something they tweet; tweet an introduction that explains why you’re following… when they see how interesting you are—and how interested you are in them—they’ll probably follow you back.

Here are links to articles that explain my approach to engaging followers on Twitter. The first, Before I Follow You, reveals the work I do before deciding to follow anyone on Twitter. My goal is to meet people who will be interested in what I have to say… and those are most likely people who say things that interest me. The second article, Why I Didn’t Follow You Back, lists the things people do on Twitter that guarantee I won’t be following them.

 

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Free Social Marketing Strategies Seminar

Pennsylvania Brain Drain has been in the news for over a decade. In that time, I’ve participated with government and nonprofit organizations that advocate for technology and explore factors contributing to Brain Drain. I believe one factor is a tendency of Pennsylvania companies to react slowly to new trends, and a critical trend companies overlook today is the emergence of social media on the Internet.

The use of social media is growing exponentially. Companies that incorporate social media into their marketing programs have a dramatic advantage over competitors. Many companies in central Pennsylvania choose to block access to social media even for employees who can benefit from it the most. Worse: managers and policy-makers often dismiss social media as frivolous; they don’t see themselves using it, so they don’t see how important these new technologies are to business.

Before Social Marketing Strategies comes Understanding

I do a presentation that stuns listeners with insights into the growing Internet-based economy, and that explains fundamentals of social media and the advantages it brings to a business. I’m offering this presentation at no charge to Pennsylvania companies wanting to learn more about social media. My hope is that PA companies will adopt social media to reduce costs by streamlining market research, marketing, customer support, and collaboration.

Companies that don’t adopt social media lose against their competitors. More disturbing: they lose attractiveness to a technology-savvy workforce that has never known a time without personal computers and cell phones. These are the young college graduates who leave Pennsylvania for jobs in companies that keep abreast of trends that are changing the way people do business.

Please help me get the word out about social media. If your Pennsylvania company is ready to learn about social media, drop me a note at this address: daniel@cityslipper.com. If you know a company that might be ready to explore social media, please send them a link to this post. Until further notice I charge nothing to present this seminar within Pennsylvania, but for travel beyond 75 miles from Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, I request a stipend to cover my travel expenses.

I’m pleased to offer this seminar as well to non-Pennsylvania companies at my standard training rate.

 

 

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Make Decent Videos 1

Kudos to you if video is already a component of your social marketing strategies. Goodness, some businesses successfully use video exclusively in their social marketing efforts. But nearly everyone promoting their businesses through social media can get a boost from video.

Amazingly, video need not be slick to be effective. In fact, there is a growing population of folks who prefer amateur productions over professional ones. The success of Youtube supports this contention.

Learn Video Recording Skills

When you’re ready to add video as one of your social marketing strategies, don’t get all hung up about equipment, and don’t run off and build a sound studio; you can do a good enough job with even modest equipment and locales.

On the other hand, please, please, please, take care with a few fundamentals of camera work. Overlooking these basics can reduce a perfectly adequate video to an annoying mess that does more harm to your marketing effort than it does good.

Did I say “a few fundamentals?” Forgive me. I’ve watched a lot of online videos and collected a lot of suggestions for improvement. This is part one of a series on shooting decent video.

Seven Things to fix BEFORE you Start Shooting Video

Use ample light. Video cameras are amazingly good at using whatever light is available. However, when there is less light on a scene, the camera can’t capture as many details as it can when there is more light. Especially when you shoot indoors, supplement a room’s normal lighting: turn on all the lights, add a clip-on spotlight pointed at your subject, or hang an extra set of fluorescents. It’s almost impossible to have too much light on a scene.

Manage the light source. Watch out for light sources behind your subject: a floor lamp, a bright window, even a mirror reflecting a light from behind the camera can cast your subject in shadow (the camera may adjust itself to reduce glare, darkening everything in the scene). Equally important: a bright light near the camera may cause people or animals to squint; make sure you’re comfortable with the amount of light hitting your face before you start recording.

Eliminate extreme contrasts. Your video camera’s automatic brightness control feature doesn’t know whether to emphasize a light subject against a dark background, or the dark background itself. With extreme contrast, your camera may turn a light subject into a bright patch of light. Conversely, a dark subject on a light background may become a black hole in your scene. If you plan to pan (move the camera from subject-to-subject while recording), the transition from a dark object to a light one can cause the camera to struggle and may result in a blotchy sequence in your video.

Remove clutter. Even a tidy office with houseplants, bookshelves, and knick-knacks in the background can be distracting from the main subject. But if you’re shooting in a messy living room, or in a cluttered kitchen, your audience may not focus well on your message. Video shot in your warehouse or customer support center ought to show your company in better shape than it might typically be.

Get decent sound levels. Most recorders have built-in microphones, while some let you plug in an external microphone that will stretch many feet from the camera. If you can’t use an external mic, don’t get so far from the camera that it can’t pick up your voice. Even then, make sure you don’t turn away from the camera and block your voice from reaching the onboard microphone. Finally, if you can’t be close to the camera, make sure you speak loudly and clearly so your viewers can understand what you say.

Control ambient noise. Is your video better or worse when the people in it are shouting over the noise of heavy machinery? Is it better when a dog bark or a honking horn momentarily drowns out real-time narration? Is it possible the high frequency hum from your power generator might bother viewers and make them leave the video early? One way to control ambient noise is to record video without narration. Then, edit the video and record narration in a quiet room with the doors closed. Even very simple video editing software lets you record sound while you’re playing back the video.

Modulate sound according to location. Huh? If you’re narrating while you record or if your video includes a conversation, location can have a profound effect on the sound level. Indoors in a modest room, sound bounces around so a camera’s microphone can pick up even very quiet speech. Outdoors, sound goes off in all directions so less makes it to the camera. What’s more, there tends to be ambient noise outdoors that simply doesn’t exist in most indoor settings. When you create video with audio outdoors (or in very large rooms), people may need to speak more loudly to get a good recording.

 

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Beyond Social Marketing Strategies: Is Your Company Ready?

While this blog is primarily about social MARKETING strategies, I’m a great fan of exploiting social media wherever it can improve business processes. Of course, as a business analyst, I’m a fan of improving business processes… using whatever tools fit the need.

One of the conundrums of delivering technological solutions to business process problems is that the very “best fit” products—even custom-built products—sometimes fail miserably. The reason, quite often, is corporate culture.

Internal Uses of Social Media

In ten minutes of brainstorming, your managers could probably think up three dozen ways your company could benefit from using social media internally: Wikis could store customer-support solutions, maintenance procedures, manufacturing techniques, and design histories. Discussion forums could track planning, design, conflict-resolution, progress, and more. Blogs managed by various functional areas of the company could replace the internal corporate newsletter and keep employees better informed about the company’s activities.

However you imagine using social media internally, your company needs to come to grips with the question: can your corporate culture handle it? It’s possible but unlikely that when you enable social media, everyone will jump onboard and your company will zoom into overdrive. More likely, you’ll hit dozens of road bumps and, it’s quite possible things will go very badly. You can probably think of at least one company where management is so incompetent that unleashing social media would result in calamity.

Please consider your corporate culture carefully before jumping into social media. This link leads to an article that will help evaluate whether your company is ready to deploy social media for internal use:

Can Your Corporate Culture Handle Social Media?

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Resistance to Social Media

When I ask people in Pennsylvania about their social marketing strategies, so many tell me that they don’t see any use for Facebook and Twitter. Some share that their companies block social media sites for various reasons not the least of which is that careless use of social media can let viruses through the firewall. Using social media also invites smooth, effective phishing that claims a lot of users’ log-in credentials. Considering the risks, it makes sense for companies to block access. Of course, companies in PA aren’t unique; resistence to social media is common in companies around the world.

I don’t advocate unbridled use of social media throughout a company, nor do I advocate against it. (In my company, we’d find a way to allow social media access to anyone using computers, but that doesn’t make it right for your company.) I do advocate responsible use of social media in your marketing activities. In fact, companies that don’t quickly develop social marketing strategies and put them in action are going to fall behind their competitors.

Who Should use Social Media?

Fine, your company blocks access to social media. But your company must not forbid the use of social media. Consider: your company probably doesn’t encourage employees to read newspapers during business hours. Still, your marketing department may use newspaper advertising as a marketing tactic. Or, more absurdly: your company may use forklifts in the warehouse and shipping areas, but it would be silly and potentially catastrophic to put a forklift in every office and cubicle.

Therein lies the foundation for responsible use of social media in marketing. Put social media in the hands of people who should have it: your marketing department. Get them up to speed on acceptable use, and have them build social marketing strategies that will advance your business.

The social marketing plan that results may (and almost certainly should) require participation from people beyond the marketing department. The marketing plan must define how all participants use social media, and it must lay down rules for what users can and can’t do.

I coach companies to allow no use of Facebook applications without approval from the marketing plan coordinator. I also insist that companies teach about phishing and present users with examples of phishing emails and tweets to inoculate them against giving up login credentials or other potentially damaging information.

As with any business tool, don’t simply hand social media to every person in your company and expect to benefit from it. Rather, create a plan, train the appropriate personnel, and provide access as-needed.

 

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Help Wanted Ad Reveals: No Social Marketing Strategies

While more and more companies adopt social marketing strategies to lower costs and improve the quality of their outreach, even more companies are completely missing the opportunity. I read a want ad recently placed by a continuing care facility, and it motivated me to write the following response. The ad made no mention at all that candidates for the advertised position should be familiar with web sites let alone with social media. My response applies as well to nearly every business looking for a marketing specialist:

HR Recruiter;

You have advertised a marketing position for a continuing care community. You’re looking for someone who is personable, creative, and flexible and who can represent your organization well. You ask for candidates having computer skills so they can produce advertising materials such as brochures, newsletters, and press releases. Wouldn’t you like to do better than that?

While traditional marketing approaches are still important, particularly for reaching a local audience, companies that are not developing on-line social marketing strategies are losing to their competitors. With 418 people joining Facebook every minute, people are getting to know companies through social networking before doing business with them. We’re quickly reaching a time when a company will not be effective at attracting customers if it doesn’t have a strong presence in online social media.

But, you object, people looking for continuing care facilities aren’t so computer-savvy; they’re not shopping on-line for a business like ours. This objection reflects your bias, but it doesn’t reflect reality. According to a recent Pew survey, the fastest-growing segment of Twitter users over a nine-month period was people aged 55 to 64. As you’re already aware, many aging Americans involve their offspring in making major life decisions… and those offspring rely increasingly on the Internet and their social networks for guidance.

From your ad, it seems as though on-line social marketing strategies are not in your thinking. That’s a shame. The continuing care facilities that hire social marketing strategists and get started on-line are going to thrive. Continuing care facilities who do not adopt social marketing strategies will struggle to understand why they can’t compete.

Best of luck!

Daniel Gasteiger

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Why Social Media Matter: Google

In central Pennsylvania, I’ve seen IT professionals, government representatives, and technology policy-makers express disinterest in social media. This troubles me because these leaders of local business and industry are the people who should be encouraging businesses to employ social marketing strategies.

Social media are very rapidly transforming the business world. To appreciate why this matters, consider one dramatic difference between business today and business ten years ago: Google.

Some Useful Information about Google

Ten years ago, when you lacked information on a subject of import, how did you acquire the information? Well… you might have checked Google, but chances are you didn’t find what you wanted; the Internet wasn’t particularly evolved ten year ago. It’s more likely you assigned someone the task of getting the information for you, and they made phone calls or visited the library to consult reference materials.

Today (and by today I mean on the day you read this), Google answered more than 300 million requests for information (I know this because I Googled it). Google has become the default starting point for finding information, and with a little practice nearly anyone can solve problems quickly if they have access to the Internet.

What Google has to do With Social Marketing Strategies

Of the 300 million Google searches requested today, how many of the results led to your company’s name or web site? Here’s where social marketing strategies enter the picture.

A Google search is not a social activity and it does not exploit social media. However, if you leverage social media properly, you’ll increase the frequency that Google searches lead to your company. That alone should matter to anyone wanting to succeed in business.

When you employ social media in a coordinated and responsible fashion, you extend your company’s representation throughout the Internet. Your company emerges as an industry expert, it develops a reputation as a problem-solver, and it encourages customers and prospective customers to become involved with your company’s products and services: to participate in your company’s mission.

Participating in social media may not be enough in itself to increase your visibility on Google. However, when you coordinate your social marketing strategies properly, you encourage Google to boost the ranking of your company web site. If you’re going to compete effectively in a world where Google fields 300 million questions a day, you need to make sure Google knows your company is the answer to some of those questions.

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Your Company Name on Social Networks

In an earlier post on Social Marketing Strategies, I encouraged you not to use your company name as a screen name for an on-line persona marketing your company to prospective customers. The whole point of incorporating social networking into your marketing activity is for you to engage people in conversation. Presumably, other participants on the network are there also to have conversations.

If I’m looking for someone interesting to chat with, I’m much more likely to focus on human names than I am to focus on company names. When I want to find a company by its name or commercial interest, I’m most likely to launch a search on Google… not on a social networking site.

Register your Company Name

Register your company name as a screen name on whatever social networks you plan to employ in your social marketing strategies. If you’ve registered with a human name on a network to build your reputation, you should register with your company name on the same network. Use this on-line persona to represent your company to the network.

Your company screen name can, and should be a miniature version of your company’s marketing activity. Make product announcements, share how-to tips, explain product features, describe upcoming events, tell about events recently-passed, make promotional offers, offer discounts… in short: make this an account that appeals to your customers and enthusiasts. If you have a product or service that has a life of its own, serve its users with a screen name for that product or service.

Differentiate your Company’s on-line Personas

Your company name screen name is the go-to guy for information about your company. If I sign up to follow your company name, I’m probably a customer, a journalist, an industry analyst, or a competitor. I’m following so I’ll know what’s going on with your products and services. If you register a company name screen name and you fail to keep me informed, it will reflect badly on your company; your company’s continued participation through social media will become an important factor in customer satisfaction.

Your human persona, clearly identifiable as an employee of your company, is the accessible, savvy insider who actually talks with outsiders and builds a reputation as being knowledgeable and helpful. Do not use this screen name to spew company propaganda. Rather, use it to join and start conversations on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, forums, Youtube, and so on.

This screen name talks with followers about their interests. If your company supplies products for equestrians, this screen name chats about horse training, horse birthing, horse shows, horse diseases, horse equipment, horse feeding, and anything else horse that comes up in conversation with horse-lovers. When the conversation goes into unfamiliar territory, this screen name learns along with its followers.

Your human screen name—without pushing—invites followers to check out the company. It shouldn’t volunteer product information except when answering questions… and then, it shouldn’t sell, it should only inform. This means making such statements as:

Liniment should help. Of course, I’m partial to Beacher Equestrians’ Feral Horse Balm http://www.beacherhorse.com/balm

My company, Beacher Equestrians, is sponsoring a giveaway at http://www.beacherhorse.com/giveaway

It’s even reasonable occasionally to suggest:

You can keep up on my company’s products and events by following @BeacherHorse on Twitter.

(I must point out: if you think the domain name and screen name BeacherHorse is good for business, seek out a marketing course at your local Small Business Development Center.)

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Social Marketing Strategies for Picking Screen Names

One of the fundamental social marketing strategies is to create a persona by which the on-line community gets to know your company. You should plan to participate on many social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed, YouTube, blogs, forums, bookmarking services (such as Stumbleupon, Digg, Reddit, and so on), and topic-specific social networks.

When you join these social networks, you establish a screen name for each of them. And, the more you participate on the networks, the more people get to know you by your screen name. If the point of participating is to let potential customers find you, then it’s a good idea to use the same screen name on every social network you join.

The 3 Biggest Screen Name Blunders

I’ve seen many screen names that instantly turn me away. I’ve seen at least as many that grab my attention. However, except in rare cases, the ones that are most successful leave me indifferent: I don’t care so much about your name as I care about what you have to say. Even the best screen name can get you in trouble if you abuse your on-line identity. Here are three common—and bad—screen name strategies:

1. Register with social media web sites and services using your company name.

This is a losing strategy simply because normal people don’t socialize with companies; they socialize with other people. When a company name follows me on Twitter, I expect the tweets from that user to be all about the company; I rarely bother to find out. When a person’s name follows me, I read the associated profile, 40 or so of the person’s recent tweets, and I even click through to the person’s web site if there’s one listed in the profile.

People representing your company should use their own names, but clearly broadcast their affiliation by including it in their profiles and by mentioning it openly when offering opinions during social discourse. It’s acceptable to register your company name as a user on a social network, but this should be as a rallying point for loyal customers; don’t expect prospects to flock to your company name and devour the message you feed through it.

2. Register a clever user-name that shouts your skill set or expertise at the world.

The screen names OnlineMarketingPro and AudiMasterMechanic are flashing neon lights that seem like fine marketing bling. However, such screen names may repulse a huge segment of your potential customers. If I’m not anxious about my Audi when I see your screen name, I’m likely to ignore you; I’m on a social network, not an experts-ready-to-pounce network. When I need one, I’m more likely to look for a mechanic in the yellow pages or in a local business directory. You’re better off registering your own name on the social network, then sharing your profession in your profile, and mentioning it at appropriate places in conversation.

3. Have a surrogate handle your social networking so you can ignore it… but don’t share the lie with your audience.

If you’re well-known in your industry—a television personality, a politician, a musician, or an industry expert, for example—you may simply not have time to keep up conversations on social networks. It’s perfectly acceptable to have your staff or an outside agency maintain an on-line presence for you. But be involved. Don’t let your staff lie to your followers and represent themselves as you. When someone discovers they’ve been duped, the social network you exploited will turn on you. The speed with which public sentiment changes in the age of social networking can be dizzying.

Your Social Marketing Identity

The simplest—and the least controversial—screen name you can use on a social network where your intention is social marketing, is your name. I’m most receptive to friend invitations from people’s names. After that, I’m more likely to pay attention to a word or word combination that either suggests a person’s interest or that’s busting with creativity. Two of my favorite screen names on Twitter are @kissmyaster and @thegerminatrix. These are both people who are heavy into gardening/landscaping; the names are fun and they (vaguely) suggest professional focus without threatening to deliver a stream of marketing drivel.

I don’t object to a screen name that associates a person with a company. For example, BillToffee_StreppoTires interests me much more than, simply, StreppoTires. As I said earlier: I’m not likely to follow a company unless I’m already a fan or a customer. I might very well follow a person… and knowing up front that he or she works for Streppo Tires saves one step in getting acquainted.

In upcoming posts, I’ll talk more about why you should establish a social networking persona using your company’s name… and I’ll explain responsible and strategic uses for that persona. However, in most cases, the social marketing screen name intended to attract new customers should not be your company name.

 

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