Get @TheCityHourApp For Social Networking

Soulati-Screen-Shot.jpgI recently had the distinct pleasure  to speak with Lance Seymour, chief marketing officer with CityHour, in this Google+ HangOut On Air. During that session, I also got to to send Alex Lubinsky, founder of CityHour, in the Ukraine some big love from we in the U.S. See what we get to do in sponsored posts? We can send hugs and kisses on a personal note across countries and oceans to those in strife. Big XO to you, Alex!

Now back to scheduled programming…

Hear About CityHour Here

CityHour is a new social networking tool with a big vision.

Have you ever traveled and had downtime in an airport or wandered aisles at a tradeshow wishing you were meeting someone instead? How about meeting someone totally new who also wants to do the same?

That’s what CityHour app does for iPhone users (coming soon to Android). Within minutes, and I mean minutes, you can hook into peeps you don’t know with your same interests and make connections happen. I’m impressed, and after seeing what Lance has to say below, you are going to be impressed, too!

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How Do You Network? There’s An App For That!

CityHour-App.pngNetworking is a topic everyone loves to chat about, and there’s no limit to how people claim they do it well. In an unsponsored post I wrote here about the importance of networking for young PR peeps, I commiserate with everyone about the no-fun feelings for the rubber-chicken circuit.

In this sponsored post (everyone get that?), we’re going to look at a new app called CityHour that takes networking to a new dimension. I’m jazzed about this one, too, and I’ll tell you why in a moment.

First, do you read the Wall Street Journal? I’m still a print junkie and read it daily. I was so surprised to see a story about networking featuring Gary Vaynerchuk, the social media guru and angel investor, touting the demise of the business card! Yes, another obituary!

Gary was making huge fun of the people who toss their business cards out and believe it’s networking. You know the types, right? When you’re at a tradeshow or luncheon with strangers and someone pops out a business card and deals them around to everyone whether you asked for one or not.

The CityHour App

Now we get to the juice. How often are you in a city on business and have time to kill? How about that always-customary two-hour layover in the airport? If you’re anything like me, you would prefer to use that time more wisely and meet up with someone to cultivate a bit of business.

I have never known the best way to manage that until now.

The CityHour business networking app culls contacts from your LinkedIn and Facebook accounts. It searches for people within a geographic range of you as well as in similar fields.

Upon my first review of the contacts it suggested for me, everyone was brand new and there was a huge variety of people I could schedule for a networking meeting on my calendar.

It’s one of the easiest apps to work with…if you follow this blog, you would’ve seen my post called, I Am App Challenged! (LOL).

What you need to do is download the app from the iTunes app store. It’s free and installs in about one minute. You’re ready to go with a log in to either Facebook or LinkedIn, and then the fun begins!

I’m pretty excited about using my time more wisely when I’m traveling. What I’m going to check out though is whether I can also set up a business networking meeting with someone from the CityHour suggested stream and meet with them for the purpose of my second blog post in the series.

That will be my experiment, because why wouldn’t I also want to incorporate this into my weekly business development planning? Instead of a cold call or tossing a business card around the table, I can have CityHour make me a few suggestions and make a connection that way!

Stay tuned for how that works out; I’m eager to see that, too!

When Startups Flounder, Is PR To Blame?

Dandylion-Startup-Soulati.jpgThe factors contributing to success of a startup are myriad and must cohesively meld in the sandbox. While fundraising drives ultimate success, think of these and then ask which is to blame if the rocks start to skitter:

  • Team Strength. Like forming a hive with all the competency variations, a startup team has to be smart, committed, representative of the needs to take the company forward, and come with the skills required for the long term.
  • The Big Idea. Let’s say the big idea truly rocks and then it doesn’t. What happens to the startup if the business strategy and model continue to morph after launch? The very foundation of the business begins to waver, and uncertainty is the daily emotion.
  • Marketing & PR. Every single startup needs and gets marketing; yet, they often relegate public relations to the back burner. PR is brought on board to do the media relations, get the earned stories just after launch, and to create the excitement for continued fundraising and growth.
  • Fundraising. Crowdsourcing, friends and family, angels, venture capitalists, credit cards, loans, personal retirement are all methods of funding growth of a startup. Without the funds, the people hired to help the core team with the big idea can’t bootstrap into perpetuity.

The PR Component

When a startup launches into a crowded vertical with many big players who have owned the space for decades, it’s a challenge to earn attention by media without time for the little fish stories. There has to be news created and launched on a regular basis, and if that funnel of newsworthy content dries up, so too does any positive attention earned during launch.

When the business model waffles, public relations must play catch up to understand new objectives and develop revised strategy to keep external audiences interested.

Public relations success is critically dependent on all of the above factors weaving in and around one another to create buzz.

When you regard how public relations works with established business, it’s really no different, it just may be easier to identify the news and pitch it to an audience who recognizes an established brand.

So, to the question in the headline, is PR to blame if a startup flounders?

No, not at all.

Each of the components in the list above must be in synch in order to continue the growth curve with a hundred roadblocks.

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The Solopreneur And The Hive

Bee-Hive-Soulati.jpgI’ve been saying for years there’s no more going it alone as a solo entrepreneur; times up for individual practices of one.

Why?

From first-hand experience, I offer you this:

There is too much kerfuddle about what’s new online that requires competency and back-end smarts to make the online business go. What about that social media stuff? Who’s interpreting the big data, and who, for goodness sake, is installing all the plug-ins, widgets, badges and pages plus security on your site and landing pages, not to mention the calls to action and ohmygosh that list?

Beyond competency in all things online, brand and digital marketing plus the writing and strategy of it all, there’s also accounting, legal (more oriented to contracts) or other skill sets needed for teams’ success.

Get the picture?

If you’re still not tracking and nodding the head along with me, here’s solid proof my theory is justified. In the Feb. 3, 2014 Wall Street Journal Small Business Report, “Freelancing Alone—But Together,” the executive dean of St. Joseph’s College in New York writes a solid piece about consultants who find payload working together in a hive.

What Is A Hive

We’re not talking bees here, but do consider the queen and the workers building a colony. There’s a systematic method to that buzzing madness, right? And, now consider this hive mentality with a grouping of freelancers coming together with conjoined forces, competencies, experience, and services to represent clients.

According to Elance in the story in the Wall Street Journal, in 2013, there were 1.21 million jobs posted on its freelance site with 1.15 million freelancers available; do the math – a bit of a deficiency for professionals, eh?

Which suggests to me that the freelancer solopreneur has a bit of opportunity to make it rich; but hold on…as companies shed their full-timers, they’re not shedding the need for skills. This means that a hive has the opportunity to roll in and become the outsourced team, acting as if they are full-time. Do you have a hive success story of your own?

Hive Success

Imagine if you’re part of a hive with all the moving parts to make it buzz. Throughout my 30 years in public relations, I have put together virtual teams and bid together on RFPs. Back in the day, however, companies weren’t ready for that type of structure; perhaps they thought there wasn’t structure.

What I can share as the most critical point of working in a hive or virtual team is this – someone needs to lead. Sadly, organizational dynamics requires a leader; flat teams may work well in theory, but clients need a leading point person they turn to for issues, discussions and strategy.

Here are several factors that contribute to hive success:
1. Leadership – appoint your primary point person to represent the hive to clients.
2. Skill Set – get a variety of competencies on the team that are not competitive with one another.
3. Money – address the discomfort of money and pay up front; everyone carries the load and contributes to expenses while getting a fee commensurate with the budgets attracted and hours recorded
4. Unified Front – this becomes more esoteric; however, if a client is calling another hive member for help with an issue, that person has to inform the rest of the hive. The team must function as a unit and not as individual members especially when clients regard the hive as one company.

Hire Soulati Media

There’s beauty being a solo practice. I can morph into arrangements faster than a chameleon changes colors. I can slot into a marketing team and be an assistant product marketer or join a public relations team and put my media relations skills to work, or work with another solo marketer trying to get a blog up and running or take a larger role as a business strategist for a startup.

Why this is easier for me is due to my career as a generalist in agency public relations. I took on a plethora of roles and adopted skill sets to empower competency as the Internet era unfolded.

Soulati Media is seeking clients right now. Let’s begin with a message map and follow that up with some strategic marketing programs and execution. The team is here and standing by; better yet, Jayme Soulati is the leader with decades of competency to offer.

Be Part of My Hive

Honestly, my hive has been alive and well for a number of years. I draw upon the skill sets that are deficient in my purview and gladly so. It’s been a tough road for me because I am a DIY’er. I love to do it myself but when I do it poorly, it’s time to step aside and let the experts in.
There’s safety in numbers to an extent. What I have found is that people are happy to join a hive as long as they don’t have to lead, and that’s what I do best.

Care to join my hive?

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10 Steps Using Social Media For Business Development

Institute of Technology and Business Development

Institute of Technology and Business Development (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all need new business, right? Doesn’t matter if you’re a solo professional, small business of five or larger, everyone has to keep the pipeline full and the leads rolling in.

Digital marketing is absolutely the tier-one method, and I recently met an incredible expert who does it every day exceptionally well. And, the process is highly strategic requiring expertise learned over time and years of testing the methods.

Social media provides another business development methodology that everyone can do and probably does do without knowing it.

The other day, I tweeted, “If you ignore Twitter, it ignores you.” Indeed. When you fall off the ladder into the rabbit hole, it’s hard to jump out. There are a variety of reasons making that hole feel comfortable and safe and most of it has to do with being challenged and trying what’s new and different. While it’s easy to tweet and reshare everyone’s posts all day, what’s the gain besides burn out?

Let’s be more strategic and help fuel your lead generation. And, I’m not talking about inbound marketing right now; I’m talking about good old-fashioned networking.

10 Steps to Fuel Business Development

Step 1: Set Goals

There are four simple goals for using social media for business development:
1. Identify your target list
2. Elevate your personal brand
3. Ask for a meeting
4. Earn the business

Step 2: Track With a Spreadsheet or CRM System

If you’re on a budget and can’t afford a CRM system, then use your QuickBooks or Excel to track lead generation and prospecting. If you’re really on a budget, then perhaps index cards?

Step 3: Develop a Tier-One Target List

Everyone has a wish list of a company with which they’d like to work. Put your list of five or so together. Maybe you select a few out of each category that are different sizes.

For sales teams, this works, too. Select the company with which you most want to do business and get that target list active on a CRM system (but then I don’t need to inform sales how to prospect, right?).

Step 4: Who is the buyer of your services or product?

During the time I was in HubSpot school (I made a major investment in this platform to learn inbound marketing from the big guns), the words “buyer persona” appeared on my radar.

I had to think about the audience most likely to purchase my services and describe them – age, gender, expertise, values they appreciate, and more.

From the list in step one, select the title/role of the person most likely to buy your services or products. Get that title/role into your tracking system.

Step 5: Audit The Company

Here’s where social media comes to play. Using your tiered target list, begin exploring social media activity by the company. Record on your tracking system/CRM each of the channels and which is more powerful for shares and content.

LinkedIn (example). Does the company have a company page? How about a group? Who are the folks who work there? Can you find the title of the person most likely to buy from you? Better yet, take a look at your network; who in your network knows someone at that company to send an introduction on your behalf?

Step 6: Social Sharing

  • Google+. Similar to LinkedIn, check out the business page for your target company on Google+. Perhaps you’ll also find the folks who work there and you can do a search. (Not to mention, you can also do a name search on Google itself, of course!) Begin to +1 posts on Google+ by the company and also reshare it if you think it’s worthy.
  • Twitter. Companies tweet, obviously. Star the company into your Faves List and begin retweeting posts you like from that company. Pay attention to who’s tweeting; it may be an agency and there may also be initials on the posts indicating someone on a team.
  • Blog. Here’s where you can really influence and elevate your identity and brand. Visit the company blog frequently; in fact, subscribe and never miss a post. Read for a week or two (depending on the frequency of blog posts) and get a feel for the topics the company is writing on. All the while, you’re preparing to comment on the blog while resharing it on social media channels.While the blogger for the company may not be on your target list, you can still use the fact that you commented and shared that company’s blog post in your eventual pitch.
  • Your Blog. If you really want to make an impact and impression, invite the person you’re targeting to do a Q&A with you, write a guest post or to link. You can also follow them on the Interwebz; but, do not be a stalker! Use discretion and caution, please!

Step 7: Engage and Build Relationship

We who have been on social media longer than five years know how to build relationships with total strangers. It’s what the channels were built on. Today, that ‘raderie is next to nil; yet, people appreciate genuine authenticity with real professionals and people.

Use that concept to build upon the relationship you started. Of course, your goal is to get a meeting and perhaps earn some new business; however, there should be a common interest you can draw upon to build a true and solid foundation.

Step 8: Ask for a Meeting

If you’ve done a great job making small talk, sharing content and following your target list, then it’s time to ask for a meeting. Make it casual under the guise of networking because that’s what it is. No one wants a hard sell, and the recipient of your attention is smart enough to know a sales shakedown when it happens!

Essentially, be you and be real.

Step 9. Stay in Touch

If the meeting doesn’t product the result you wanted, do not fret. Sales pipelines sometimes take months to fill and business also takes time to close. If you drop off the radar, what happens when your prospect wants to find your name and number and can’t because you fell back into the comfy rabbit hole?

Step 10. Smile and Show Me Some Personality

I needed a step 10 to round this out, and maybe it’s the most important step in the bunch. Think about when you get a cold pitch; how’s your demeanor on the phone? Abrupt and impatient, right? Now think about paving the way to a prospect with smiles, laughs, personality, kudos and more. How do you think that person will feel about you with all that in front of the ask? Selling with heart couldn’t be more important, and think of it this way – if you get a “no thank you,” then move on to the next one and pretty soon it’s like riding a bike.

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