Social Media, Not a Baby Anymore

by Lola Rain, Director of Social Media for Eskaton

Social media matured significantly between 2015 and 2016. Experts emphasize building community engagement strategies using new technologies to measure success and deliver better ROI. This year’s trends are around hyper-focused, relevant content delivered to the right audiences. The most important Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) include time spent watching videos, shares and comments. Companies must deliver content to where the people are already engaged. Consumers are now smarter and trust rich, engaging content over advertising.

During a February 2015 Social Media Summit in Las Vegas, people from around the country called themselves “Pioneers”. They shared metrics along with internal and external barriers to launching strategies and campaigns. By March 2016, the NYC Digital Marketing Innovation Summit was dominated by global attendees discussing social media success.

The contrast between 2015 and 2016 in this sector is mind blowing. Social media now falls deep into the “digital marketing” category and is no longer a standalone. Every online component is now integrated. The user moves seamlessly between platforms completely unaware if they are on a social site, a webpage or in an app. The fact is, today, 60% of consumers use smart phones and most digital consumption happens within apps says Scott Stanchak of The New York Times. No longer are marketers focused on the form factor of the device, they should be focused on the content delivery and the end-user experience.

With 40 minutes a day spent on Youtube by the average mobile user, and 41,000 Facebook posts per second across the globe, social media consumers have blossomed into everyday media moguls and peer influencers. Because of this consumption and influence every digital marketing strategy must include social. But social media is no longer a free way of advertising. AdAge predicts 2017 will be the first year digital marketing dollars will exceed TV advertising.

60% of users are now on mobile

The top three reasons someone selects one brand over another are:

#1 Access to detailed information – People will go to four websites on average looking for detailed information. They will even pull out their phones while standing in a business to get more information.

#2 Online reviews – The number one reason a person recommends a company is because of outstanding service; 90% of people believe recommendations over advertising.

#3 Price – Price is not the top objection, especially when competitively priced.

 

2016 TRENDS

  1. It’s the year of the video. Facebook changed the rules with instant watching. It’s not all about Youtube anymore. There are many video platforms now and videos should be developed to scale over all platforms.
  2. Social has aged up. Older audiences are now average users.
  3. Live streaming is growing. MeerKat and Periscope have changed the landscape.
  4. Blogs are more relevant than ever. Content drives decision making. Articles must be engaging and emotional. Blogs make it easy to publish articles and other content in a timely manner.
  5. Paid influencers are declining. Influencers are everyday people.
  6. Facebook’s Instant Articles now allows anyone to publish interactive articles quickly.

 What type of content is being utilized?

81% Articles          76% Videos        62% Infographics      61% Webinars   22% Podcasts*

*Podcasts are being underutilized

Key Takeaways from 2016 Digital Marketing Innovations Summit NYC

  • “Social is the fuel of the new marketing engine,” said Tami Cannizzaro from Ebay marketing.
  • 70% of Tweets go unanswered. Not answering a Tweet is like leaving a caller on hold. (Ebay)
  • Social media has moved to a pay to play format in just 2 years. Companies pay for written content, sponsored content and influencers.
  • CMOs are investing in social marketing with budgets and staff.
  • Understand how your content is being engaged with. “Sharing at the end of the day is the ultimate KPI,” says Ken Nelson, Odyssey’s Chief Strategy Officer.
  • “Build brand and earn your [online] citizenship at the same time,” said Alexander Chung, BuzzFeed. Co-exist traditional advertising with new Internet communities.
  • “If you don’t have something worth sharing, it isn’t going to go anywhere,” said Chung.
  • Make small bets with lean production, share as an insider (not outsider) and create a feedback loop for learning. Test, fail, test. Let data drive content.
  • 73% of consumers prefer to get content from articles not ads. (Time Inc.)
  • “There is no such thing as good content. There is only content in context,” said content strategist Melanie Deziel (@mdeziel), formerly of NYT and Huffington Post.
  • The funnel does not dictate the path to purchase.
  • Master the emotion, not product conversation.
  • Know your audience: Where do they hang out and who do they trust? We have so much detailed info about customers, but what drives them? How do they use content?

Wisdom Captured: Delores and Lorraine

Dolores, 83, and Lorraine, 80, eagerly await the arrival of their friend Rosie. The threesome were neighbors in Grass Valley for nearly 15 years. Five years ago Dolores moved to Eskaton Roseville Manor to live closer to two of her children in Citrus Heights. A few months ago Lorraine joined her. “I missed her so much,” said Lorraine. “I’m happy with one good friend, but I have two.” Rosie moves in soon.

Eskaton Roseville Manor is an affordable apartment community offering rental assistance for older adults with limited resources.

After raising three children and volunteering as an arts and crafts teacher, Dolores went to work in a retirement community for nine years. She started as a prep cook and worked her way up to assistant administrator. She remembers the training she received to work with seniors. “I know how to be with older people,” said Delores who now lives with limited version and hearing. Read more>

Ghost Writer: Have you written your autobiography?

Eskaton Grass Valley

Sitting down to write a book is a daunting task. I tried once, but gave up after a few hours when I got stuck on page three. When I met 93-year-old LaVonne Amaral, I was in awe when she told me about her autobiography: What a Wonderful Life. It’s a three part series of ancestry as well as life raising her family in Nevada County.

As you age, the urge to write down memories becomes greater. It’s the feeling of wanting to leave a legacy to the world and not be forgotten. As Lavonne approached her 80s, her husband’s health wasn’t what is used to be, so she took on the task of writing down all their memories. She and her husband documented both their families’ heritage. They captured an abundance of meaningful stories. She completed her first draft in 2006, seven years after she first began. The editing process took another six years. Read more>

Ghost Writer: For Love and Chocolate

It was my pleasure for a year to be a ghost writer for one Eskaton’s leaders. My voice and his voice became one.

Love, no matter what age you are, is one of the strongest, most beneficial emotions you can have. Love comes in many forms. Love for your pet Yorkie. Love of playing bridge with your friends. Love for your new grand baby. Love of your new partner, or a spouse of 40 plus years. Love produces positive emotions, helps you fight disease and live longer.

With Valentine’s Day now in the rearview mirror, I reflect on the ways people around me tell each other “I love you.” The sweet little peck on the check. Holding hands in public. Hugs. Lots of hugs. In fact, hugging and touching produce a chemical in the brain called oxytocin. According to multiple studies, hugs are a natural stress reliever and can help lower blood pressure.

Last week, while opening the traditional red, heart shape box of chocolate from my mom, I couldn’t help but wonder why this sweet treat is synonymous with love. It’s filled with sugar and nougat. I don’t even know what nougat is made from so it can’t possibly be good for me. Plus, I never eat more than one or two pieces after breaking them all open just to find the ones filled with caramel and nuts. I was shocked recently to find out this box of chocolate is more than a token of love. It has history and health benefits. Read more>

12 Ways for your company to show its professional side

By Lola Rain, for the HBA

Successful businesses continually evaluate strategies and customer service. Once you identify areas you want to improve, implementing a strategy can be a simple task. Here are 12 ways you can shine in the eyes of your current and future clients.

(1)Be the Expert
(2)Listen Carefully
(3)Follow Up
(4)Respect, Loyalty, and Trust
(5)Keep It Clean
(6)Shop Around to Save on Your Bottom Line
(7)Appreciate Your Clients
(8)Prospect, Prospect, Prospect
(9)Respond to Every Inquiry
(10)Differentiate Your Company
(11)Evaluate Your Online Image and Yelp It Up
(12)Ask for the Business

(1)Be the Expert
Positive attitude and enthusiasm can win potential customers and even build clients for life. People are looking for an expert they can trust. “Be the expert,” said Jeff Metke of Metke Remodeling & Woodworking Inc. “We believe after 23 years, we have enough gray hair, advice, and expertise. We are going to take a lot of time — baby steps toward cementing a relationship.” Stating your expertise can also be the first step toward building a long and lucrative relationship.

(2)Listen Carefully
Active listening can help you succeed as a communicator. It requires the listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what they hear. The ability to listen actively can reduce conflict, strengthen cooperation, and foster understanding. When interacting, people often are not listening attentively. They may be distracted, thinking about other things, or thinking about what they are going to say next. “Listening is very important,” said Debbie Kitchin of InterWorks, LLC. “We want the process to be as comfortable as possible. We don’t want them to be concerned or upset.” Actively listening for clues that indicate the potential for concern or conflict can greatly improve your relationships with your clientele.

(3)Follow Up
In today’s world everyone is busy with family, work, and life. Communication has become difficult even though we have more ways to communicate. One successful sales person suggests asking your clients up front how they like to communicate: phone calls, voicemail, text messaging, or emails. Everyone has a preference. Check in with your clients often and communicate the process. Nancy Long at Sisu Painting said she touches base with her clients frequently after the initial free phone consultation. It’s just as important to follow up during the process as it is after the project is complete. Long does a final walk-through after painters walk away to look for issues and schedule touchups. She puts each client into a contact management system and sends them closing out papers, warranties, and thank you cards.

(4)Respect, Loyalty, and Trust
Professionals know who they can trust: other professionals. Recognizing and respecting the vendors who have been there for you is important in any economy, but trust and loyalty can be essential for survival in economic downturns. “It’s been very rough over the last few years,” said Thomas Liesy, owner of TA Liesy Homes NW, LLC, which is why he has remained loyal to his vendors. Liesy also understands the price sensitive market. “We provide more than our competition and we are extremely loyal to our vendors,” he said. Cutting corners and hiring sub-par labor is not an option for companies who are dedicated professionals. Knowing who you can trust shows your commitment to professionalism.

(5)Keep It Clean
Your professional image is important, but it’s not all about how you, your office, or your showroom looks. Kitchin said her crews always keep a clean work site, which cuts down on dust, improves safety, and is better for the environment. It’s also a common and professional courtesy to extend to your clients, some of whom may have concerns with chemical sensitivities, asthma, and allergies.

(6)Shop Around to Save on Your Bottom Line
In today’s economic climate any savings is good unless it erodes your professionalism and your company’s commitment to excellence. Loyalty to vendors you trust is extremely important. But when it comes to meeting your clients’ goals, sometimes you need to shop around and cut costs to help achieve a tighter budget. Thomas Payne from Craftsman Home Group, LLC, spends a lot of time with clients to make sure they are getting the best price for what they want. Payne said it’s important to help clients find products on sale early on in the process. “I am trying to avoid having to shop late in the project when the budgets are tighter,” he said.

(7)Appreciate Your Clients
Business is tough and your hard work deserves recognition. The best recognition often comes in the form of repeat business and referrals. Sisu Painting sends two cards a year, including a Happy New Year card with a photo and blurb about the Santa House at Bridgeport Village. “If you treat them as lifetime clients, they are more likely to refer,” said Nancy Long. This type of appreciation can come in the form of cards, emails, phone calls, or even annual events. Some members give Home and Garden or Street of Dreams show tickets to their top clients. Others have annual appreciation parties. Your clients will recognize your level of professionalism through these acts of kindness.

(8)Prospect, Prospect, Prospect
It’s a cycle! You just finished a job and now it’s time to start the next one. How do you ensure you always have business in the pipeline? Through prospecting. One of the best and easiest ways to prospect is through the HBA. Attend an event and talk to people. Build relationships and make friends. Prospecting can be fun if you enter it with a positive attitude. Besides events such as monthly luncheons and happy hours, consider attending the Reserve Trade Show or sponsoring an event. These simple techniques can actually change the way you look at prospecting in the future and help you to keep business in the pipeline.

(9)Respond to Every Inquiry
Each and every voicemail and email is important to your business. How many times have you left a message only to be frustrated by no response? Companies that respond quickly are more likely to earn the business and respect of clients. Not responding can also tarnish your business through word of mouth. People are just as likely to say, “Don’t use that company, they aren’t very responsive,” as they are to say, “They have great customer service, I highly recommend them.”

(10)Differentiate Your Company
Know what areas you excel at and talk about them with pride. Carl Paasche of Woodcrafters Lumber Sales says his company stresses high quality products and customer service. “Anyone can sell for a lower price,” he said.  “We try to maintain the highest quality and a high level of customer service.” Specializing in a niche product or service can be helpful in setting your company apart. Woodcrafters, for example, specializes in molding that are no longer made. “If you need a molding to match, we are your best source,” Paasche said.

(11)Evaluate Your Online Image and Yelp It Up
Metke uses Websites and Facebook to reach out to clients, but he doesn’t shamelessly promote his business. “Become an expert on what people are doing to maintain their house and work to engage with clients on Facebook,” he says. While Metke admits his company is not as diligent as it needs to be with its Website and social media, he is trying to be more regular by dedicating at least 5 hours a week.  Long developed a group of 12 professionals to help out with her social media. “It’s a group effort,” she said. Sisu Paiting trades services with the group and they review each other online. “If an electrician comes into the group, everyone agrees to use the electrician,” said Long. By having multiple reviews on Yelp.com, Sisu Painting has a strong SEO presence. Long received a total of 14 bids in January. “Most of it came from improving online presence,” she said. “Nine bids from Yelp, Angie’s List and Google, and five from PRO members.”

(12)Ask for the Business
However you market your company, whether it’s through advertising, social media, or a referral system, waiting for the phone to ring is a passive way to do business. Following up with leads takes time, but the sales cycle can be shortened by asking for the business. Simply add to the end of your sales pitch or elevator speech, “Can I count on your business?” or “When do you want to start the project? I know you will be happy with my service,” and watch what happens next. It takes practice to build the confidence for the “ask”, but the results will be worth the effort.

Writing Sample: Economic Forecast

I am always excited when I get the opportunity to tackle a new topic with my writing skills. This is my first article on the subject of the economy. During the December 2011 Housing Forecast Breakfast, I listened to various speakers and questions from the audience. This article ran in the January 2012 issue of the Home Building News (HBN). You can also see it online here. Please note that I am not only the editor of the HBN, I am a contributing writer even though I don’t get the by line.

Improving market on the horizon, housing experts explain recovery

Promising outlook presented at annual Housing Forecast Breakfast
by Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland
December 2011

With nearly 400 housing professionals and elected officials in attendance at the annual Housing Forecast Breakfast on December 14, 2012, HBA’s largest audience in four years was eager to hear the outlook. Three industry experts gave us a peek at the economic horizon:  Slow growth is expected in 2012.

Graph A
Graph A

National Economist Perspective

“The worst is behind us,” said Robert Denk, Assistant VP for Forecasting and Analysis at the National Association of Home Builders. But there is still “a lot of uncertainty,” said Denk. The high unemployment rate coupled with the sluggish growth of GDP contributes to a low level of confidence among Americans.  Denk pointed out that of the eight recessions in the last 50 years, the current one comes in second to last in the speed of recovery. The economy is just “bouncing along the bottom, stuck in a holding pattern,” added Denk.

Graph B
Graph B

Denk uses the level of production between 2000-2003 as the standard for “normal”. According to his calculations, the national average for single-family housing starts bottomed at 28% of “normal” production. He indicates that all four measurements of housing prices (Case-Shiller, FHFA, NAR, and Flow of Funds), although not NASA precise, tell the same story (see graph A).  According to Denk, the national average on single family starts has grown to 42% of “normal” indicating that we are on our way back.  However, Oregon will be one of the slower states to recover.

Graph C
Graph C

When comparing median house price to median income, “price declines are over.” At the peak of the recession, price/income ratio topped at 4.7 and now has stabilized at 3.2.  Price to income ratio represents the ratio of the median house price compared to the median annual income for a region.  For example, if the median home price is $250,000 and the median annual income is $50,000, then the price/income ratio is 5.0.  A price/income ratio of 3.2 is considered normal, and many economists felt that until a region’s ratio got down to 3.2, the area would still have problems.

Graph D
Graph D

When it comes to foreclosures, Denk made a distinction between “problem” versus “crisis”. In some states (mostly the southwest, Florida, and the rust belt), foreclosures grew to 6 times pre-recession average.  The national average, however, “only” doubled, growing from .5% to 1% at its peak. Oregon is hovering right at the national average of 1%, which means that while we’re not as bad as a few of the worst states, foreclosures still will play an impact in our recovery (see graph B). Denk uses graphs C and D to illustrate the rate of recovery in 2012 and 2013.

Regional Land Supply Analysis

Taking a different perspective, analyst Todd Britsch of New Home Trends talked about the availability of lots and land. Currently, 10% of plats in the pipeline do not have a lender associated. “The odds are a majority will go back to the bank,” said Britsch.

When the market turns, Britsch doesn’t see the likelihood that larger banks will be the first to begin to loan on vertical development.  He predicts smaller regional banks and private lenders will make money available first.  National builders and local builders who survived the downturn will continue to build.

“We need first time home buyers back in the market. It fuels the step up buyer,” emphasized Britsch.

With 11,357 foreclosures in the four county (Clark, Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington) area in 2011, the perception has been “the banks did this to me.” But Britsch noted when rent rates go up, it fuels housing starts. He pointed out it’s now “less expensive to own today than rent,” as vacancy rates have decreased and rents are starting to rise.  These are also positive indicators for a housing recovery.

Graph E
Graph E

Britsch doesn’t believe unemployment is a major positive factor until it is down to 5%, as recent drops are also a result of some people just not looking for jobs anymore.   He believes a better barometer is the number of people employed along with net jobs added, and he sees a slight increase in the number of people holding jobs (see graph E).

Finally, Britsch also noted that there is a perception that the cost of new homes has come down.  The reality, he said, is that builders have had to decrease amenities in new homes to be competitive with the existing home market, so that has given the appearance of price declines.  As the market recovers, builders are likely to begin adding amenities back in as well as building larger homes that the market will demand again.

Local Sales Market Impacts

Ken Perry, President and CEO of Knowledge Group, emphasized “we have a perception problem in the US.” If there is no social problem to giving your house back, you will give your house back,” he said.  “What that means is there are a lot of people who gave their house bank to the bank in 2008 and 2009 because it simply didn’t make sense to keep it.”  The good news, said Perry, “Once someone has tasted the sweet nectar of home ownership, they want to own again.” It will only take those who lost their homes 2 or 3 years to get back into another mortgage because most people kept their credit scores high buy paying on their credit cards instead of their mortgages.  Perry believes this buying group, along with all those who delayed forming households during the recession, will cause a high demand for housing in 2-3 years.

Perry also stated that we’re at a point where much of the public perceptions of the economy and the housing market are driven by their conversations with others.  Perry’s solution? The CPCI – Christmas Party Conversation Index.  When you talk down about the industry, the listener will go to the next party and repeat those words: “Business sucks. It’s a bad market out there.”  When you talk positive, the positivity spreads.

It should be noted that Perry is not a blind optimist.  When he spoke at the HBA Housing Forecast breakfast in 2008, Perry said our industry just finished the biggest party of its life (the housing market boom) and was now waking up with the worst hangover it had ever experienced.  At that time (2008), he believed the hangover would last a few more years.  Due to his track record, Perry’s optimism about slow growth in 2012 followed by rising growth in 2013 has credibility.

Conclusion

These three industry experts, all coming from different perspectives, are giving us cautious but growing optimism for the housing market recovery.  So, think about how you can spread the word at your next social event: “The economy is growing – slowly but surely.”

A Short Essay: Leadership and the Committee

“Lola adds the ability to lead and inspire others around her to do more than they themselves knew they could do.” – Steve Russell, Windermere Realty

Approval by committee can be a complicated process unless managed effectively. Strong leadership helps avoid confusion, indecisiveness, and disagreements. Setting expectations and properly managing them can be the winning strategy when leading a team. My approach is to get to know each member and understand what personally motivations them. It is easier to gain respect when you build a committee from scratch, like I did with the Senior Advisory Council for Volunteers of America. However, when you walk into an existing committee, many members already have relationship patterns and it’s harder to gain the leadership edge. I experienced this on both the Heart Ball committee and the Board of Licensed Social Workers. It takes time to prove yourself and your dedication. By creating a relationship with each member, you can break down barriers and address preconceptions. Participating on a committee should be a fun and rewarding experience.

The above essay was written during the interview process at the Home Builders Association (HBA). After I received the job and became liaison to the Communications Committee, I was delighted by the following comment given to my CEO. 

“I just wanted to let you know how impressed I am with the HBA’s new hire, Lola Rain.  I’ve sat on many committees and a few boards and she is a great facilitator and thinker that surprises all of us in each communication meeting.  Her leadership, processes and programs she comes up with are very refreshing and helpful.” – Jason Coles, HBA Member

Thank you Jason for the kind words. The Home Builders Association truly has been the best organization I have ever worked for. I will miss it very much.