We’re closing down the MightyBrand application, but we’re still here!

We’re closing down the MightyBrand application, but we’re still here!

Over the course of 2010, it became increasingly clear to us here at MightyBrand that the social media monitoring space was a bad place to do business. The barriers to entry have gotten lower, but ironically, the risks have only increased. Due to increasing risk that Twitter, Facebook, or another major network will change their API and partner policies to make it impossible for services like ours to survive, we’ve decided to close down the application and pursue other opportunities.

So that’s it? Well, not quite. We’ve never been passionate about social media monitoring; rather, we’re passionate about helping businesses understand social media marketing and reach their customers in the most effective way possible. We’ve learned an incredible amount over the last two years, built a good brand, and developed strong relationships with many clients, vendors, and partners. Our goal will be to develop a service or product that leverages those assets to help more businesses make meaningful connections with their customers and grow strong brands online.

If you are a current user of the MightyBrand application, you should receive an email with further information on how this decision affects you, but feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns you might have. We’re incredibly humbled and grateful for your support of this product, and we hope to be able to provide you with even more exciting tools and services in the near future.

Thanks again!

Bookmark and Share

Bootstrapping Takes Guts

Bootstrapping Takes Guts

We’ve written previously about our mistakes at MightyBrand and how we spent six months heading down the wrong road, chasing a market we didn’t believe in and half-assing the customer development process. As a result, we came very close to destroying any hope of ever building a company that we’re really proud of. We’ve also written about how we decided to bootstrap the company, and why. At first glance, it might not seem apparent that these two things are related, but the interplay between bootstrapping and the dangers of destroying your long-term future cannot be overstated.

When you bootstrap a company, you’re going to be short on cash. Very short on cash. Every day is a struggle, especially in the beginning. In the long run, this is probably more benefit than burden, provided you can survive it, because it forces you to be frugal and be very focused on getting to profitability. (On the other hand, when you’re spending someone else’s money, the temptation to throw cash at problems and spend indiscriminately is overwhelming. The people in your organization sense the difference immediately and that attitude becomes part of your culture.)

Because you’re so short on cash, you’ll be very tempted to chase opportunities that offer short-term cashflow. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this, except that most of those opportunities will be things that are either orthogonal to your core mission or in direct violation of it. If you don’t have a very clear sense of who you are as a company, what you believe in, what you’re here for, then you’ll end up chasing those opportunities and destroying your brand.

It’s very clear to us now that if we had spent more time at the beginning defining what our mission was and why we were starting this company, what our ethos was, we never would have gone down the road of selling to agencies, no matter how lucrative it is in the short-term. We just don’t believe in what they’re doing.

When Ben and I were talking about this issue and hashing it out, the moment that it became clear to both of us was when we realized that building MightyBrand into a great company is going to be difficult no matter which direction we go, just because of the general space we’re in. There’s easier money out there, so if this company is just about the money, then we’re in the wrong business.

Because here’s the dirty truth: if you want to build a business just for the money, don’t half-ass it with something you sort of enjoy or kind of believe in. Just sell porn or go work in the financial sector or sell terrible enterprise software. There’s great money in those things, and if that’s all you’re after, why bother pretending that you care about it?

Now, does this mean that if you build something that you love and that you care about, it’ll be a success? Absolutely not. We still firmly believe in customer development, great marketing, and busting your ass to deliver a great product or service to a market that wants it badly. But if you want it to be a great brand, it has to be something that you care about. And in order to evaluate opportunities to see if they fit what you believe in, it’s important that you *know* what you believe in.

So write down your mission. Figure out what your values are, what’s important to you. What does your company look like in twenty years? What does your brand stand for over the next century? Arrogant? Sure, a little. But entrepreneurship requires some chutzpah. If you don’t believe in your mission and what you’re doing, why should anyone else?

Bookmark and Share

Real Companies Using Social Media: MOO Helps People Take Online Identity Into the Real World

Real Companies Using Social Media: MOO Helps People Take Online Identity Into the Real World

This post is part of our series where we talk to real companies (and other organizations) around the world to find out how they’re leveraging social media, how it has impacted their business, and what lessons they’ve learned. Today we’re talking with Emilie Fontaine at MOO. Check them out at MOO.com/blog or follow them on Twitter here.

Tell me a little about your company, what you do, how long you’ve been in business, how many employees you have, etc.

MOO is an online printing company, helping people take their online identities into the real world. We help everyone from bloggers to small businesses, freelancers, crafters, photographers, makers and sellers share their contact details and their work. Unlike traditional printers, MOO lets you print a different image on every card in a pack – so for lots of people it’s like a mini portfolio in their pocket.

We’re three years old now, and have expanded from a small office in London, with 9 employees to a slightly bigger office in London, with about 30 employees. We also have an office in Rhode Island, USA, which is pretty exciting for us.

How much of your business comes from the web, either via social media or via traditional web?

Most of our business comes from the web. Our products are created and purchased online, and we consider ourselves an ‘online company’ despite the fact the end product is a physical one.

We’re very active in certain communities – so our business comes from both traditional web and social media.

When did you start engaging in social media?

We’ve engaged with social media from day 1; our initial launch was with the photo sharing site, Flickr. It made perfect sense for us, allowing people to get digital images off the screen and into their hands – sharing not just their photos, but their Flickr urls with friends.

From the start, customers were also sharing photos of the products they’d made and we, as a company, have always played an active role in the conversations that spring from there.

Who manages your social media efforts?

As often happens in start ups, where its ‘all hands on deck’, some of our employees took on multiple roles. Our Creative Director is also our Community Manager, having had experience with new and emerging communities before. Gradually, as the company gets bigger and there are more demands on people’s time, the day-to-day management will be shared among the team.

What networks are you active on?

Aside from our blog we can be found on Flickr (MOO has it’s own account and there are various MOO groups too) LiveJournal, Vox, Facebook and Twitter. We’re also lurking on Linked In.

Which have been the biggest drivers of business for you?

Word of mouth marketing has always been great for us – whether on or offline. People really love the feel of the cards and talk about them very positively in their various communities. Now, customers can find us via blogs or social networks, but we’re also featured in the press and we travel to shows and events too.

Describe any customer interactions that stick out in your mind

We’re very lucky – when people meet the team in person, either at industry events, conferences or socially, we very often hear the words ‘Oh! I love MOO!’ It’s lovely that people react so positively, and we’re always happy to talk about their cards and how they’re using them.

Our online customer service team are also very nice people. We’ve had hand delivered gifts of thanks, from cakes to baskets of fruit and bottles of wine. It’s amazing and wonderful to us that that people can be so kind.

What software tools or web apps do you use in your social media efforts?

For the time being, nothing out of the ordinary. Different people use different apps for twitter, something we’ll standardise in the future. We use WordPress for our blog, Feedburner, Google Analytics etc.

For your business, what makes social media different from other channels?

We love getting feedback, it helps us make better products and social media is the quickest way to do that. We think it should be exciting making cards to promote your business, or your latest project, and we love hearing people’s excitement, or seeing their images first hand. Aside from the customer service advantages, it’s still a big buzz for the team.

What has been the most challenging part of dealing with social media?

Time! Like any business we have deadlines, meetings – sometimes we even leave the office to go home and sleep. Social media is always on, and so more time in the day would be wonderful.

What are your social media plans for 2010?

Top secret I’m afraid. If we told you that, wed have to kill you – but thank you for asking.

I appreciate Emilie taking the time to talk to us, and I encourage you to check out MOO.com/blog and follow them on Twitter here. We’re always looking for interesting companies and individuals to talk to, so if you know of anyone that would like to be profiled, please contact us.

Bookmark and Share

Real Companies Using Social Media: Lijit Helps Bloggers Build Better Communities

Real Companies Using Social Media: Lijit Helps Bloggers Build Better Communities

This post is part of our series where we talk to real companies (and other organizations) around the world to find out how they’re leveraging social media, how it has impacted their business, and what lessons they’ve learned. Today we’re talking with Tara Anderson at Lijit. Check them out at Lijit.com or follow them on Twitter here.

Tell me a little about your company, what you do, how long you’ve been in business, how many employees you have, etc.

Lijit Networks provides search and advertising services to online publishers. We’ve created a relevant search tool that bloggers can install on their sites, allowing readers to find more of their content and giving them stats about what those readers are searching for. The newest part of our business has been in helping publishers better monetize their site with our ad services.

There are currently over 11,000 online publishers using our search and you can find us on some of the biggest sites out there, including FAIL blog, Lamebook, Neatorama and VeloNews.

We’ve been in business for almost four years, have over thirty employees and consider ourselves lucky to work in beautiful downtown Boulder, Colorado.

How much of your business comes from the web, either via social media or via traditional web?

It’s safe to say that a large majority of our business comes from the web.

When did you start engaging in social media?

Since we make a tool for bloggers, it’s made sense for us to engage in blogging from the get-go. Almost everyone at Lijit has a blog, although some of us update ours more than others. ;) We hopped on Twitter in 2007 but didn’t start becoming active on it until 2008, when I took over the maintenance of it. The majority of our users are on Twitter, so it makes sense for us to have a presence there.

Who manages your social media efforts?

As marketing manager, it falls under my scope to manage these efforts but since we have so many employees active on Twitter, everyone helps out with re-tweeting important announcements.

What networks are you active on?

We’re probably the most active on Twitter and Facebook. Additionally, we also have a Flickr account where we post pictures and answer support questions within our Get Satisfaction community.

Not to mention the fact that we take a lot of pride in our company blog, The Second Click.

Which have been the biggest drivers of business for you?

My money’s on Twitter. All it takes is one of our users mentioning something they like about our service and we see new sign-ups sent our way. Customer evangelists are a beautiful thing.

Describe any customer interactions that stick out in your mind.

There are many but I love it when our users are surprised by the fact that we’re listening and that we’re quick to respond.

Twitter has also been incredibly helpful in dealing with quick tech support questions (if there is such a thing). If a user needs something, we can shoot them an answer or let them know that we’re working on a fix. And, I think Twitter helps to humanize us because I can be funny and show that our company has a unique personality.

Not to mention the fact that we like to link to our publishers when they’re posting good stuff. Twitter allows us to give back some of that love to the people that keep us in business: our users.

What software tools or web apps do you use in your social media efforts?

I’m a big fan of Filtrbox (a local Boulder company located a few blocks from us) which tracks mentions of Lijit on blogs and Twitter. Also, BackType has been great at picking up Lijit references within blog comments, which is where conversations can really take off. And of course, where would be without Twitter Search? I occasionally use HootSuite to schedule tweets and love bit.ly for tracking clicks when we announce a new feature or blog post.

As you can tell, I tend to favor a “less is more” approach when it comes to the tools I use. There are plenty other good ones out there but I hate to feel overwhelmed when the purpose of these tools is to make social media monitoring easier.

For your business, what makes social media different from other channels?

Like I mentioned above, we want to be where the conversation is happening. And because we make a tool for bloggers, people are talking about us on their blogs and often, on Twitter.

What has been the most challenging part of dealing with social media?

Honestly, it’s probably the 24/7 nature of the beast. Living where we do, we’re firm believers in the work-life balance and it can be difficult to check Twitter mentions from the ski slopes. But I think that most of our users understand that we’re only human, but it’s still difficult, especially since I like to sleep at least seven hours a night. ;)

What are your social media plans for 2010?

I’d be happy to continue along the same path, using the power of social media for good and not evil. And also, to keep our social media use totally Lijit.

I appreciate Tara taking the time to talk to us, and I encourage you to check out Lijit.com and follow them on Twitter here. We’re always looking for interesting companies and individuals to talk to, so if you know of anyone that would like to be profiled, please contact us.

Bookmark and Share

Real Companies Using Social Media: Grasshopper Empowers Entrepreneurs to Succeed

Real Companies Using Social Media: Grasshopper Empowers Entrepreneurs to Succeed

This post is part of our series where we talk to real companies (and other organizations) around the world to find out how they’re leveraging social media, how it has impacted their business, and what lessons they’ve learned. Today we’re talking with Jonathan Kay at Grasshopper. Check them out at Grasshopper.com or follow them on Twitter here.

Tell me a little about your company, what you do, how long you’ve been in business, how many employees you have, etc.

Grasshopper provides Virtual Phone Systems for entrepreneurs. Our service helps entrepreneurs sound bigger, more professional, and always stay connected. We were founded in 2003, and have since served over 160,000 entrepreneurs. We currently have about 45 employees between our HQ in the Boston Area, Austin, TX office, and a handful of virtual employees.

Our mission is to empower entrepreneurs to succeed.

How much of your business comes from the web, either via social media or via traditional web?

About 99% of our business comes from the web. We are an ecommerce site and you sign up online. We have a 24/7 365 day support team, but no sales associates so all of our traffic is driven primarily to http://grasshopper.com .

When did you start engaging in social media?

We always had a “presence”, but I don’t think we started really engaging our audience until mid 2009.

Who manages your social media efforts?

We have 5 or 6 active team members who all play a different role in our social media strategy. Although some are more active than others, you can learn about “The Many Twitter Faces of Grasshopper” here. It took some time to develop, but now everyone has a good grasp of where and how they can add value on Twitter. Most importantly we act as a system of checks and balances for each other.

What networks are you active on?

We are very active on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. YouTube has actually been great for us of lately; in fact we launched our first ever TV ad there before it went live on TV and created a ton of buzz (over 115k views in 5 days).

Which have been the biggest drivers of business for you?

While I think YouTube has helped us create the most awareness, Twitter has been by the biggest driver of business/new entrepreneurs. We have earned a following of brand loyalists who will now actually proactively recommend us to people inquiring.

Describe any customer interactions that stick out in your mind

Wow, there are tons. One that really sticks out is a woman who owns a local ice cream shop. She voted for us via Twitter for a Mashable Award that was taking place at the time. I was tracking this topic, and trying to personally respond to a handful of people. I happened to read this woman’s feed and simply thanked her for the vote, also adding I was impressed with how she was using Twitter for her local business. She was so blown away that I took the time to read and thoughtfully respond to her, she instantly became a brand champion. She went from a happy Grasshopper customer, to someone who now shouts from the rooftops about us.

What software tools or web apps do you use in your social media efforts?

Tweet Deck; I think everyone on our social media team finds this the most effective dashboard tool. We have multiple computer monitors as well so it makes it much easier to be constantly engaged. I know one of our guys uses Twitter’s RSS Feed feature, which is a tool that emails you relevant tweets based on what you input.

For your business, what makes social media different from other channels?

We love interacting with our customers. In fact, some of our best ideas & developments have come from simply listening to our customers. Also, we have found that a high percentage of our target audience (entrepreneurs) tend to feel more comfortable starting conversations via social media (even if they end up off-line anyway).

What has been the most challenging part of dealing with social media?

Balance. Because it’s so hard to measure any short term gains from these efforts, you need to make sure you balance your tangible goals with your social media ones. It is an important tool in Word of Mouth Marketing, and you need to buy into the long term effects this strategy can have. Our founders certainly have.

What are your social media plans for 2010?

We plan on continuing down the path we have been; really it seems we learn more every day. I also know we have plans to creatively integrate some of our current partnerships / sponsorships into social media. There are some really exciting things coming from Grasshopper toward the end of Q1, beginning of Q2. But you will just have to wait and see…

I appreciate Jonathan taking the time to talk to us, and I encourage you to check out Grasshopper.com and follow them on Twitter here. We’re always looking for interesting companies and individuals to talk to, so if you know of anyone that would like to be profiled, please contact us.

Bookmark and Share

Real Companies Using Social Media: 99designs on Crowdsourcing Design

Real Companies Using Social Media: 99designs on Crowdsourcing Design

This post is part of our series where we talk to real companies (and other organizations) around the world to find out how they’re leveraging social media, how it has impacted their business, and what lessons they’ve learned. Today we’re talking with Jason Aiken at 99designs. Check them out at 99designs.com or follow them on Twitter here.

Tell me a little about your company, what you do, how long you’ve been in business, how many employees you have, etc.

99designs.com is a whole new way to get custom graphic design work – At 99designs a community of graphic designers competes to create the perfect design for your project – logos, web sites, marketing materials, product labels or any other graphical element. As the largest marketplace for crowdsourced graphic design with over 150,000 members, 99designs.com enables businesses to quickly and cost effectively source custom graphic design work without the risk – you see the designs before you buy.

The concept originated in the design forums at Sitepoint.com, where designers were making up fictitious design projects to compete on to improve their skills and have fun. It did not take long for an entrepreneur to come along and suggest that rather than making up a project – why not design his logo and he would give the best designer a cash prize.

We built a platform around it and officially launched 99designs.com in February of 2008. We now have 18 employees and offices in Melbourne, Australia and San Francisco, CA.

How much of your business comes from the web, either via social media or via traditional web?

We are an online marketplace – so 100% of our business comes from the web.

When did you start engaging in social media?

In many ways – 99designs itself is a social media channel of design, so social media is very central to what we do.

Who manages your social media efforts?

As the marketing manager, I am primarily responsible for managing the social media efforts of 99designs. However, everybody in the company participates at some level – which is key.

What networks are you active on?

We have always had our own blog and actively participate in the relevant conversations that happen on blogs all over the web. We are extremely active on Twitter and Facebook. As a company – Twitter came before Facebook, but we cultivate both channels. We also utilize Youtube/Vimeo as well as Digg and Blend It.

Which have been the biggest drivers of business for you?

The blog, Twitter and Facebook have definitely been our biggest business drivers and therefore, that’s where we focus the majority of our efforts. We are really fortunate to have a passionate user base. Having largely grown through word of mouth – people sharing their good experiences with others – social media makes it even easier.

Describe any customer interactions that stick out in your mind.

Twitter is amazing for these kinds of stories; everything is so immediate. I remember a recent case where someone was having a problem of some kind with their project. They had emailed customer support, which is mostly based out of Melbourne at the moment. A couple of hours had gone by, the Melbourne team was still asleep, and that’s when I saw an angry tweet, complaining about the problem and that he had not yet received a response from support.

I was able to jump in immediately and fix the issue. In seconds, there was a new tweet singing our praises and describing our fantastic support. That’s the power of social media and culture of immediacy at work.

What software tools or web apps do you use in your social media efforts?

Our blog is built on wordpress, which has been great. Aside from the blog, TweetDeck is the app that I have used the most. It was a revelation when I first discovered it. I later found CoTweet, which at first I was not crazy about it, however I have recently started playing around with it again and could easily see it become my go-to app for twitter.

For your business, what makes social media different from other channels?

The interactive participation is what makes social media stand out. You can put an ad up that, may be cute or compelling some way – but it pales in comparison to the connection you can make with your community through social media.

What has been the most challenging part of dealing with social media?

Ultimately – the biggest challenge is just keeping up with it all. Social media requires commitment. There is no point in being passive – conversations pertaining to your company directly or indirectly will be happening all around you regardless. We want to be an active participant and help further add value and drive the engagement of our community.

What are your social media plans for 2010?

More commitment. Our business is all about community – so social media will remain a large focus for us. As more people get on Twitter and Facebook, and use them in different ways – these channels will continue to grow in importance.

I appreciate Jason taking the time to talk to us, and I encourage you to check out 99designs.com and follow them on Twitter here. We’re always looking for interesting companies and individuals to talk to, so if you know of anyone that would like to be profiled, please contact us.

Bookmark and Share

Real Companies Using Social Media: BeautyByBuford Helps People Put Their Best Face Forward

Real Companies Using Social Media: BeautyByBuford Helps People Put Their Best Face Forward

This post is part of our series where we talk to real companies (and other organizations) around the world to find out how they’re leveraging social media, how it has impacted their business, and what lessons they’ve learned. Today we’re talking with Greg Buford, a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon who has seen great success using social media to reach out to potential patients. Check out his work at beautybybuford.com or follow on Twitter here.

Tell me a little about your company, what you do, how long you’ve been in business, how many employees you have, etc.

I am a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon and medical director/founder of BEAUTY by BUFORD. I have been in business for a little over nine years, have twelve employees, and am located just outside Denver, CO in the Denver Tech Center.

How much of your business comes from the web, either via social media or via traditional web?

The two main sources for new patients are direct referrals (from previous patients) and the internet. Over the last year, we have seen a tremendous rise in the influence of social media on organic positioning and overall reach to the community.

When did you start engaging in social media?

I began using social media about a year ago and recently hired a full-time director of marketing to lead these efforts. Because of the impact I have seen, I am now in the process of spinning off these efforts into a full-fledged business offering.

Who manages your social media efforts?

I originally managed all of my social media efforts and then realized that it was extremely time consuming and that I needed someone whose sole purpose was to drive forward these efforts.

What networks are you active on?

We are active on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. These are then carefully coordinated with content from our BLOGS.

Which have been the biggest drivers of business for you?

We find that Facebook has been tremendously effective in getting the message out.

Describe any customer interactions that stick out in your mind

We have had several patients remark that they came in based solely on blog content that we posted. They were impressed about the amount of educational information that we were providing and that we were not simply an elaborate commercial.

What software tools or web apps do you use in your social media efforts?

We don’t really use anything more than the free services available to us through these social media products.

For your business, what makes social media different from other channels?

Social media is instantaneous and more far-reaching than conventional print media. In addition, it can be updated in a matter of seconds.

What has been the most challenging part of dealing with social media?

It can be very time consuming but gets easier the more that you do it.

What are your social media plans for 2010?

My social media plans for 2010 include addition of video to YouTube and more interactivity with our consumers.

I appreciate Greg taking the time to talk to us, and I encourage you to check out beautybybuford.com and follow on Twitter here. We’re always looking for interesting companies and individuals to talk to, so if you know of anyone that would like to be profiled, please contact us.

Bookmark and Share

Real Companies Using Social Media: Holosfitness.com Helps People Lead Healthier Lives

Real Companies Using Social Media: Holosfitness.com Helps People Lead Healthier Lives

This post is part of our series where we talk to real companies (and other organizations) around the world to find out how they’re leveraging social media, how it has impacted their business, and what lessons they’ve learned. Today we’re talking with Greg Stallkamp at Holosfitness.com. You can also follow them on Twitter here.

Tell me a little about your company, what you do, how long you’ve been in business, how many employees you have, etc.

Holosfitness.com is a free online fitness tool that helps individuals get in shape, stay in shape, and lead healthy lifestyles. The site has a wide array of health, fitness, and nutrition-related information, including step-by-step instruction on hundreds of exercises, and video demonstration of many workouts. The social networking features on the site help support and motivate individuals as they strive towards their fitness goals.

The site was launched roughly one year ago. Aside from myself, all of our employees are contractual, part-time employees. We rely on a wide array of outsourced workers to provide tech help, graphic design services, fitness-content, and much more.

How much of your business comes from the web, either via social media or via traditional web?

At this point nearly 100% of our business comes from the web. We have refined our strategy over the past few months, because marketing on the web is really the only effective way for us to reach our target audience.

When did you start engaging in social media?

We knew as soon as we launched the site that social media would be the dominant piece of our marketing strategy. Every expert and consultant we spoke with highlighted the need for a coordinated, focused social media campaign.

Who manages your social media efforts?

I spent most of my time working on the social media efforts. In addition I elicit a lot of outside resources to help with this campaign, including local consultants and project teams from local schools (Northwestern University).

What networks are you active on?

The majority of our time is spent on Facbook, Twitter, YouTube, and MySpace. I am also a very active blogger on the health sections of nearly every major nationwide newspaper.

Which have been the biggest drivers of business for you?

So far referrals are the biggest driver of business for us. Usually when an individual signs up, we see that two or three of their friends sign up over time as well. In many cases the initial introduction came from a blog that I posted or content placed on a social media site.

Describe any customer interactions that stick out in your mind

At this point nearly all of our customer interactions have been positive. Nearly everyone is amazed at the amount of free fitness-related information they find on the site. Recently, we have found that there have been a lot of personal trainers who have signed up for Holosfitness.com, because they want to share information with our community. We have received incredibly positive feedback from this group.

For your business, what makes social media different from other channels?

Social media stands out from other channels as it allows me to instantly communicate with the largest possible audience. Social media is largely a very democratic system. It allows us to promote any message we want. If that message resonates with our audience, then the audience will often pass the message on to their friends, and our audience will continue to grow.

What has been the most challenging part of dealing with social media?

While social media is very democratic, it is also very competitive. It is increasingly hard to be recognized in such a crowded environment. It seems like every day a new competitor is popping up and targeting our same audience.

What are your social media plans for 2010?

Our social media plans for 2010 revolve around the idea that Content is King. We realize that simply “tweeting” a new message or posting a blog is not as valuable as providing insightful content to social media audiences. As a result, we are engaging in a coordinated campaign that promotes valuable information to our audience. We have a strong line-up of videos, new exercise data, blogs, and interactive features that are both fun and entertaining.

I appreciate Greg taking the time to talk to us, and I encourage you to check out Holosfitness.com and follow them on Twitter here. We’re always looking for interesting companies and individuals to talk to, so if you know of anyone that would like to be profiled, please contact us.

Bookmark and Share

Real Companies Using Social Media: How Altimate Helps Disabled People

Real Companies Using Social Media: How Altimate Helps Disabled People

This post is part of our series where we talk to real companies (and other organizations) around the world to find out how they’re leveraging social media, how it has impacted their business, and what lessons they’ve learned. Today I’m talking with Jackie Kaufenberg, Marketing Manager at Altimate Medical, makers of EasyStand Standers. Check them out at EasyStand.com or follow them on Twitter here.

Tell me a little about your company, what you do, how long you’ve been in business, how many employees you have, etc.

I have been the Marketing Manager at Altimate Medical, Inc. for twelve and a half years. The company has been in business for 22 years and has 35 employees. The product that we make is called the EasyStand standing frame. It is medical equipment that helps kids and adults who use wheelchairs to stand up for medical and psychological reasons. We sell our standers in 35 countries worldwide. It is great to work for a company that helps so many people.

How much of your business comes from the web, either via social media or via traditional web?

The web has been increasingly more important to our business over the years. We sell our products through medical equipment suppliers, so it is important for us to convey a consistent message to our suppliers, referral sources, and consumers. Over the past five years, we have seen a decrease in the requests for our traditional printed catalog and an increase in our web visitors. More people are finding everything they need online and know that our website is the most current place to find it.

When did you start engaging in social media?

Our first website in 1997 actually had a message board on it. That was our very first “dabble” in a form of social media. In early 2008, we started with a MySpace page and YouTube Channel. We already had a bunch of great videos to put on YouTube from our free “Life After Spinal Cord Injury” videos that we made a while back. It was neat to see the Life After SCI videos remain popular, from VHS, to DVD, to online. In August of 2008, the EasyStand Blog went live. It has been great for SEO, and a wonderful tie-in to our email newsletter and social media efforts. Then in early 2009, we jumped on board the Facebook train, right around the time they implemented the “Fan Pages”. We had accounts in Twitter and Flickr for a little while, but had difficulty finding the time to really make the most of them. We began to put more time into them in the last half of 2009, and now we have a great base of followers on Twitter, many who have become resources to us. Our fans and subscribers on YouTube and Facebook have also blossomed.

Who manages your social media efforts?

I mostly manage the blog, Twitter and Facebook efforts. We have two people in our media department that head up the efforts in Flickr and YouTube since those social media sites are directly tied into what they are doing everyday with photography and video. Our blog consists of many different authors, both employees of Altimate Medical, and outside of the office.

What networks are you active on? Which have been the biggest drivers of business for you?

We are on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and Flickr. We also post twice weekly on the EasyStand Blog. I also have a Linkedin account that has helped me to expand my professional network. I think that Facebook and YouTube have been the biggest drivers of business for us so far. We have had great success with getting our videos viewed and high referral rates back to our main website. We have also had great success with our blog, which has helped us to grow our overall web visitors and overall search engine referral rate.

Describe any customer interactions that stick out in your mind:

On Twitter, I began following a mom who had a child with special needs. One of her tweets was about how her son hated to stand in every stander that she had tried him in. We had just release a new stander for kids that seemed to address some of the problems that her son was having with previous standers. We tweeted back and forth a couple times, and she ended up trying the new Bantam stander. She even submitted it to her insurance, got denied, appealed, and won. Her son got the stander, and she blogged about it and posted photos. She has since became a fan on our Facebook page, and even wants to participate in a customer story as well.

What software tools or web apps do you use in your social media efforts?

I have played around with several tools, and right now I love Hoot Suite. It solves a lot of my problems by integrating multiple accounts on Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook. It also allows me to schedule tweets out and tracks stats.

For your business, what makes social media different from other channels?

Unlike mass marketing channels, social media really lets you develop relationships. I have “met” people across the globe that use our products or want to buy our products through social media. Many win/win relationships have been made. Instead of focusing on a list of thousands of people (like direct mail or print advertising) we are creating a high probability for a one-one relationship. And when we are lucky, a customer will share the great experiences they had with your company with other potential customers, via social media.

What has been the most challenging part of dealing with social media?

The most challenging part of social media is creating efficiencies. Social media can eat up a lot of your time if you don’t have the right tools and a plan. The key for us, is taking what we are already doing in our traditional marketing efforts, and pushing it over to social media.

What are your social media plans for 2010?

We are going to use Hoot Suite to keep updating our fan base with relevant information and links. We are also going to continue to put media on YouTube and Flickr. We are experimenting with Facebook advertising, which seems to drive up our fan base quickly for very little cost. Our blog will remain front and center, with new posts at least twice a week to keep our readers interested.

Much thanks to Jackie for taking the time to talk to us. Don’t forget to check out EasyStand.com and follow them on Twitter here. We’re always looking for interesting companies and individuals to talk to, so if you know of anyone that would like to be profiled, please contact us.

Bookmark and Share

Real Companies Using Social Media: Barry University on Managing Global Community of Alumni

Real Companies Using Social Media: Barry University on Managing Global Community of Alumni

This post is part of our series where we talk to real companies (and other organizations) around the world to find out how they’re leveraging social media, how it has impacted their business, and what lessons they’ve learned. Today we’re talking with Sean Kramer at Barry University about how they use social media to connect with their large alumni community. Check them out at Barry.edu or follow them on Twitter here.

Tell me a little about your organization

Barry University is a private, Catholic university, which was founded in 1940 in Miami Shores, Florida, a suburb northeast of Downtown Miami. We offer business, nursing, health sciences, teacher education, and liberal arts programs, and currently have more than 9,300 students, a faculty of 871, a campus of 54 buildings, and 39,922 alumni.

How much of your business comes from the web, either via social media or via traditional web?

Barry University has moved to an almost exclusive online system for new student applications. In 2009, over 90% of our applications were completed online. Taking a cue from this trend, Alumni Relations also moved closer to a virtual alumni program in 2009. We eliminated 95% of our snail mail and relied much more heavily on evite and traditional web invitations for announcements and information.

When did you start engaging in social media?

I personally started engaging in social media in 2004 and immediately recognized its impact on our student population. As Facebook developed and began capturing greater numbers of users, I found it effective as a marketing tool. Students would pay more attention to the emails and invitations that came across their Facebook account then from their official university emails.

Since then, our office has been actively utilizing Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to promote our events, services and benefits to our constituencies.

Who manages your social media efforts?

Our Coordinator of Student and Young Alumni programs is currently responsible for all of our social media presence. This year we will be hiring a Coordinator of Social Media who will be solely responsible for all of our online marketing.

What networks are you active on?

We currently utilize Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and our own online community (Imodules).

Which have been the biggest drivers of business for you?

Facebook and LinkedIn have worked to drive a tremendous amount of business to the Alumni Association. By having targeted messages with specific action items (ie. RSPV for an event, donate to the annual fund, visit an affinity partners website), we have been able to increase overall giving, attendance and royalty dollars to the Association.

Describe any customer interactions that stick out in your mind

I was contacted last year by an alumnus who was interested in supporting our efforts on LinkedIn. He was specifically interested in connecting with other Barry alumni in a specific profession. By utilizing LinkedIn, he was able to form a specific subgroup of alumni within that profession and networked his way to a job.

What software tools or web apps do you use in your social media efforts?

Twitterific is an excellent application that allows us to work across platforms.

For your business, what makes social media different from other channels?

The ability to impact people immediately and have them respond. A perfect example of this is the ability to tweet messages to encourage donations to a particular cause via text messages. Tweets and status updates are paid much more close attention to then emails which tend to be deleted. Brief to the point messages seem to fit today’s consumer interested in getting the information quickly and determining instantly if it requires a response.

What has been the most challenging part of dealing with social media?

The most challenging part of social media is dealing with the rapid changes within the medium itself. Determining whether or not fan pages vs groups will work, coordinating groups and messages within LinkedIn, limiting the total amount of text in a tweet.

What are your social media plans for 2010?

Alumni Relations as a profession will change significantly in the next 3-5 years. 2010 will see Barry University begin to move away from traditional alumni events and begin focusing on virtual events, microblogging and Tweetups. We are excited to engage our constituencies in a new concept of events that fit more closely with the time constraints of our demographics.
Watch for us to create online videos, podcasts, virtual happy hours, Skype events and more!

I appreciate Sean taking the time to talk to us, and I encourage you to check out Barry.edu and follow them on Twitter here. We’re always looking for interesting companies and individuals to talk to, so if you know of anyone that would like to be profiled, please contact us.

Bookmark and Share