Happy Holidays!

Some of you think I’m crazy for that headline, some of you want to put the closest pole spear through my heart for bringing it up so soon. But many of us work in the retail side of the SCUBA industry, so that means “the holidays” are right around the corner.

Are You Ready?

Are all of your various promotions figured out? Do you have the word out to your customers via your website, email, word of mouth and social media? If not, get on it, the rush starts in roughly a month.

One area you need to look carefully at is automation. Most people would think that automation during a very busy time of year is the ideal opportunity, but I’d suggest otherwise.

Smart AutomationAutomate Wisely

My first year managing social media marketing in the dive industry, I thought I had a great opportunity to use some simple automation to help keep the already hectic days move smoothly.

Every day, we had a new special. The link to the special needed to have Google Analytics tracking codes added to it with different codes for each method of sharing (blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc). I used Excel to create a simple spreadsheet that added these codes and generate the correct URL. Good automation.

Since characters are limited online (this was back before the Facebook status box was expanded and Twitter is only 140 characters), I wanted to shorten the URL’s. I also wanted to track clicks. So I used bit.ly’s API and a Google Docs spreadsheet to take the URL’s I generated in Excel and convert them into trackable bit.ly shortened links. This took a few hours to setup, but I’d still consider this good automation.

I then thought it would be great to import these en masse into Hootsuite and schedule them to post at the appropriate time. Luckily, I only did the first week of promotions. This was a great idea in theory, but in application it made for far more headaches.

Facebook posts didn’t pull in pictures correctly. Hootsuite re-shortened the URL’s, breaking some, creating weird loops on others and letting some pass through unscathed. I learned if Hootsuite has an issue posting when you’ve scheduled, it won’t try again, it just won’t post.

The most important thing I learned: during the holidays, your customers are a million percent more likely to read your promotional updates and want to ask you about them.

Normally, I post a weekly special to various channels and over the week get ten to twenty inquiries about the product over the course of the week. During the holidays, those ten to twenty inquiries come in within the first half hour.

To make matters worse, Facebook Page notifications are iffy at best for me, I typically ignore Twitter direct messages because they’re 99.999% spam and Google+ doesn’t give notifications for business pages.

So I learned I need to post, but keep all of my various monitoring windows open. Since specials are posted at midnight, 6AM, 8AM, noon, 4PM, 8PM, 10PM and 11PM (at least on Twitter, for Facebook and Google+ less often), that means I’m glued to social media most of the day.

Holiday Social Media Lessons

  • If you’re going to automate, you need to keep an eye on it. You cannot set it and forget it.
  • If you’re going to automate, automate at times when you’ll be able to keep an eye on responses. Recent studies show customers expect social media responses within one hour.

Interesting Reads

As a voracious consumer of RSS feeds, I came across a few articles I found interesting.

Work Hours of an SEO Professional

Since Google has been doing their Panda updates, I’ve been a busy, busy man. You’d managing two sites with daily unique content wouldn’t be an issue during these updates, but you’d be surprised. The problem is that users can submit (rather successfully it appears) spam reports. The sites I manage are not spun or duplicate content (I check each article our writer submits to make sure), so I wouldn’t expect to have a problem. However, I’ve known we’ve been scraped by other sites for some time. I’ve sent the occasional take down request when it isn’t properly attributed, even a few official DMCA notices, but didn’t see it as a big deal as long as citation was included (hey, free backlink!). Unfortunately, someone (I’m assuming the people I’ve told to stop plagiarizing) are submitting the sites I manage as duplicate content and low quality backlink (yeah, your crappy scraper site!) sites.

Anyway, the article gives a good idea of what SEO people do (without giving away too many details). I do more time link building and less time link prospecting, but it’s pretty close.

Social Media Manager vs Online Community Manager

So many job titles, which to choose?! Since I spent some time in executive search (aka headhunter) as well as a few years as Director of Marketing and Technology Associate Vice President, I know that most job titles are made for resumes. While I agree with the articles clear delineation between the two titles, in a business-to-consumer (B2C) industry like diving, I think there are economies to tying the two together. One operates on the fringe building brand awareness and bringing people in, the other keeps the people there and helps service their online needs. I know I do both and I think it works well wrapping these two into one. A lot of work, but more streamlined. For a local dive center operating within more normal business hours than a company that operates globally online, I think it’s reasonable to have one person who does both. Call them the Manager of Online Social Media Community Manager or something. Submit your job title ideas to the Department of Redundancy Department.

Personal News

TL;DR version: Although I’ve had a week off from work that I planned to use to finish a work project and investigate transitioning off Feedburner, I’ve been crazy busy with moving, a death in the family, transitioning my team to the fine people at ProSCUBASites and no internet access at the home office. So I’ll be finalizing the big work project and transitioning the work sites off Feedburner this month. Then I’ll be evaluating a couple other projects to see if I can get them completed before the holiday rush comes. Perhaps I’ll take some time off in 2013 to actually go diving. (if you care about the details of my life, feel free to keep reading)

If I had a percent of O2 in my tank for every time I said “when it rains, it pours”, I’d be suffering from extreme oxygen toxicity right now. I knew the office was going to be shut down for a few days and it happened to coincide with the end of the month, so I planned my cross-town move.

I also planned to complete my transition of contractors I had built up from the early days of New SCUBA Marketing who have been operating behind the scenes on their own projects elsewhere in the industry to my friends at ProSCUBASites. When I started this site/business and before I got hired full time, I knew I needed people to help with the tasks I didn’t want to do. When I got hired full time, I sent project inquiries to my team of contractors to tackle. Since my work and family has consumed more of my time, I’ve posted less often here which has resulted in less work for my people.

However, ProSCUBASites has had an influx of custom site designs, content creation projects and search engine optimization work, so they needed help. It was a perfect situation, I have people who know the various parts of online marketing within the dive industry but not enough work for them and ProSCUBASites has the best platform to run such marketing programs and plenty of work. When the transition is complete, NewSCUBAMarketing will be back to a one man show (me talking about my tips/techniques and observations of marketing in the diving industry) while ProSCUBASites will be who I refer to for all actual projects.

I also need to investigate Feedburner replacements since Google seems to be killing it slowly. Between the sites I manage, we’re looking at five digits of RSS subscribers, so transitioning them smoothly is critical.

Finally, I had planned to complete the final phase of my big work project I’ve been working on much of the year. The coding, user testing, user feedback, code revision, more testing, more feedback part is long over and the system is steadily growing, but now I am developing a custom Facebook Page app for it. I’ve been working on it between regular projects and dealing with all of the SEO crap, but I had hoped to wrap it up while the office was closed.

So those were the three big plans. Between moving, training, designing/coding/testing, RSS research and wrapping up loose ends here and there, that should fill the days we’re closed at work.

Then my grandfather passed away. He was my last grandparent and the only one I was ever really close to. He was an amazing guy. This isn’t my first close loss, so I wasn’t surprised at how much work would be needed afterwards. Luckily, my family is understanding of what I had planned, so I am by no means the person responsible for taking care of his affairs. But I did get to setup a memorial website with user-generated content systems with three days notice, so that was a fun challenge that I gladly accepted (and completed).

Then the place I move into has had internet issues since day one. It’s frustrating when you tell a new landlord “I work from home, internet is vital, it’s how I pay rent” and you show up with assurances it works fine only to find it slower than dial up if it even loads. Starbucks has been my savior.

Moving is complete aside from the whole living out of luggage thing. Keeping up with the usual things I keep up with on days off has been painfully slow due to internet issues. The custom Facebook Page app will be done soon though and that’ll be a good load off. Then it’s back to more SEO, increasing social media traffic, keeping up with all of the Facebook/LinkedIn/Google+/Twitter/Pinterest/Reddit/Stumbleupon updates and hopefully crossing one a few projects off the list before the holiday season strikes.

As my grandfather Ray would always say, “You kids be good to each other”

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