As a marketer and web designer specializing in social media marketing, I have one rule that is never broken. No personal pictures of children. I would rather lose a client because I know that the web is a scary place filled with anonymity and people with no value for children. While parents protect their children from those hiding in the shadows of secrecy in real life, many parents unwittingly expose their children to thousands of sexual predators and molesters who are simply a click away.

If there is one message that I would love to give every parent who engages in social media or marketing for their business it would be: the web is not your friend!

Here are six NEVER DO things for social media and websites to protect your children:

1.  Never use pictures of your children as your profile picture. So many parents use pictures of their children instead of themselves as profile or avatar images. While I appreciate the need for parents to retain obscurity, think about the exposure of your children and their image to mass populations of people.

2.  Never put pictures of your children on your website or blog. Perhaps the most accessible way to gain pictures, a website or blog surrenders pictures with just a right click and SAVE AS. Posing a double threat, many website and blogs are directly traceable to a location by phone number or direct address.  Might as well place a google map on your child with a large YOU ARE HERE arrow.

3.  Never share pictures over social media.  Having seen people post a link to vacation pictures or family fun on Twitter or Facebook, the warning light bulb burns white hot upon the realization that thousands of unknown people exist in each account. Even in the strictest of social media sites that require you to validate your “friends,” people can sneak in to your connections. Further, when connections comment on your photos, your photos show up in the highlights of their connections! In certain social media, your pictures can be shared and re-tweeted to a whole new group of people without your knowledge.

4.  Never send pictures over email. If you send pictures of your children to company email addresses, then they go through a server administrated by people. As email can easily be viewed, saved, downloaded, and forwarded, grabbing these pictures of your children is not difficult. Most servers automatically scan downloads and attachments for viruses and generate reports to administrators.

5.  Never forget that someone does not have to touch your child to exploit them. When placing the pictures of your children in any online electronic format, never forget that you are exposing them to exploitation by one simple right click. In the thousands of people on the internet and in social media profiles, consider the chances that one of them is either a pedophile or sexual predator. The chances are very good!

6.  Never let innocence block your view of the truth. So many parents see their children with innocence rather than the potential for exploitation. Innocent pictures of children in the bath tub or playing in the backyard sprinkler are graphic to a sick mind. Although it might be painful to think in that manner, there are many consequences more painful than protecting your child by seeing the truth.

People often protect their financial information more stringently than their children because they feel safe in tucking their children into bed at night.

Not quite…in reality, it takes less than 10 seconds to right click on a picture and upload it to a new webpage. In those 10 seconds, a charming picture of a 7 year old girl in her new bathing suit splashing around in a pool can hit a child pornography website and be up for sale to thousands of pedophiles for a few dollars.

Sickening? Yes.

Are you ready for worse? Social media pages and websites often have exact locations connected to the parents’ profile. Even more directly, many social media profiles have websites that list as a location and phone number on the website or in a domain search. In less time than it takes to post that innocent picture to share with family and friends, a child molester can find the exact address of your child. When posting pictures of children, many parents post their names and ages with the picture.

Is there anything more persuasive for a child than a person who knows their parents name as well as their own? It is quite an advantage for sexual predator.

After watching a recent episode of Raising the Bar, it was very clear that my own experiences with parents reflects the comfortable naiveté of reality in how often people forget that the web is not their friend because we have grown up with the web as a part of our lives. I suggest this episode to every single person responsible for the well-being of children who uses the social media or the web as part of their connection with family, marketing for a business, or expansion of a social network.

Raising the Bar http://www.tnt.tv/dramavision/?oid=49111&eref=sharethisUrl.  

Remember: The web is not your friend!

Although there is a large push to jump on the social media marketing bandwagon, most companies and business owners strike out into the great unknown of the online frontier without a social media marketing branding plan.  It might seem unnecessary to most business owners; however, the creation of an online branding strategy is one of the most vital steps to social media marketing success.  Just as each bubble of social media contact floats out into the webosphere toward an intended audience, a social media brand must be consistent for potential customers and business partners to see a strong message.

There are as many different online forums and networking sites in the online marketing arena as there are bees in a hive.  For the purpose of clarity, consider Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Biznik as prime examples.  In fact, these five steps to creating a consistent brand in social media marketing will apply the same way to every online promotional opportunity from electronic article publication to blogging:

1. Decide on a Niche Market.  No matter what audience you are seeking to address, identifying your niche audience is even more vital in social media marketing than in traditional marketing because there are millions more people to reach.  Many companies believe that drawing thousands of followers on Twitter or dozens of connections on LinkedIn equals high ROI (return on investment).  If 999 of the 1000 people who follow you on Twitter are women without children and you sell mommy products, then your conversion is actually VERY low.   Finding your niche audience will give you good coverage for your brand and lead to better conversions.

2. Consider a Face.  Much of social media marketing is about finding the right way to promote.  Whether you decide to use your company logo or your picture, remember that the icon or avatar will represent the “face” of your online efforts.  If it is important to have human recognition (for services, human recognition is imperative!), then consider finding a person that looks non-generic in race, economic type, and profession without being remote or sterile.

3. Persona Grata.  The welcome person should be prepared to tweet, post, and connect with a consistent tone and voice to distribute all company correspondences of online marketing.  By allowing one person to interact on each posting board and forum, the chances are better that the message and branding will stay the same in all social media venues.

4. Slogan-ate.  In virtually every social media forum, there is the opportunity to write a short blub about the company or person.  This is incredibly useful space that most people waste.  This is the place where people look when they are deciding if they want to connect with you and get to know you.  Using this space as your online business card or elevator speech is the best approach for developing interaction between social media platforms.

5. Promote and Measure.  By setting up separate promotions for each social media forum, you are able to kill two marketing birds with one stone!  You can do some quick A / B testing of several promotions to see which promotion out performs the other.  Plus, you can quickly measure results by the number of people who take you up on the offer.  Once you have decided which promotion has achieved more results, you should create slight variation of the same promotion to strength your brand recognition for each social media involvement and measure return on investment.
 
Many of the reasons that solopreneurs and companies market in an online atmosphere include the opportunity to gain exposure for their brand and the dissemination of branded marketing messages to a larger audience.  In both cases, increasing brand recognition and promoting a strong marketing message require a consistent brand for the audience to connect the dots into a series of marketing touches that increase sales potential.  By following the five steps, consistent branding in social media marketing will match the branding on the rest of your promotional materials.

Now, I know that the next few minutes of discussion will not resemble anything politically correct (not unusual right?) or mentally sound in the rational way that should be on topic, but I am noticing a growing trend that alarms me.  In many ways, I walk completely outside of society and their uptight rules.  Yes, hippy rebellion as it may sound…let people live and think without hurting each other.  Not so crazy, after all, I think that it could be argued that the Bible says something like that in several places. However, not to get too far off point, I am very obsessive about paying bills on time.  I own a business and nothing makes me angrier than to have to remind someone to pay their invoice.  So, in turn, I don’t want people having to remind me to pay my bills.  Fair is fair right?

In return, I do expect a certain amount of customer service.  Let’s be completely honest, I represent that ideal that customer service is essential and I seem to be the only one.  I have noticed a sliding trend of customer service in the past few months that makes me want to reach out to companies and say, “You know, I will pay more for good service.  Really!”  They really need the proverbial V8 slap to the back of the head.

Here are some of my mental money meanderings over the past month:

  • Language Barriers:  PLEASE don’t make me press one again to speak to someone in English.  If you can detect my name and address using caller ID, cant we please set my language preferences?  I would much rather tell you my name than have to listen to that damn 30 second introduction for the next 50 years of my life.
  • Language Barriers, part 2:  After I press one to speak to someone in English, transferring me to someone with an accent that is so thick I can not understand them DOES NOT count as speaking to someone in English.  It is very frustrating to continually say, “I am sorry, I can’t understand you.  Did you just ask me what I had for dinner last week?”  *grin*  Ok, so maybe it is not THAT bad, but you get the point!
  • Don’t call me:  What is up with companies that do not have a telephone number on their website or put it in an obscure place where you have to search all over the world wide webiverse?  (My word “webiverse”—I love it because it describes all of us who have a universe on the web!).  Enough already…give me a break and let me call you with my question.  We will all be happier when I finally find it.
  • At the beep:   Even better, large companies that keep bankers hours on staffing their phone systems.  I swear, I called AT&T the other day (switched to Vonage because it will save me about $150 a month—I will let all know how that goes) to pay my last bill.  I received an automated voice that said they only staff the phones during 8-6, M-F.  Logically, that is when all phone issues occur right?  The phone company does not have people staffing the phone.  Yes…in my mind…that is right up there with a Catholics priests not being married but giving marriage advice!  Enuf said.
  • Charges to Pay:  Now, to make a payment online (which I used to love because it was fast and convenient!), you have to pay 3 days ahead of time.  Good enough, when I understand that the rules have changed, I can play the game.  But, I called to make a phone payment today to keep from being late and was told that there would be $15.95 phone payment charge.  Huh?  I could not believe.  Fast and easy is apparently gone the way of cost effective.  Never mind the fact that I don’t consider a 3 day lead way an acceptable time frame for an electronic payment, but now it costs extra if I want to pay them on time.
  • Check Please:  I find it incredibly irritating when I make an electronic payment that requires me to void a check.  I don’t consider it unreasonable.  Electronic payment is supposed to keep me from needing the check.  Do they know how much checks cost these days?  And, the security risk of tearing it up (we shred—but anyways)….throwing it away is just a huge waste of my money.
  • ATMs hold ups:  When my ATM is down (and the next ATM is about 25 miles away), I have to use another bank.  For this, I get charged an incredible fee, as much as 25% of the ATM transaction between both banks, because their equipment did not work.  Interesting version of customer service.  We charge you for our failure.  Its good to be the bank!
  • Resellers:  After noticing an amazing charge on my cell bill this month (I just got a new Blackberry), I called the company to discuss it.  I was told by their customer service that the store that I bought the product in only housed retailers.  They were sales people on commission.  If I wanted services turned off or on, then I needed to call the customer service branch of the company because the sales people were only there to make sales.  Now, I am not naïve by a long shot.  But, it seems to me that if you put a large sign on the building, all of the guys in the place have your logo on them, and they tot business cards with your name, then you carry some liability for what they say.  I was advised to go to the store and discuss it with the Manager.  Uh huh… right after he had just told me not to trust their representatives that were in there.  When did businesses STOP backing up what their employees say?  More over, when is it ok to be ok with saying….”You should never trust one of our representatives.”  Guess I those guys selling cell phones on street corner with a side of crack really do have the right idea…they are training to work for my cell phone company!
  • Special Honors Note:  Here is a little tidbit that I found out by calling the bank after putting a meal on my debit card and noticing it exceeded the ticket amount by a large margin (so much I noticed it!).  The bank informed me that merchants are allowed to charge up to 30% of your sale OVER the amount of the sale (yes…in addition to your sales price) and hold it until your sale clears the bank.  The ticket is electronically submitted to the bank and the bank refunds the money back into your account. 

              

*At this point, I said….”what if the money is not recredited to my account or the ticket is not submitted as I signed it?  You have allowed them to take money from my account without my consent.”

**Answer:  “That does not happen.” 

Let me give you a little background.  In Tampa in January of this year, I took a few people to lunch.  The restaurant is a national chain that will remain nameless (but it does have a big pepper on the sign!) and I was charged three separate times for the same meal.  The bank had let all three transactions clear.  I caught it and reported it.  It happens and your bank is NOT there to protect you.  Protect yourself.

Ranting over…I have been meaning to go down this road for several weeks because it has been collecting in my brain.  I don’t feel like I am asking TOO MUCH….I mean, I pay my bills on time and I consider myself a logical human being.  I guess that might be the problem.  Logical human beings don’t get very far in the universe….so, I took it to my “webiverse.” 

Money, as the Bible says, is NOT the root of all evil.  The root of all evil is bad customer service and terrible business practices.  If you are guilty of any of these OR something that is driving your customer crazy, all the great marketing in the world will not help you! ~~Dee

First, whatever I say from here on out in the blog….pay attention.  I am starting a New Years Resolution early and this is it.  Once a week (atleast), you can find me here.  The Marketing Goddess blog is ready to live again!

Why did I stop?  Easy…business got into the way.  I do not get paid to write here.  I did get paid to write other places.  The choice is easy right??  Wrong.  Here is where I teach you WHY blogging is important to your business. 

The call last week went something like this:

“Hi, I found you on the internet and I was impressed with what you had to say,” the voice on the other end told me.

“Really, you found interesting information on the website?” trying to prompt her to tell me what she read.  It is a marketing conversation that EVERYONE should be having with every potential customer that calls.

“No, on your blog.  I goggled you,” I could hear her smiling.  That made one of us.  I was not smiling because I knew the blog had not been updated in months.  And, I have learned first hand that blogs work in another way.

Recently, I started another blog (not listed on this site).  It has received over 20K hit in the past four months.  How does happen?  It’s not hard at all, but we will go through it in the next few posts!

Lesson here:  1—Blogs work.  2—Clients will find you on the blog.

Here are some blogging basics that you MUST accept:

  • You must commit to your blog.  If you are not going to keep a regular posting schedule, then save yourself time and money now.  Leave it alone.  This is extra important because blogging can bring you SEO hits.  Plus, an audience will not commit to follow you if you don’t give them a reason!
  • Get Technorati (and other social medias) hooked up from the start.  By adding easy ways for people to follow your blog, then you will build an audience because they get whatever they want with their Happy Meal.  See the green box over to the right that says “Technorati Favorites”?  That is my Technorati home where people vote for me!  VOTE FOR ME! VOTE FOR ME! VOTE FOR ME!  If I know that I am loved, then it is easier for me to keep coming back.
  • Load your Blog.  Some people simply put their comments out on the blog.  Your blog should be your home away from your website.  Adding content gives people places to look around and find out more about you.  For example, on my blog, you can see customer testimonials.  Give them a reason to talk to you.  AND…your contact info should be prominent.
  • Plan the information you want on your blog.  What do you want to say?  How often?  What schedule do you want to set?  Get with your marketing person and set up a plan for your blog.  Your marketing plan should include this important step.
  • Have someone design your space.  Its not rocket science, but it is brain surgery.  No…not really.  But in truth, a good Blog Marketer (if not me, then someone please) can give you hints on what to include, how to lay it out, and where to cross the Ts.  You can also get information on writing for human beings as well as search engines.  A great blog marketer will hold your hand through this process.

Ready to get started with your blog marketing campaign?  You have my blog New Years Resolution.  Is getting more business part of your New Years Resolution? 

If you have questions, comments, or emotional outburst….well, that is why I am here! ~~Diana, Marketing Goddess

First, thank you to Michael, a good friend always ready to talk Marketing with me and inspire me to understand my vision.  Today, as he and I chatted about social marketing and blogging, I started to realize something not everyone knows… 

Let’s start off with an understanding that social marketing IS the medium of the future.  Bingo cards in magazines (if you are too young to remember Bingo cards, then be grateful that the world moved on from this painfully slow form of marketing!) and mailing letters are so obsolete.  Don’t get me wrong.  Direct mail can be very effective if executed well, but there are so many quicker more efficient ways to network with the today’s generation.  Even phone calls are becoming a relic of the past. 

One of the major ways is MySpace!  Of course, this medium…blogging is a fav-o-rite of mine, but MySpace is another flavor.

It seems like 99% of the MySpace pages miss the main rule of marketing.  KISS—Keep it simple stupid!  As I look over the profiles available on MySpace, there are some that are very nice.  Graphical layout compliments the message and even promotes the reason for approach.  However, as a rule….they are painful!  My general rule is clean clean…and did I mention clean?  Remember, MySpace is user oriented.  It is meant for the human element to gather and meet with friends.  Create a network and find like minded people interested in the same things you are…whatever that may be.  If you offend the masses, you loose friends.

It like that guy who is always wearing an ugly shirt when he goes to a party.  His wife loves him too much to say it is ugly, so she just rolls her eyes as everyone gasps and points.  Don’t be that ugly shirt.  I mean, don’t let your MySpace page be that ugly shirt.

What can you do to Succeed in MySpace?

  • If you are graphically challenged, GET HELP!  MySpace is full of people offering help and there are tons of free skins online.  One such place is http://www.freecodesource.com.
  • Remember that this represents you.  Don’t be scared to be different, but don’t turn people off either.  If you want to turn a module alittle to the left or right….go for it.  Distinguish yourself!
  • Make your information reflect things that would interest other people.  Draw them in…get them to contact you.
  • Invite people to your MySpace.  Get out there.  Share interest and exchange invitations.  If you have a blog, then promote it here.  Use and abuse this space.

By no means am I an expert on pretty-ing up a MySpace page, but they don’t have to be unattractive.  In a few short hours, I made my page (have a look at http://www.myspace.com/marketing_goddess).  Is it an inspiration for Michelangelo?  Not likely…but it is not going to start a mouse race for the little black X at the top right of the screen either!

If you stop by MySpace page and want to leave me a comment, do it! Do it! Do it!

By the way, that was a call to action.  Next blog, we talk about asking for what you want and directing your customer to the sale.  Again…I get to change my mind!

If you have specific topics you would like for me to address, then give me the test.  Ask!!!

If you have questions, comments, or emotional outburst….well, that is why I am here! ~~Diana, Marketing Goddess