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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Rue & Ziffra to hold Steak & Info Night at White Eagle

Join Attorney David Sweat from the Rue and Ziffra Law Firm for a Steak Night for the Flagler and Volusia County's local biker community.  Free steak-dinner will  be offered to the first 75 people who register for this event that is taking place at While Eagle Lounge.

Registration required to attend.

Please visit:  or call 386-788-7700.   Limited seats available.
You must register --confirmations are on first-come-first-confirmed basis.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Memory Lane: History of Palm Coast

What is paradise? Before 1969, land that would eventually become the City of Palm Coast was considered by some as nothing more than a big pine-covered swamp.

But when the corporate eyes of ITT/Levitt and Sons looked upon the virtually uninhabited land, they saw 22,000 acres of golf courses, marinas, oceanfront motels, scenic drives, and house lots awaiting the arrival of sun-seeking apioneers.a Marketing strategies targeting urban residents in the North and Midwest offered slices of land cut out of miles of forest, and soon a 500-mile infrastructure of roads, utilities, and sewer lines bound Palm Coast to a future that included becoming the largest planned unit development in Florida history.

Here's a taste from the book, Images of America, by Arthur E. Dycke, published in 2003:


This wonderful book was published in 2003, remains one of the only comprehensive books on Palm Coast's history. It was written by Palm Coast historian Arthur E. Dycke. Perhaps some considered it paradise when life was so secluded that it took a 13-mile drive to buy a quart of milk; perhaps othersfound “the perfect place to live” when errands were shortened by a new shopping center in 1979. Now comprising about two-thirds of Flagler County’s population, Palm Coast continues to attract residents and visitors alike.

With a fascinating collection of photographs and illustrations, Arthur E. Dycke, co-city historian, a director of the City of Palm Coast Historical Society, and an adjunct faculty member at Daytona Beach Community College, presents this whirlwind history of a wilderness turned paradise.

Monday, November 28, 2011

December 3 Motorcycle Run to benefit Children & Food Banks is organized by Rue & Ziffra

All Proceeds Help:
Children’s Home Society and Second Harvest Food Bank of Daytona (Central Florida)

Registration Begins at 10:00am
Kickstands Up at 10:45am

Starting Location:
The Law Firm of Rue & Ziffra’s Parking Lot
640 Dunlawton Ave in Port Orange

$10 Cash Donations Accepted
OR Canned Goods/Dried Foods Accepted.

Scenic Ride in Volusia County
Ending at First Turn Steakhouse& Sports Lounge
5236 S. Ridgewood Ave in Port Orange

WIN $100 for Most Canned Food Pounds Safely Brought By Motorcycle.

Three Categories: 
Motorcycle, Trike and/or Side Car,& Bike Club.

For more information, Call: 386-788-7700 or visit online

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Matanzas Woods Interchange Public Hearing in Palm Coast

Would you like a third I-95 Palm Coast exit?

Flagler County will hold a public hearing regarding plans to construct a new I-95 interchange at Matanzas Wood Parkway as well as to widen the Matanzas Woods Parkway to four lanes from U.S. 1 to Old Kings Road.
When: Tuesday, November 29 at 5 p.m.  
Where: Palm Coast Community Center,
305 Palm Coast Parkway N.E.  

The hearing will begin with an open house where residents can review project documents and discuss the project with staff; followed by a brief presentation at 5:45 p.m. and the final session during whih participants can provide comments.

Public comments can also be provided to a court reporter at any time during the meeting.

Written comments can be submitted to:
Mindy Heath
Public Involvement Coordinator,
315 East Robinson, Ste 400,
Orlando FL 32801
fax: 407-420-4222

Comments will be accepted until December 9.

All comments will become part of the project public record.

Public participation is solicited without regard to race, color, national origin, age sex, religion, disability or family status. People who require translation services, free of charge, should contact Mindy Heath at 407-420-4245 at least seven days prior to the hearing.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Google+ Page: Setting One Up

As most know, Google+ launched a while ago.  There are a great deal of things I really like about the service.  I'm not saying I'm dropping Facebook.  I like that too, but Google+ adds some things and approaches things like connecting to others that "hammer out" a lot of the issues with user-interface and organizing of connections Facebook ran into as the user-base expanded.  For example, "Circles" and organizing through the use of "Circles" is one of the best features.  Then you have other great tie-ins like "Hangouts" for group video conferencing that even connects with Google Docs to share documents with others participants.  Jason John makes great points in how the service can effect search and others finding you in 3 Ways Google+ Will Affect Search which is significant for companies, brands, and organizations.  
Up until the other day, the service lacked the ability for organizations and brands to have their own “page” like Facebook Pages.  So the announcement was very welcome news.  I know I spent most of Monday night with one eye on a football game and the other on my laptop screen figuring this new aspect of the Google+ out.  I see huge possibilities for brands, local businesses, and organizations not only from external promotional social connection; but also to collaborate internally (especially if your organization uses Google Apps).  This is a big difference from Facebook which keep the two somewhat, if not very,  separate.  Let’s take a look first at the setup.  Then look for a follow up post on the uses and benefits for your company or organization as I see them.  Images will be the page I set up for an ebook I wrote, The Connected Church.  
** Before we get into the set up, it’s important to make a decision under which Google/Google Apps account you want this page associated with.  Currently, multiple users can not administer the page but that is supposedly coming as a feature.  Google Apps users now have the ability as well to participate onGoogle+ which was another change the other day.  So, for example, a Google Apps team may want to use a generic user account or a top-level "Admin" account.  Currently there is no ability to have multiple Administrators like Facebook Pages, but Google has said they are working to bring that feature.
Setting up your Google+ Page
1. While on your personal profile page look to the right-hand bar and scroll down to where you see“Create a Google Plus Page”

2.  You will be asked to give your page a name and set up your profile similar to how you set up your personal account.  Don’t worry about this too much, because you are able to change the name.  I personally would recommend using the same name you gave to a Facebook page if you have one and are looking to expand your exposure.  Remember, this is representing your organization so provide a nice ‘Introduction’ paragraph or two and all the relevant information.
Have some fun with the profile image and create a nice looking image.  The dimensions are 200 pixels by 200 pixels.  So similar to Facebook, you really do have enough room to create a image with your parish or organization information visible.

3.  Connect to others by sharing your page.  This part is different than the individual account.  You can not just begin following (aka adding to circles).  You’ll need to share your page out and gain “Followers” (yes, we’re ‘following’ and not ‘liking’).  So you’ll want to tell all of your personal Circles about the page.  You’ll notice you can “Share” your page publicly once it’s created.  The link to your page is " numbers at the end while on your stream or 'about' section" (i.e.  So 'Share' the pages under your personal account out to all of your circles as well.  
Make sure you add the Google Plus Icon (right-click at the beginning of the article and save it to your computer) to your website and I recommend linking it to the link mentioned above.

Once you gain followers you can begin assigning them to Circles (and create custom Circles) as you would normally in a regular Google+ Profile.  You actually use the service very similar to you do as your regular profile.  When you are under your Page Profile you post things, comment, start hangouts, etc. just as normally would under your personal profile.
Look for the next article coming on how you can use this service as a great benefit for your parish, ministries, Diocese and related offices, etc.  There are a ton of great possibilities.
Here's a link to a real estate page we set up for my wife, Kathleen West, and as well.

Click here to visit and follow on Google+
What questions do you have?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

3 Ways Google+ will affect search and your business

1. Making Google Smarter 
      As a result of Google+, Google will be able to improve its search engine results pages. This will happen because they are going to gather a tremendous amount of usage intelligence by getting a peak at the behavior of your social circle. Google+ will allow Google to understand trends and what people are interested faster than ever before.

2. More Relevance
      ...and better results:   Another benefit that Google+ brings to search is that results become much harder to cheat. Google will now be able to easily monitor who has a real profile and who is a spammer. By watching how they try to influence search results Google will have actionable intel and will be policing violators.

3. Changing How You Get Traffic 
      The +1 button which is like the share or tweet button appears in Google’s search results and can be embedded on other websites as well. It is worth noting that they are tied to a destination page address, just like shares or tweets are. I would like to point out that it’s important to be aware of every time you move a page or change the address of something, you’ll be resetting the +1 count for that page.

Like this article?  +1 it below!   :)

Jason Johnson, Chief Marlin, started Marlin Consulting Solutions -- a marketing consulting and search engine optimization firm -- in March 2009 focusing on the Flagler County area with a recent expansion to the Orlando market. With roots in the Caribbean and work experiences that took him to many different parts of the world, he is able to easily identify with people from all walks of life. He has worked as a CTO for a multi-billion dollar service organization in Costa Rica, owned a successful tour company in St. Maarten and held various positions with prestigious organizations including, among others, Chief of Automation for Korps Politie Nederlandse Antillen (the St. Maarten police and immigration departments), Lead Engineer Critical Systems for Global Services International and Director of Systems for the St. Maarten Lottery. He attended University of St Martin, St. Maarten Academy and Milton Peters College. He stands ready to help you “get hooked in to your success!”

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What does David Letterman think about Palm Coast?

In case you missed this great segment where David Letterman and Paul Shaffer from the talk about Palm Coast, Flagler County, St. Augustine:

Monday, October 31, 2011

Flagler County Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project

US Army Corps of Engineers in Jacksonville District published a brochure to inform citizens about the Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project in Palm Coast and Flagler County.

The primary purpose of an hurricane and storm damage reduction (HSDR)  project is to reduce storm damage to the coastal infrastructure, including residential and commercial property and public facilities. The federal objective is to maximize National Economic Development benefits relative to cost.  While environmental quality and recreational benefits are also important, the Corps is required to plan for maximum storm damage reduction benefits.

Is there a specific objective for the Flagler County HSDR project?
Beach and dune erosion, both long-term and storm induced, is the greatest problem in the Flagler County area. Due to the unique beach sediments and proximity of A1A and existing coastal development, Flagler County’s dune system is experiencing a long-term erosion trend with little opportunity for natural recovery.  The establishment of a functional dune system will be key in meeting the study objectives to reduce damages to infrastructure and maintain environmental quality.   

How does an HSDR project begin?
A Corps civil works project begins when a local community  experiences a water resources problem beyond their ability  to solve, and Congress directs the Corps to investigate the identified problem.
Upon receiving the authority from Congress to study a potential project, the Corps begins by developing a Reconnaissance Report to specify and document existing conditions, problems and opportunities. This determines the federal interest in the project. 
The next step is a Feasibility Study, in which the Corps determines if a project is environmentally acceptable and economically justified. During the Feasibility Study, and as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) the Corps actively seeks input from all interested parties, to ensure that it has as much information as possible to use in developing and evaluating alternatives and selecting a recommended plan. 
Upon completion and approval of the Feasibility Study, the project must be authorized by Congress via a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill and funded through an Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act bill before the Corps may proceed to contract for project construction.      

At what stage of the process is the Flagler County HSDR project? 
The Corps is currently in the Feasibility Study phase, conducting scoping (soliciting input) activities and formulating potential alternative plans. 

How long does the process take?
In the case of Flagler County, the authority for conducting  the study was provided by Congress in May 2002. The  Reconnaissance Report, indicating a federal interest in  conducting a Feasibility Study (FS), was completed,and a cost-sharing agreement with Flagler County was executed in 2004. 
The Feasibility Study began in 2008. Subject to the availability of federal funding, the FS and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is scheduled to be completed by 2014. Upon completion and approval of the FS, the project must be authorized by Congress and funds must be appropriated. 

How much will the Feasibility Study and EIS cost?
To date, approximately $1.5 million has been spent. It is expected that the total cost of the completed Feasibility Study and EIS will be $3.5 million. 

Why does the process take so long?
In accordance with NEPA and Corps policy, the Corps follows a very thorough, methodical process to ensure that the potential federal project is environmentally acceptable and economically justified. Further, the Corps is unable to move a project forward without appropriate authority and associated federal and non-federal funding. 

What kinds of alternatives do you consider for HSDR projects?
The Corps considers both non-structural and structural measures. Non-structural measures may include implementing a coastal construction control line and/or a moratorium on construction, buy-out/relocation and/or flood-proofing of structures, or no action at all. Structural measures may include seawalls, revetments, sand-covered soft structures, beach nourishment, groins, submerged artificial reef, and dunes and vegetation.  

What are the topics for which you seek public input during the scoping phase?
The Corps is seeking public input on environmental, engineering and economic concerns, cultural resources, study objectives and features; as well as suggested alternatives, scientific data collection and study improvements. 

How can interested parties participate in the process?
Written comments will be accepted by mail to: 
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Jacksonville District
ATTN: Kathleen McConnell (CESAJ-PD-EC)
701 San Marco Boulevard
Jacksonville, FL 32207 
Or e-mail to:  

The public will also be invited to participate in workshops  and public meetings at appropriate times throughout the process, where verbal and written comments will be accepted and considered.  

Download the brochure here (PDF).

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Flagler County Property Taxes vs. the rest of Florida

Are your property taxes higher in Flagler County than homeowners in other parts of Florida? A new list from Florida Tax Watch reveals how much residents pay in property taxes in each of  Florida's 67 counties.

Monroe County (which includes the Florida Keys) tops the list. Homeowners there paid an average $2,800 tax bill in 2010. The lowest property tax average in the state was in Union County, at just $291.

Here is where Flagler County ranks based on two dimensions:

  1) Total Per Capita Property Tax (#15 in the state),
  2) Tax Levies per $1,000 of Personal Income (#8 in the state)

In both cases Flagler County is also higher than the state average:

Based on the entire-state-averages, School Districts also make up the largest portion of the property taxes.  With nearly 44% of all the property tax amounts going to School Districts, 26% to the County, and 13% to the City you live in:

In the case of Per Capita School District Tax Levies, Flagler County also ranked #15 in 2010, with $707.71 (5 ranks more expensive than the State average which was $594.51).

The comprehensive study was prepared by Florida TaxWatch which is a private, non-profit, non-partisan research institute that consider itself the watchdog of citizens′ hard-earned tax dollars.  You can download the entire publication here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Florida Job Creation Incentives: FAIL!

Recent events in Palm Coast, Flagler County landscape on the "Economic Development" front included:
  • An Economic Development Summit FinalĂ© --postponed twice, but did it actually take place with the promised action-plan??
  • Death/Dissolution of Enterprise Flagler.
  • The establishment of UCF and City of Palm Coast-backed Palm Coast Business Assistance Center.
  • Recent plan to form an Economic Development Council by the Flagler County Administration.

In light of all the hoopla, the efforts, the plans, the ideas for job creation, the following news is current, and worth sharing:
New data show that the State of Florida has signed contracts worth $1.7 billion since 1995 in return for promises of 225,000 new jobs. 
But only about one-third of those jobs have been filled while the state has paid out 43% of the contracts -- averaging out a tax-payer cost of $10,237 per job created!
St. Petersburg Times: Florida tax incentive programs create 1 out of every 3 jobs promised

I encourage you to read the full article here, and you will immediately realize that there has been similar job creation failures (and unfulfilled contracts) in Flagler County from Palm Coast Data, to Sea Ray, to Micro Hose makers, to Defense Consultant firms etc. etc.

Once our elected officials and so called 'economic-development professionals' understand the following two realities, perhaps we can then make wise choices for long term development of business and creation of jobs as a local-community, State, and Country:

 1) A business does not create jobs for the sake of job creation.
 2) Investing in traditional businesses/business-models is no longer a winning bet.

As the race for the Palm Coast City Council is underway with the early voting already started for the November 8th elections, please make wise choices now that you will not regret later.

I believe that the current Palm Coast City Council operates in harmony and have made sound choices recently to support businesses in a correct way (realizing the deficiencies of Enterprise Flagler and pulling out first from that; and with the establishment of the Palm Coast Business Assistance Center, to create a "lean" organization to play a connector role).

It is my opinion that the re-election of Holsey Moorman and the election of the dynamic, young Jason DeLorenzo would be the sound choices to make at this juncture, though I and qualified business leaders I talk to, are ready to support the City's continuing efforts for entrepreneurship and business creation and support regardless of the make up of the City Council.

This is an opinion piece by Ky Ekinci.  
Ky is a management consultant and an entrepreneur based in Palm Coast, FL.  Ky is a co-founder of
Office Divvy and Palm Coast Media Online. He has a master’s degree from Cambridge College in Management. He can be found on twitter @KyEkinci.

Would you like to contribute with a commentary or announce an event here?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Everything You Wanted Know About Email Marketing: A Star is Coming to Palm Coast

When it comes to email marketing there are many choices, platforms, and service providers.  Certainly Constant Contact is a household-brand-name among the small business owners, where the company's name is synonymous with email marketing.

One of the rising stars at Constant Contact is Pamela Starr. As Regional Development Director for Constant Contact, Pamela speaks to groups of Florida Business Owners about Social Media Marketing, Email Marketing and Engagement Marketing.  Pamela's seminars help people learn now to maximize the power of Relationship Marketing.

And now, Pamela Starr is coming to Flagler County...

Constant Contact's Pamela Starr will present two back to back sessions at the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, October 19th:

The Power of Email Marketing (2:00 - 3:30 pm)
  • How email marketing can help your business grow
  • How to target prospects and customers
  • How to avoid being seen as a “spammer”
  • The best ways to build your email list
  • How to come up with effective content for your emails
  • How to help ensure your emails are opened and forwarded
  • How to incorporate Social Media into your Email Marketing Campaign

...bonus session!

Getting Started with Constant Contact
(3:30 - 5:00 pm)
  • How to find the best email template for your needs
  • How to include links, pictures and logos into your emails
  • How to include video in your newsletters 
  • How customize your emails in accordance to your company brand
  • How to integrate links to your Social Media platforms (Facebook, etc.)
  • How to use the newest Constant Contact features including “text to join our mailing list”
The cost is $10 for Flagler County Chamber of Commerce members; and $15 for non members.  The back-to-back sessions will take place at the Flagler Room located at the Flagler Chamber of Commerce. 

Space is limited.
Please call 386.437.0106 to reserve your space.

Additional Bonus Sessions: 
Office Divvy ™ as a Constant Contact Business Partner in Flagler County, is also offering two action-oriented FREE Clinics following week to help you get started with Constant Contact.  They will at no cost setup your account, help you import your database, design your template, and send out your first email free of charge along with a FREE 60-Day subscription depending on the size of your database.

The FREE CLINICs will take place at Office Divvy on Thursday, October 27th (5:30-7PM); and Saturday, October 29th (1 - 2:30PM).  To reserve your space in bonus free clinics, call 386.445.4153

Monday, September 26, 2011

3 Great Entrepreneur Events in Palm Coast this Fall

Palm Coast and Flagler County entrepreneur community has much luck this Fall with three great events lined up in late September and early October:

Entrepreneur Night at The Humidor, European Village
This free event features premium cigars, $2 drafts, a selection of red, white, and port wine, complimentary food and a bunch of fellow Flagler County business owners to chat, network, and relax with.

The event will take place at the Humidor Cigar Lounge on Tuesday, September 27th from 5:30 to 8:00 PM.  This is a free event.  You can just come by, or feel free to RSVP on or on Facebook

Dave Ramsey Live: Entreleadership
Join Dave Ramsey live, as he shares how to grow your business and lead your team from a biblical perspective. EntreLeadership is Dave Ramsey’s premier leadership training program where he personally teaches individuals, teams, and businesses how to grow.

Whether you’re an individual who wants to develop your leadership abilities, a business or organizational leader who wants to develop your team, or an entrepreneur who wants to build a business on solid, proven principles, EntreLeadership is for you.  The event will take place at the Parkview Baptist Church on Friday, September 30, 2011 from 9:45am-5:00pm.  Tickets are $39.  More info here.

Inaugural Business2Business Expo at Hammock Beach Resort
This all-day event includes vendor booths, keynote speech by Dr. Ted Anders, lunch and cocktail party, and multiple workshops.  If you are looking to take a positive step to grow your business, this is the event for you. The event is organized The Palm Coast Business Assistance Center in partnership with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at UCF on October 7th at Hammock Beach Resort from 9:00AM to 5:00PM.  Participation is $100 which includes vendor booth, lunch, cocktail party, and entry to keynote speech session and workshops.  More info here.

On a side note, Palm Coast's entrepreneur-hub, Office Divvy ™ is sponsoring 3 lucky participants through a raffle. It includes your tradeshow-booth, lunch, cocktail and keynote and educational sessions.  Enter here to win a full package: Palm Coast B2B Expo Raffle.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Talented Mr. Rippey visits Palm Coast Yacht Club

The Palm Coast Chapter of the International Blue Gavel presented talented performer Tim Rippey in a dinner-concert on Saturday, September 24th to benefit the Outreach Ministries' Food Bank at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church.

The event was held at the Palm Coast Yacht Club, with Tim Rippey winning the hearts of the audience with his outstanding performance of songs from the 40s, 50, 60s as well as Broadway classics from the Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, and Fiddler on the Roof.

The Outreach Ministries' Food Bank at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church was presented with a donation of $1,500 by Frank D. Hutchinson --past commodore of the Palm Coast Yacht Club and the current President of the International Order of the Blue Gavel (IOBG), Chapter 8.  Founded in 1953, The Blue Gavel, officially known as the 'International Order of the Blue Gavel (IOBG), is yachting's most exclusive fraternity, being made up of only past Commodores of recognized Yacht Clubs.

Here's a glimpse of the event with Tim Rippey's wonderful performance:

Additional sponsorships for the event were provided by Cheney Brothers and

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Love Bugs in Palm Coast and Flagler County

Image by Wikifrosch a newcomer to Palm Coast and Flagler County (particularly those who moved from the northern states), the Plecia Nearctica presents curiosity, wonder, and nuissance simultaneously.

Commonly called as the "love bug" these insects are also known as the honeymoon fly, kissingbug or double-headedbug.

They are widely found in Central America and Southern United States, including in Florida's Northeast and Gulf-Coasts.

Sometimes flying around in hundreds even thousands, the love bugs can be seen in Palm Coast typically twice a year: Spring and Late Summer/Early Fall.

Part of the frustration comes from driving on the highways, with the bugs smashing to the hood and the windshield of the vehicles; and they dry out and are known to chip the paint if they are not cleaned immediately.  Love bugs created a whole industry of paint-cleaners in the US.

What are some of the ways you deal with them in the yard and when they stick to your car?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Palm Coast Fire Department Is Offering Flu Shots

Prevent this year's flu virus from invading your household and stop by a Palm Coast Fire Department for your annual flu shot.

Station #25 Crew members will administer the flu shots to the public Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.   Or you can visit the Station #21 on Thursday, October 6th where crew will administer drive-thru shots.

Fees for flu shots are available for $25, with Visa, Master Card, Cash or Medicare Part B accepted.

Station addresses are:

  • Station #25 – 1250 Belle Terre Pkwy
  • Station #21 – 9 Corporate Drive

Shots are available for adults, ages 18+ only. Pediatric immunizations are not available. For more information, please call the Fire Department at 386-986-2300.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Entrepreneur Night in Palm Coast: Tue, 11/29

Cigars, Drinks and Networking!  

Come join fellow Palm Coast and Flagler County entrepreneurs on Tuesday, November 29th at The Humidor in European Village.

Free to attend!

  • Complimentary Appetizers
  • Complimentary Pizza from Mezzaluna
  • Great people to chat, relax, and network with
  • $2 Draft Beers
  • Red and White Wine Selection 
  • Premium Cigars, including Padrons, Fuente, Aston, Rocky Patel, Cohiba and more
    (plus a 25% discount when you buy 4 cigars: Buy 3 get 4th free!)
  • Deliver an elevator pitch on your company/business to an open and receptive audience... 

When  : Tuesday, November 29 from 5:30 to 8:00 PM
Where : The Humidor at European Village
RSVP  : on or on Facebook

The Humidor is located at European Village in Palm Coast, 101 Palm Harbor Parkway, B-119.  For directions call: (386) 445-2221

This is a part of four fall/winter events sponsored by Office Divvy ™ --a company providing startup incubation and outsourced operations to Entrepreneurs, Startup Companies and Small Business Owners in Flagler County.   The events are free to attend, and they will take place the last Tuesdays of each month through December 2011.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Wondering About Social Media For Your Business? Meet Social Smidge

Visit the Socialsmidge website
Most businesses and organizations today are grappling with how to be competitive in the online world.  Much of the advice from others seems to be "you gotta have a website", "you gotta blog", "you gotta be on Facebook and Twitter".  So what do many small businesses do?  They go out, get a website and set up up those online social networking accounts.  They run a few posts on the social networks, get frustrated because they get little reaction, and give up.  

Social media and social networking is extremely important for businesses and organizations of all sizes today.  And just as most businesses seek out professionals to do their marketing and advertising, it's important to consider a professional when it comes to being social online for your company.  I set out recently to find a local professional, to get a better perspective for businesses . . . meet Socialsmidge!  From owner Kelly Lohman's great smile to the fun logo and approach to the social world, you immediately want to be a "Smidgeon" (as Socialsmidge calls their "followers").  Everyone I've talked to immediately perks up when you ask about her and what she does.  

Kelly Lohman, a former Marketing Director for a local company, started Socialsmidge 3 years ago and provides online social services for several businesses and organizations (click here to see some of her clients).  Although, some may refer to her as a "Social Media Expert"; Kelly prefers the term "Guru" due to the ever changing landscape of the online social world.  As she says, "I think it's nearly impossible for anyone to classify themselves as an expert in the field when everyday something is changing.  From Facebook functions to newly developed social networking sites such as Google Plus.  The more it changes, the more social media "guru's" as I like to call us need to adapt, study, and learn."

Here's what Kelly has to say about the world of social media for businesses and organizations.

1.  How did you get started in providing social media services? 

I began about 3 years ago when I worked for as a marketing director for a local company.  I based the majority of my marketing on online trends such as social media, blogging, web ads, google placement, etc.  After working with them I realized there was so many companies that just didn't have time or understanding of what social media was meant for and that I could provide these services for them.

2.  What do you see as the biggest misconception today in regards to social media and organizations venturing into this area? 

The biggest misconception in regards to social media is that companies believe they should sell their product on it, I know no one likes to hear that but it's the truth.  Social media is not for sales - it was developed on the idea to network, chat, and interact with people.  Sometimes I pop on facebook and think; If I see another post that tells me to buy a car from you I'm going to "unlike" you.  Instead companies should be having fun with their brand and toss a photo up a new car in inventory and say "Hey Fans, this just rolled into our lot - what do you think? Is it your color or would you rather it in blue?" See the difference?  The posts that we generate don't beg people to buy, instead it gently reminds the audience that yes you do sell cars but let's have fun today and talk about cars and get your opinion.  If a company goes into social media with the thought that they can use it to sell, then their posts or interaction will look like sales and these days we are all fast forwarding through commercials so just imagine how many people are passing over those posts!

3.  A lot of times there is this notion that to be "successful" with social media the company or organization must have a large number of "followers" or "fans".  Is there truth to that and what should be the expectation for the company or organization?  

Having a large following or fanbase is not important. The biggest insight we look at on services like Facebook is not the number of likes but the post feedback.  That tells us whether or not our messages are working.  If the post feedback is low then the connections aren't real.  You can have a 1,000 fans with little feedback or 100 fans with high feedback. While it's important to grow your base, it's more important to have authentic real fans.  For small business owners having a community that loves you, believes in your brand, and wants to interact with you is always better than having a large community who doesn't care about your brand, product, or service. 

4.  There are a number of social media and networking services (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Video, etc.), which one do you see as the most beneficial?  Or is it a "recipe" of a combination of those to get the most benefit? 

I think all of the social networks are beneficial to businesses, but that doesn't mean a business has to be on all of them.  For instance, a restaurant will see the most benefit on Facebook and Twitter but an insurance company will see the most benefit from Facebook and blogging.  It truly depends on each company and what their brand is.  Social media marketing companies have an understanding of the purpose of each social network so it helps us place our clients on the right ones.  Many business owners will spend time on everything when instead they may just need to blog or just need to tweet.  The good news is that there is a social network for every industry!

5.  What do you see as the biggest benefit to companies/organizations using an outside social media service compared to doing it in-house and/or simply assigning it as a task for an employee?  

One of the biggest benefits of outsourcing social media is to a company like Socialsmidge is that the audience is typically bigger and louder.  Social media marketing companies do one thing - we socialize.  Business owners or employees have a laundry list of daily tasks to complete and often the social networks are neglected.  I've done several consultations and trainings in Florida and after leaving I see a room full of business owners with excitement of how they can use social networks.  For about a month or so they are really into their social networks but then something happens - they are not active anymore.  Business may have picked up, an employee left, they are training a new hire, whatever the reason it's always the social networks that get put on the back burner.  Like anything in marketing you can't just do it a few times and expect results and especially with social networks - you have to constantly be active in them.  If someone becomes connected with a business' social networks it's because they like their brand and are looking forward to their messages but if they don't get them often - companies are forgotten.  I always tell my clients when a client writes to your social networks you must respond and that's what we do.  We make sure all of our connections not only have a voice but feel appreciated for having that voice.  Not responding to someone is the same as walking away from a client who entered your salon or auto body shop, but businesses are busy and they don't have time to keep up with everything that goes on in social media. 

6.  In terms of the social web, how do you see social media benefiting businesses and organizations compared to say just being listed on online directories and website SEO? 

The social web is amazing.  In fact if you google "Kelly Lohman" the third ranking is my LinkedIn profile and the 5th image on google is my facebook profile picture- amazing, right!  What a huge benefit to companies who might not have an easily recognizable company name, but if a client or potential client remembers your name they can still find you and your business!  If I didn't have those social networks, I might not be found. Another benefit is that unlike web or online directories you can actually talk to your clients - I don't see many interactive websites because they are what a web designer may term "complex" or "dynamic" and can be quite costly to not only set up but also maintain.  Websites and online directories are very valuable for companies to build their SEO but in terms of relationships with clients they don't offer that - the interaction is what social media is meant for!

7.  How does what you do vary from traditional public relations and marketing? 

What we do is extremely different than traditional marketing because we have the ability to have a conversation.  When companies spend time, energy, and money on print marketing all they can do is show or send.  There is no option for the person who picks up your postcard or sees your ad in the paper to respond to you.  I don't believe that means businesses should drop their traditional marketing efforts; they just really need to see if it works for them.  When they mail postcards are they getting a return?  When they print an ad in the paper are people responding?  That's the great part about social networking, we know immediately if what we say today has had an effect on the community.  I can tell my clients if the post was not only seen but was their a response - did anyone share the message, comment on it, like it, etc.  That immediate insight really helps us drive the conversation the next day.

8.  What is different with your area of expertise compared to web designers?  

It's funny how closely social media and web designers work together but how much are services are completely different.  A web designer can create dynamic "scenes" on a website with erupting volcano's or bird's flying across the screen - I envy their talent!  Social media marketing companies create conversation, we use social networks like Facebook or Twitter to "talk" to our clients' ... clients.  It's a much different world; my area of expertise is being social - making things fun.  I can also build custom tabs into Facebook pages like a mini website, but if someone needs a fully designed website outside of Facebook . . . well, I leave that up to experts who focus just on web design.  They are two completely different products and don't require the same type of "coding".

9.  When a company decides to purchase/contract for social media services what advice would you give them in terms of what they should look for and what to expect from the provider? 

If you're considering outsourcing your social media I would highly recommend asking a company who their current clients are, what type of services they provide, how often they provide their services. It should be like an interview - you are hiring a company to do one of the most beneficial marketing strategies in the industry today, so you need to know what they can provide for you.  Most social media marketing companies offer different type of services so it's important to understand that while we all do the same type of work, we might not provide it in the same manner.  Some companies don't provide insights or are unable to build custom tabs (Facebook Pages), so think about what your goals are with social media and if that company can reach your goals with you.  I also believe that it's important to ask the company about stats or social trends - if the company can't answer those for you, I'd hesitate to hire.  Think of it like this, if you're looking to buy a home would you get a mortgage from someone who doesn't know the current mortgage rate? 

10.  Many religious organizations are placing focus on social media and networking.  How does the approach differ from a business?  

I think religious organizations should use social media in the same manner that businesses do.  Businesses shouldn't seek to sell their product and religious organizations shouldn't seek to sell religion with social media.  They should focus on educating the community about religion and helping people understand the views of their religion.  Their social networks should be a place for people to feel comfortable to express their ideas or views on religion and also provide help in time of need.  I think one of the main differences between religious organizations and other's is the "human touch".  Religious organizations should make sure that they do not use social networks as a way to replace the direct human contact they have with people.  Individuals, as much as we love social networks and being able to find everything we want to know on them, still desire to be involved in their church.  If a religious organization starts to replace their services with social services instead, they will loose the human touch that is highly associated with being in a church setting.  Instead of replacing services, religious organizations can offer video streaming for those who may have missed their message but never totally replace services with streaming. 

11.  Where do you see your field going in the next 5 years?  

With the way things are changing, it's a mystery as to where social networking will go.  I do believe that social networking won't end, the trend will exist but it's a matter of where it will be.  Will Facebook still be as popular today?  My guess is no.  The reason I say that is because people by nature always want the next big thing - as soon as that happens we'll jump ship to check it out and see all these new features and stay with it.  I still chuckle to myself at how I woke up one day and no one was on MySpace!  It was like, what happened?  Where did everyone go ... well the world went to Facebook and the same could happen to Facebook.  We will wake up one day and everyone may be on another social network.  The thing to keep in mind is that even though the social network may change, the goal doesn't and the way you communicate won't either. 

12.  What advice would you give to young people seeking to get into the field in terms of college and/or after graduations?  

One of the biggest benefits of young individuals going into social media marketing is that they most likely already use these networks for personal reasons. So they have an understanding of how social networks work.  They are able to upload photos, generate videos on YouTube, and follow Twitter trends.  Now they just need to understand the business aspect of it.  It's a great idea for anyone looking to get into this field to intern with a social media marketing company to learn the business approach to these networks. 

  • What questions do you have considering online social media for your business or organization?  
  • What questions do you have about outsourcing this aspect of your business or organization?  

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