This seminar is just one of several that have been sponsored by
Frontier Communications. On hand from Frontier were Michael Boebinger, regional manager, who served as the meeting moderator;
George Johnson, business technician for the local area; and Dan
Fishback, the local technical manager for this area.
A telephone conference call was hosted by Bill Fuesz of Frontier
Communications with presentations by Albert Maruggi, president of
Provident Partners, and Shama Kabani, president of the Zen Marketing
Maruggi is a senior fellow for the Society of New Communications
Research and host of the Marketing Edge podcast.
Fast Company and Business Week recognize Kabani as one of the 10
most powerful and influential women in social media. She is the
author of best-seller "The Zen of Social Media."
The majority of the discussion revolved around social networking
using Facebook and Twitter, but the presentation did begin with a
brief discussion on a newer Web-based coupon site called Groupon.
With Groupon, retailers or service professionals are the
advertisers, and their customers are the subscribers.
Advertisers place online coupons with Groupon with very lucrative
deals, such as 50 to even 90 percent off a retail price on one item.
Subscribers print out the coupons and visit the advertiser to take
advantage of the special price.
This is all very much like any printed coupon one would receive
in the mail, but the special prices are supposed to be exclusive to
Like printed coupons, the drawback is that this does not
necessarily equate to return customers who are willing to shop with
the retailer regularly.
At the moment Groupon does not have a "group" in central
Illinois. The closest regions the advertiser can use are either
Chicago or St. Louis, which brings up another issue for retailers in
central Illinois: Which region are our residents using?
When Maruggi spoke he talked about social media being everywhere
and a normal part of todayís society. He noted that in the final
quarter of 2010, smartphones outsold personal computers.
With these types of mobile devices, anyone anywhere can
immediately convey their pleasure or displeasure with a product or
service to literally thousands of people.
He used as an example an instance with TV talk show host Piers
Morgan, who recently had a bad experience on a flight and tweeted
about it on Twitter as it was actually happening. Within seconds,
all of his followers knew that Morgan had had a bad experience with
Maruggi said those tweets are going on about us as retailers and
service professionals, and in this instance, "what you donít know
can hurt you."
It was also brought up that due to Twitter, Facebook and other
forms of mobile communication, people are now their own media
sources. Like walking newspapers, they are reporting their
experiences as they go.
Kabani spoke mostly about using Facebook as a source for free
She posed these questions: "If I were to tell you there was going
to be a trade show with 650 million guaranteed attendees, would you
want a booth? Letís sweeten the deal. Would you want a free booth?
Well, yes. And then we can make it even sweeter. What if you didnít
have to have someone sitting there at the booth all of the time?
This is the power of Facebook. It is a massive coffee shop at a
massive trade show."
Kabani outlined that Facebook is an open-forum tool that can be
used to the advantage of all businesses, but it cannot be the first
step in building a successful social network advertising base.
"It comes after you have an established brand. It comes after you
really know what your business model is. It comes after you have a
really good website in place. It's the last step when you're ready
to amplify what you're already doing," she said.
During the course of conversations during and after the telephone
conference, it was brought out that when setting up a page on
Facebook, business owners need to be prepared for the fact that not
all the comments from "friends," or fans, will be positive.
Those negative comments need to be addressed and hopefully turned
into a positive.
Boebinger commented that when he gets negative comments on his
Frontier page, he addresses the issue; then he emails the commenter
and asks them to post that the issue was addressed to their
A question that came from the local group was, "How do I make
friends?" While it brought a chuckle from everyone, it is one of the
issues with Facebook.
Boebinger said one of the best ways to get friends is to ask for
them. In the marketplace or in other media advertising, invite
people to join you on Facebook.
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Kabani and Maruggi had also spoken about this, cautioning there
are those out there whom a business will not want as a friend for a
variety of reasons, including issues with spam.
They warned to choose friends or fans carefully and not to be
afraid to remove someone from your list.
Additionally Kabani spoke about setting up the ground rules for
posting to your page. She said that on Facebook, posting the ground
rules in "Notes" at the very beginning is the smartest thing to do.
In the rules you should state what kinds of posts are not
acceptable. This can be anything from use of language to
antagonizing fellow posters or whatever you as a business owner
decide. As long as it is in your rules, then you cannot be chided or
criticized for removing a post that you deemed as out of bounds.
After their presentations Kabani and Maruggi answered questions
that were called in or emailed in to them, but time ran out before
they covered all of the issues.
After they logged off, the group at the library had a working
lunch courtesy of the Owlís Roost and talked about some of their own
experiences and concerns.
Facebook was launched in February of 2004 as a social networking
tool for individuals. Only recently has it become more of a
marketing tool for businesses.
Around the room many of the questions that came up involved
keeping personal Facebook accounts separate from business accounts.
In Facebook, many use it to stay connected with family members or
friends from high school or college. The consensus was that while
the posts are not inappropriate, most business owners are not
interested in having their personal conversations logged on their
On the other side of the coin, Andi Hake and Heidi Browne of the
Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce said they had two Facebook
pages: one for the Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival and one for the
whole chamber. They would like for the two pages to be linked all
the time and have not been able to find a way to do this.
At the table, no one was really able to answer any one of these
questions. Boebinger told the group he would forward the questions
to the presenters to see if they could include answers in the
transcripts they will provide to participants.
While not every question the group had was answered, in general
it appeared that everyone left with a little more knowledge than
they had come with concerning the importance of becoming part of
todayís latest social networking tools.
Early on in the meeting, Dale Schaffenacker, owner of Molanda Co.
in Mount Pulaski, said he was looking for anyone who could teach him
how to do all this, and it was brought out that some of the local
colleges, including Heartland College in Lincoln, offer classes on
social networking tools.
In addition to Hake, Browne and Schaffenacker, others who
attended the meeting were Susan Shaw of Central Illinois Event
Catering in Elkhart; Nancy Saul, representing the Abraham Lincoln
Tourism Bureau of Logan County; Sandy Blaine of Regional Office of
Education 38 in Lincoln; Doug DeMay of the Investment Center at
State Bank of Lincoln; Gladys Dutz, representing Main Street
Lincoln; Deron Powell, State Farm agent in Mount Pulaski; Camille
Springer, prevention coordinator at Chestnut Health Systems of
Normal; Ally Leesman, membership services director for the chamber
of commerce; Karen Hargis and Nila Smith of Lincoln Daily News; Joe
Ryan of Country Financial in Lincoln; and Nina Huddlestun,
administrative assistant and director of support services for the
Logan County Department of Public Health.
[By NILA SMITH]