Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Insider Interview #5: Tobi Bowen

By: Sean Hawkins

I had the opportunity to discuss social media with Tobi. Afterwards, I saw how valuable her insight was to those of us working in the contact center. As customer service continues to mature in social, it is beneficial to learn and exchange ideas from those with experience in the social media world.

CCW: You have a background in sales and marketing. Those of us in the contact center work closely with both sales and marketing. With the rise of social media for customer support, we in support are understanding the importance on branding via social media.  In your opinion how important is branding and how does someone begin the process to brand themselves successfully?

Tobi: How important is a brand? Let’s say you were in Atlanta and you decided to drive to Phoenix. Before leaving, you consciously decide to disconnect and you leave your phone and wallet at home. About an hour into the drive, you push the accelerator and lo and behold, no gas, no phone, and no wallet. Now you’re stuck, mid-stream, with no plan. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

Being on numerous social media platforms is awesome for your business. But attacking them without the right plan is the wrong way to go about it. Being on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr, Yelp, Pinterest or YouTube just to be there is not going to get you anywhere.

Your Social Brand should mirror your Corporate Brand. It should tell the story of who your company is and why you’re so amazing at what you do. Being a great Social Brand means that you’re present, responsive, educational, approachable, gracious, not sales focused and real.

So, circling back to the question at hand, how important is branding in social media? Don’t leave home without it. 

CCW: How do you feel social media has changed marketing and sales opportunities? What advantages does social media bring that once was not there?

Tobi: Back in the olden days (like the early 90’s that I call BC or Before Computers), we actually had to rely on relationships with other people to connect. A friend of a friend, the office gatekeeper, a high school buddy, etc. Networking and asking others was the way that we connected, or you could simply plow ahead and try to cold call (oh no, not that!!). Fast forward to today. Connections and cold calling to me are like putting a puzzle together.

When I meet someone, I always ask if I may connect with them on multiple social media platforms. The answer is ordinarily, yes. Different platforms tell me different things. On LinkedIn, I can learn all about their prior work history, see a visual story of their accomplishments, see who their business connections are, and who we know in common (a really big deal when building rapport). But on Facebook, I’m able to learn about them as a person, see their family, learn about their likes, beliefs, passions, and even where they vacation and the foods that they like.

In sales, to me this is critical and should be a part of your MO when you’re fact collecting and learning about someone. It’s even more important to try to do this research on someone when you want to win their business. 

From a marketing perspective, social media can be your best friend if you utilize it properly. Many platforms have enhanced advertising opportunities that allow you to micro-target a very specific audience. Having this ability is absolutely incredible and has forced so many forms of traditional media (tv, radio and newspaper) to expand their offerings and many of them include an online marketing package with their ads (I wonder why!). Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn all offer you the ability to find your demographic, down to the zipcode if you’d like. It takes marketing dollars to a whole new place.

I’d be remiss at this point if I didn’t mention there’s been an incredible amount of talk as of late about the decreased organic views on Facebook business pages. Yes, It’s true! Organic views are down. Not fabulous news but nothing in life is free, including Facebook. And it’s still a great place to advertise, if in fact your demographic spends time there.

Earlier this week I found an article that showed the cost of advertising today for every 1,000 people that you reach. 

Newspaper: $32.00
Magazines: $20.00
Radio: $8.00
Cable TV: $7.00
Google Adwords: $2.75
LinkedIn Ads: $.75
Facebook Ads: $.25

The numbers speak loudly and clearly. If you’re not playing in this space, you’re missing the boat, but your competition probably hasn’t.

CCW: Whether one is in customer service, marketing, or sales, customer engagement is a critical part of what they do. How would you define customer engagement?

Tobi: To me, customer engagement is the way in which we honor those who we do business with and those who we’d like to be doing business with. If we speak of honor in its most pure form, we have the opportunity to really take pride but reflecting on the value that our clients/customers bring to the table. Let’s face it, without them, we are nothing.

The way that you honor the relationship is really simple. It starts with honesty. If someone is calling you because a service was not provided as expected, don’t get defensive. Own it and fix it. If they decide to tell you about it publicly in social media, follow the same principle. Own it and explain how you’re going to rectify the problem. It’s a wonderful way for people to see how stand-up your company is, and they’ll probably want to do business with you because of it.  

CCW: What are some useful engagement tools that you utilize?

Post Planner: a time saving Facebook tool to easily plan posts
Buffer: a site where you receive suggest posts for all of your platforms
Newsle: a daily email that shows you if any of your connections show up online

CCW: In earlier conversations, you mentioned how strongly you felt in utilizing email and social media to connect with customers. Can you elaborate on that?

Tobi: I just got off the phone with a client who said to me “People just don’t respond to generic email.”
I’ve been utilizing email newsletters since the late ‘90’s to get the word out to people for event registration, meeting reminders, invitations, holiday greetings, newsletters, press releases and more. I’ve never favored the ‘click on the attachment’ option. Why people still do that is beyond me. With the massive number of people checking email on their phone, an attachment is an even deeper challenge to view.

Everything has its ebb and flow. Social media can be overwhelming for many people because so much is coming at us constantly. People absorb information in sound bites. Short, concise,well-constructed and targeted thoughts are easily heard and hopefully memorable. Too much can cause overload and people won’t be able to comprehend your important message.

Social media should be thought of as just another marketing tool and added into your marketing repertoire – just like email marketing. People often ask me if they should be doing one or the other or both. My answer is always yes, yes and yes!

Not everyone sees every blog post, all of your social media posts or all of your emails. So by pairing your messages together to drive your point is just smart business.

Here’s a great example of how to make it work AND make it easy. You’ve just published your weekly blog post. Great! Now insert that into a dynamic email to send to your list of clients and then share it over to your business and personal page on Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn.  Mission Accomplished!

Tobi is the president of Instinctive Branding, and is recognized as a local Brand Architect and Social Media Expert who helps her clients grow their business and brand through printed literature, digital marketing, social media presence and penetration with web design, branding, logo development, promotional product sourcing, and events. As her passion for social media has grown throughout the years, she developed NC Social Media where her company creates, manages and teaches social media platforms.

She is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in psychology and was in nonprofit management for 19 years with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, American Diabetes Association and The Muscular Dystrophy Association in roles from Community Development to Executive Director. The spent 8 years in the senior industry as Director of Development & Marketing at Resources for Seniors in Raleigh. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for: Raleigh Little Theatre, Health Affairs Round Table,Women's Business Owners Network of Caryand is a founding member of Well Heeled U Sorority. Originally from NJ, Tobi moved to the Triangle in 1999 and lives in Wake Forest.

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