While many companies would be like a ship without its captain after the loss of its illustrious founder, Jess Jackson, the Jackson Family Enterprises had a very capable successor in Rick Tigner — one who would continue the family-owned winery group’s reputation and make mom and dad’s favorite chardonnay into the favorite of their millenial children too.

In April 2011, Jess Jackson died of cancer at the age of 81. He was an individual whose vision, perseverance and work ethic helped transform the wine industry.

He started the Kendall-Jackson wine business with the 1974 purchase of an 80-acre pear and walnut orchard in Lakeport, Calif., that he converted to a vineyard. Nearly 40 years later, Jackson Family Wines is among the world’s most successful family-owned winery groups, composed of more than 35 individual wineries.

Jackson Family Enterprises is the company that oversees Jackson Family Wines, its global sales organizations and the Kendall-Jackson brand. Tigner was named president of Jackson Family Enterprises a year before Jackson passed away. A 24-year veteran of the alcohol beverage industry, Tigner has held positions at Miller Brewing Co., Gallo, Louis M. Martini and nearly 20 years with Jackson Family Wines.

“When I first became in charge of Jackson Family Wines three years ago, one of my goals was to actually get one team, one dream,” Tigner says. “If I can get all 1,200 employees going in the same direction at the same time, how powerful would that be?”

The company, its 1,200 employees and its more than 30 brands of wine, was solely in Tigner’s hands, and it was now up to him to keep the operation flourishing.

“Our company mission is to be the best wine company in the world,” Tigner says.

Here’s how Rick Tigner is taking Jess Jackson’s legacy and moving Jackson Family Enterprises forward.

Connect with consumers

In any industry, it is extremely easy to be hands-off with consumers. In the wine industry, many vineyards deal with distributors or trade partners and aren’t very tight with the consumer. Tigner says that isn’t the case at Jackson Family Wines.

“Innovation comes in different forms and fashions,” he says. “In the wine business, what you get is a lot of what I call the ‘sea of sameness.’ You look at a wine magazine ad and you see a bottle and vineyard, but it can be anybody’s bottle and anybody’s vineyard. The question is how do you connect with a consumer in different ways?”

Last January, Tigner was featured on the TV show “Undercover Boss.” He saw this as a new way for a wine company, especially a family wine company, to go on television and tell people about who the business is as a family, as a company and how it produces its products. The blogosphere gave generally rave review about Tigner’s TV appearance.

“The one thing that we’re always very, very focused on is quality,” he says. “We want to make sure that consumers know that whether it’s the Kendall-Jackson brand or the La Crema brand, quality is one of the foundations of our organization.”

To tell its consumers about its products, Jackson Family Wines is putting more focus on social media. The company recently hired a digital marketing team to make sure it has a presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

“A lot of companies have pretty pictures,” Tigner says. “What we actually want is engaging content … versus the standard picture of a bottle in a Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast magazine.”

Being involved in social media is becoming increasingly important, but it isn’t enough to just have a Facebook page; you have to engage with your fans and potential customers.

“If you look at Facebook, a lot of brands have Facebook, but the question is do you listen to the people who are on your Facebook page?” he says. “Do you react to how they talk about you on Facebook? We listen, and we learn from that activity. These are our friends and family who actually went online and signed up on our Facebook page, because they’re looking for interaction.”

Tigner says this interaction can’t be boring or constantly the same old thing. You have to be looking for ways to keep your audience involved and engaged.

“The key for us in regard to capturing our consumer is actually listening to them,” he says. “We create content that they want to see on video or in photos. We’ve done a lot of recipes. A lot of people want to talk about food and wine pairings. We have spent hours and hours and hours putting together a recipe program for our website.”

Jackson Family Wines has a lot of pages on its website and on its social media because even if a consumer doesn’t go to them all, those pages are there and available to them. The same thing goes for YouTube.

“If you go to YouTube and capture that consumer and they see a training video or a wine education video or a food-and-wine program, the next time they go look at your YouTube, you better have new content,” he says. “It has to be ongoing engagement, intriguing and informative. If you don’t have that, then you’ll lose your consumer. Those are things we’ve done to continually engage the consumer.”

What this kind of engagement helps Jackson Family Wines do more than anything is reach a more diverse audience. Many of the company’s consumers are baby boomers and social media is helping the brand reach the younger generations.

“We want to keep the baby boomers like myself who’ve been drinking our brands for a long time,” Tigner says. “But we want to capture the millennials. Who is that 25- to 35-year-old out there who has disposable income to buy premium wine? We have to give them the messaging and the content.

“We’re going out and making it new and fresh for them so it’s not just their mom and dad’s favorite chardonnay, but it becomes their favorite chardonnay and then their favorite cabernet or pinot noir.”

Educate about your product

The wine industry can be very complex due to the sheer number of wine styles, brands and varietals that make each bottle different. For Jackson Family Wines, it is crucial that its staff and its business partners are knowledgeable about the company’s products.

“In our company, we have 1,200 employees,” Tigner says. “In our sales team, there are about 400. I would argue we have the best sales team in the world and the best fine wine team.”

Tigner makes this argument because the company has four master sommeliers on staff and nine more in training out of a total of 180 in the U.S., who help to educate the sales team.

“They educate our sales teams, our distributors and our internal staff,” Tigner says. “We want to make sure everyone who works for our company, whether in IT, marketing or finance, has knowledge about wine and a passion about wine.”

Transferring that knowledge outside of the company is the hard part. Jackson Family Wines has to work with its distributors, trade partners and, more recently, directly with consumers to educate them on the products.

“In this business, 20 years ago, manufacturers or wineries like us spent all our time selling our wine to distributors and educating our distributors who then sold to retail stores who then sold to consumers,” he says. “About 15 years ago, that was still important, but the next piece was actually us communicating with our trade partners.

“In the last five years, all that is still important, but now we’re talking directly to our consumer, whether it’s online, in our tasting rooms or our wine club program.”

One of the biggest things related to education that Tigner has to keep aligned is the messaging Jackson Family Wines spreads both internally and externally.

“We broke down our strategic initiatives into three simple buckets,” he says. “You want to keep it simple so everyone knows what the plan is. Our strategy is lands, brands and people. So that when people want to know what are we working on, you can break it down to land, brands and people, and then we have the initiatives below that.”

To aid in keeping this message aligned and helping to push the company forward, Tigner has implemented management meetings.

“In the last three years since I’ve been put in charge, I’ve had more senior management team meetings,” he says. “We really didn’t have those before.

“Every quarter, we bring in the top 50 managers of the company plus outside guests and visitors and we talk about lands, brands and people. We talk about the strategic initiatives. I want to make sure everything we put in place at the beginning of the process is still being worked on.”

While his management meetings are a new tradition, there are some things that Tigner wants to maintain, like the company’s culture.

“When I first took over being the president, we had a great training program, recruiting program and succession program,” he says. “I want to make sure we have that exact same culture. Culture doesn’t show up on a P&L, but culture is very, very important to the company.”

The culture is something Tigner wants to be identical whether it’s the IT, finance, marketing or production departments.

“I want to make sure all our employees are treated similar and fair throughout the entire organization,” he says. “I take it upon myself on a regular basis to check in with middle management, lower management, field workers and sales workers because I want to make sure everyone has the right communication and we’re all on the same page.

“I spend most of my time making sure the messaging of the organization runs wide and deep.”

Just like a generous pour of chardonnay. ?

How to reach: Jackson Family Wines, (707) 544-4000 or www.kj.com

Takeaways

Connect with your consumers using new channels of communication.

Keep your content engaging and new.

Educate internally and externally about your product or service.

Published in Northern California

With 88 percent of businesses now active on social media, the social media landscape is becoming more cluttered and more difficult. This means that, for businesses, it is becoming harder and harder to break through the noise and be heard.

In order to penetrate the noise, businesses must deliver the right message to the right person in the right way. Increasingly, the way that people want to receive messages online is visually.

We’ve heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, and this is true. The brain can process images faster than text. This is why images are breaking through on social networks — because they provide a quicker way for people to comprehend information.

Image-based social networks, such as Pinterest and Instagram, are among the most popular and quickest-growing social networks online. Images are the most liked and commented on content on Facebook and links to images get the most clicks on Twitter. All signs point toward images as the most popular, most shared and most liked content on social networks.

The point is that with so much content on social media, images are increasingly the content that is breaking through and getting results. I realized this trend and recently published a book called “Visual Social Media Marketing” about how brands can take advantage of this and get results.

So, what can you do to take advantage of this trend? Here are three simple steps to start taking advantage of the visual revolution online.

Include images on your website

The visual Web focuses around images, and as your website is shared online, the images from your website are usually the focus of how your website content is shared.

For example, when I post a link to a website on Facebook, the image is shown beside the link to my content. In this example, I’m sharing a link to our report on Google+. The image of the Google+ report is on our website.

Having the image on our website is important to how the link to our website shows up on Facebook. The reality is that if you want to drive traffic to your website from social media, each page on your site should have relevant images that are appropriate for sharing on social networks.

Use images on existing social networks

If you want your business to be successful on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, images must be a part of your strategy. Consider these statistics:

?  Images are the most shared and clicked on content on Twitter.

?  Images receive 50 percent more interactions on Facebook.

?  Google+ users have uploaded 3.4 billion photos.

?  Recruiters spend more time examining a LinkedIn user’s picture than actually reviewing the person’s qualifications.

These statistics show that if you want to break through on the leading social networks you must have an image strategy. Images are easy to consume and eye-catching, and with all of the content on social networks, images break through and get better results than text updates.

Consider joining Instagram and Pinterest

Instagram and Pinterest are two of the quickest-growing social networks and they can be your way to reach new audiences and get results ahead of your competition. Consider joining these networks and participating in the community to reach your audience in a new and interesting way.

Visual marketing is a trend in social media that you just can’t afford to ignore. If you want your business to stay relevant, drive traffic to your website and build shares and likes on social networks, you can’t afford to ignore the power of images in achieving these objectives. ?

Krista Neher is the CEO of Boot Camp Digital. She is an international speaker and social media thought-leader, as well as the author of “The Social Media Field Guide,” “Visual Social Media Marketing” and “Social Media Marketing: A Strategic Approach.”

Published in Columnist

Does your company employ a multigenerational workforce? If so, your organization might significantly benefit by adopting a reciprocal mentoring program that leverages talents, skills and knowledge to bridge generational gaps surrounding technology — such as social media — corporate culture and team building.

Given the generational divide, older and younger workers often feel disconnected when it comes to adapting to technology, corporate culture and working as a team.

With reciprocal mentoring, workers across all generations individually and collectively play a pivotal role in creating multigenerational buy-in to the workplace changes that accompany the adoption of technological tools such as social media, cloud computing and text usage that will streamline workflow communication, processes and practices.

Reciprocal mentoring takes the traditional mentoring concept of a seasoned employee guiding a worker’s development and transfers it from a one-way relationship to a two-way or team-building relationship in which newer or younger employees also impart their knowledge and guidance.

It can be especially important when it comes to the integration of newer technologies into the pre-existing corporate culture and workflow processes. To create a dynamic program, it’s important to understand the intrinsic generational differences within your workforce.

Consider your longtime employees. When someone has been on the job for an extended length of time, they form ideas and habits that have been repeatedly reinforced by experience and success.

When they are introduced to a new tool, piece of information or technology, some might feel threatened because it changes what they know and how they have become used to doing things, and the immediate challenge will be to figure out how they might adapt this new knowledge into their existing work practices.

As you add younger workers, it’s important to understand that the Y2K generation, or millennials, have a much different set of motivators from many baby boomer, generation X and generation Y employees.

Millennials thrive in situations that allow them to take ownership of their skills, knowledge and work. Challenge and change are key motivators for most millennials.

A successful reciprocal mentoring program will allow your millennial workers the opportunity to impart their technical savvy, to teach seasoned employees how to leverage and navigate the world of social media and the time-saving and efficiency tools available by leveraging mobile, messaging, text and cloud computing technologies.

In my company, we have taken more of a team-building approach to our reciprocal mentoring. We have set up a schedule of twice-monthly lunch-and-learn events. For these lunch-and-learns, we have put together a calendar of topics that my staff and I feel are of interest and importance to our business. We have tapped every employee, from entry-level to executive, with a topic or series of topics that each will present during one of the events. To keep things organized and to provide structure, we have set up the following outline for each presentation:

?  Who is presenting? Give us some of your personal, professional and/or academic background.

?  What is the topic you are covering?

?  Why is it important to our organization?

?  How can it or does it help move our organization forward?

?  How and/or when do we put it into practice?

?  What are some examples, case studies or best practices surrounding the topic?

During the presentation, we ask the presenter to use presentation tools to provide a show and tell of the topic he or she is covering.

By providing employees a forum to share their skill sets and knowledge, we create an environment where individuals feel they are making a valuable contribution to the entire team. By presenting in a team-like atmosphere, we are fostering individual presentation skills and creating an environment of team support, knowledge-sharing and problem-solving.

Adrienne Lenhoff is president and CEO of Buzzphoria Social Media Marketing and Online Reputation Management, Shazaaam Public Relations and Marketing Communications, and Promo Marketing Team, which conducts product sampling, mobile tours and events. Her companies have been seven times named a 101 Metropolitan Detroit Best and Brightest Company to Work for, a two-time Crain’s Detroit Cool Company to Work For and a National Best and Brightest Company to Work For. She can be reached at alenhoff@shazaaam.com. Follow her on Twitter @alenhoff.

Published in Columnist

Since infiltrating the business world, the use of social media has increased at an incredible rate. Last year, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings caused considerable commotion in the financial community when he announced via Facebook that Netflix had exceeded 1 billion viewing hours in a month for the first time. There was heavy debate as to whether it was appropriate for a high-level executive to divulge material information regarding a public entity’s success through social media.

Fast forward one year and the SEC just released a statement in April allowing companies to make announcements through social media outlets provided investors have the ability to gain access to material information at the same time. Clearly, social media has become a mainstream tool for companies and is an issue management must address.

Smart Business spoke with Matthew P. Breuer, J.D., an associate with Cendrowski Corporate Advisors, about how the use of social media can introduce risk to your company.

What are some of the major risks and issues with social media?

Social media pose risks to companies in a variety of ways. Perhaps the biggest risk stems from reputational impact on an organization, which can come from both social media interaction by the company and/or through public discussion about the organization through social media.

The potential damages of posting confidential information is another risk companies must take into account. This can be particularly difficult to prevent because the release of confidential information could be done inadvertently by an employee or by an unknown individual with insider knowledge, which makes it all the more important for a company to manage and document who will have access to key material information. An unauthorized employee speaking on the behalf of the company and libelous statements are other major risks that should not be overlooked. In addition, the risks of social media can trickle down to affect a company even at the level of an individual employee with a risk as simple as decreased employee productivity. Consequently, these risks should all be addressed by management when developing a strategic plan.

Why is social media such a difficult subject for companies to address?

Companies are increasingly using social media, but still have difficulty grasping its changing intricacies, especially as it continues to evolve at a rapid pace and revolutionize marketing and customer interaction. The difficulty of handling the identified risks of social media can also be attributed to the balancing that needs to be done to ensure an organization still reaps the benefits of social media.

Despite all of the risks, social media serves as an excellent channel for marketing contact, increasing company exposure, customer base development, increasing sales activity and as a tool for recruiting. Moreover, using social media can allow a company to gain a better understanding of customer or consumer perception of the company. Developing an approach to utilize the benefits while mitigating the risks of social media is never an easy task.

What can companies do to mitigate risk?

Mitigating the risks associated with social media begins from the top. Management must have a clear and defined social media policy already entrenched within a company. The policy should clearly outline expectations and address social media interaction deemed to be forbidden. This policy is especially imperative in smaller companies. While larger companies may be able to have positions created for this purpose or outsource the responsibilities to outside agencies, smaller companies will have less resources and time to monitor their company’s interaction with social media. In addition, management must be aware of any legal ramifications that could arise from the use of social media. Management’s strategic plan should also determine the individual(s) who will have access to a company’s social media.

Companies may never be able to eliminate all of the risks of using social media, but management having a clearly communicated plan already in place is an effective way to mitigate these risks.

Matthew P. Brewer, J.D., is an associate with Cendrowski Corporate Advisors LLC. Reach him at (866) 717-1607 or mpb@cendsel.com.

For additional information, visit Cendrowski's website.

Insights Accounting is brought to you by Cendrowski Corporate Advisors LLC.

Published in Chicago

California passed more than 800 new laws in 2012, and Shane P. Criqui, litigation attorney at Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth, says, “It’s virtually impossible for any business person to keep track.”

He says among those of interest to businesses are new laws that govern social media in the context of an employee and employer relationship, and broad legislative changes regarding California LLCs.

“That’s why it’s important to have a discussion with your counsel and make sure you understand how these laws may affect your business,” Criqui says.

Smart Business spoke with Criqui to better understand two of California’s law changes.

What is changing regarding social media? 

California has added protections for employees using social media to the state’s labor code, which establishes privacy protections for individuals and limits what employers can lawfully demand of employees. It helps avoid situations where employers demand private social media passwords and take adverse actions against an employee based on the content of his or her account. The law also applies to job applicants.

Specifically, an employer can’t require an employee to disclose username or password information for personal social media accounts; require an employee to access his or her social media accounts in the presence of the employer; or otherwise divulge personal social media information. Further, employers can’t discharge, discipline or retaliate against employees for not complying with such requests.

There are, however, exceptions. An employer can go after information on a social media account that’s reasonably believed to be relevant to investigations of employee misconduct or a violation of law. Employers also may require employee disclosure of passwords necessary for accessing an employer-issued electronic device.

What constitutes social media?

The definition of social media as it applies to this law is very broad and can include any electronic service, account or content such as videos, photos, blogs, podcasts, text and instant messages, and websites.

Further, while the law applies to accessing ‘personal social media,’ the term ‘personal’ is not further defined, which may create ambiguity. For example, an employee’s LinkedIn account could be used to promote his or her employer’s business but is also ‘personal’ to the employee.

What changes are coming for limited liability companies?

A 2012 bill that becomes effective Jan. 1, 2014, repeals California’s Beverly-Killea Limited Liability Company Act and replaces it with the California Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act. It will apply to all California LLCs existing on Jan. 1, 2014, and no LLC can opt out.

The new law presumes an LLC is member managed, unless the company’s articles of incorporation and operating agreement specifically provide otherwise. In  member-managed agreements, all members can act as agents of the LLC, where in manager managed arrangements, it’s only the managers.

Other provisions are specific to fiduciary duties. Expressly, the law says managers can’t eliminate the duty of loyalty, which a manager typically owes to the LLC along with the duty of care. However, duties of care and loyalty can be modified ‘in a written operating agreement with the informed written consent of the members.’ For instance, the duty of care can be lowered, although not ‘unreasonably reduced.’

The new act also states that while an operating agreement may ‘eliminate or limit’ a member or manager’s liability for monetary damages with respect to a breach of the duty of care, it cannot do so with respect to a breach of the duty of loyalty.

What should affected companies do?

While prior operating agreements will remain in effect after Jan. 1, 2014, the new act will apply to ‘acts,’ ‘transactions’ and ‘contracts’ entered into on or after that date. Accordingly, it makes sense for LLCs to talk with counsel to make sure the new default rules don’t change an LLC’s understanding of its existing rights and obligations.

Shane P. Criqui is a litigation attorney at Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth. Reach him at (949) 725-4226 or scriqui@sycr.com.

Insights Legal Affairs is brought to you by Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth

 

Published in National

In the past 20 years, companies have been generating an increasing amount of data. The growth of social media has also created a massive pool of information that any company can access, mine and use.

“Utilizing big data can help a company uncover the relationships it has with consumers and businesses that perhaps it didn’t previously realize it had,” says Pervez Delawalla, president and CEO of Net2EZ. “In many ways, that data can help a company gain a better understanding of its clients’ needs and formulate its products to win more business.”

Smart Business spoke with Delawalla about big data and how to effectively store and utilize it to the benefit of your business.

Where can companies find big data, and how can they use it?

With the advent and proliferation of social media, there is information that companies can collect called ‘big data,’ which can be used to analyze, in a cost-effective and time-efficient way, the social habits of consumers. This information allows them to devise targeted marketing campaigns and develop products.

Data about consumers is being collected from social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, data about businesses can be collected from sources such as LinkedIn and Foursquare, and there is data contained in emails coming into a company.

Do all companies have access to big data?

In today’s world, any company that uses computers has a big data resource or is collecting it without realizing it. For example, most salespeople have a contact database that includes people they’ve met through work, in their personal lives and through networking. If you are going to meet with the CFO of a potential client company and you learn that someone on your sales team knows that CFO, that is an invaluable personal connection. Knowing about that relationship allows you to bring the person to the meeting and quickly establish a connection.

What challenges come with big data?

Storing big data was traditionally cost prohibitive, which is why only large companies could do it. However, solutions such as new, lower-cost hardware have recently hit the market, which has given smaller companies the ability to have large sets of storage devices to store big data. At the same time, cloud computing allows a company to rent storage on a monthly or short-term basis, meaning more companies can collect, store and mine big data.

Indexing this data so that it can be used to benefit the company is a challenge, but there are plenty of tools available from major software manufacturers that can be used to mine it.

What methods are available to companies to help store this data?

Big data can be stored privately or on servers that host multiple clients. Which option a company chooses depends on how important it is to keep information secure.

Private cloud services give companies a certain amount of secure storage on a server that only belongs to them. The type of data being stored determines which tools are applied to extract it, such as a dashboard through which a company can query or search its data. There are also data feeds that provide ticker updates as data comes in, giving fast access to information.

Public cloud services are available, but are less secure than private services.

How can companies efficiently navigate such large data sets to get the most use out of the information being retained?

It takes some time to understand which data is going to be useful and to learn which tools are available to store and sort it. For example, you could buy and deploy big data-mining tools to start collecting various sets of data from multiple sources, then create a dashboard that puts that information at your fingertips. However, you can’t simply keep storing information and expect results. You need to better understand your company’s demographics and understand what is going to help your company grow. You have to know your end result and employ the tools necessary to achieve it.

Many companies don’t realize what they have beyond their traditional database and that is sometimes where the treasure trove of data exists. Accessing that data will open a world of opportunities.

Pervez Delawalla is president and CEO of Net2EZ. Reach him at (310) 426-6700 or pervez@net2ez.com.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Net2EZ

 

 

Published in Los Angeles

Social media tools provide an accessible and inexpensive way for businesses to expand their market footprint. But failure to protect and enforce intellectual property rights may quickly turn a great resource into a major headache, whether or not social media is part of a corporate marketing program, says Alexis Dillett Isztwan of Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia LLC.

Together, social media and intellectual property pose internal and external issues. Internally, a business must monitor and control employee use of intellectual property. Given social media’s accessibility, problems can arise and grow rapidly. Imagine an employee prematurely tweeting about a new product launch or information never intended for the public. To reduce risk, businesses should establish a written social media policy that:

?  Sets clear guidelines for appropriate topics to be posted on any media, including company and employee personal accounts.

?  Identifies personnel permitted to post and the posting approval process.

?  Addresses use of third-party trademarks or copyrights or names of individuals or competitors.

?  Is clearly and regularly communicated and taught through annual training.

Externally, businesses should police unauthorized use of their intellectual property on social media sites. Defamatory comments can take on a life of their own. Businesses must also contend with trademark misuse or infringement, from someone using your trademark as its domain name to assuming your brand identity online, an aggressive practice called “brand-jacking.” To combat these challenges, businesses should:

?  Monitor social media for use of company trademarks.

?  Obtain formal protection for intellectual property, e.g., trademark registrations.

?  Avoid overreaction; weigh impact of potential negative backlash online against severity of misuse.

?  Consider availing itself of the social media site’s enforcement policies.

Alexis Dillett Isztwan, a member at Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia LLC, concentrates on intellectual property and technology law.

Published in Philadelphia

It’s no secret that some companies struggle with creating an effective presence on social media. Navigating the tightrope between overt sales messaging and empty musings is tricky; turn your fans and followers off, and they’ll abandon your page as fast as they can click “unlike.” Inadvertently create a controversy, and, well, the consequences can be ugly (not to mention cached forever, thanks to Google).

The simple fact that most social media is “free” does not mean that we, as business leaders, don’t need to invest in a strategy. While we all know what not to do, it’s much more difficult to create a road map for what will drive engagement across social media.

At Petplan, we integrate our company culture and brand values into our social media activities at every opportunity.

But we don’t just talk about ourselves — we share stories of our fans and family members and invite our community to join in the conversation. We don’t just give news updates; we create destinations that are rich with exclusive content that is truly useful to our community members.

With social media, the driving force behind our approach, as it is with everything else we do, is our core value: Pets come first.

Our approach seems to be working, both in terms of driving incremental traffic to our company and also in raising our profile in traditional media. Two months after creating our Pinterest presence, Social Media Delivered, a social media consulting organization, included Petplan on its list of top 20 companies globally using the site.

Content is king

Content is the currency of social media, so you need to make sure that every tweet, post and pin has value. What makes it worthwhile? If the information you are sharing enables your audience to act on your shared values, it’s worth posting.

For Petplan, that means delivering content that helps people provide the very best for their four-legged family members. It matters to them, and it matters to us — this synergy drives engagement and earns us those ever-important likes, retweets, shares and pins.

Don’t copy, complement

Many businesses make the mistake of putting exactly the same content on all of their social media channels, but this one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn’t work.

Each social media site has a distinct character and a unique audience who favors it; if you’re not playing to the medium, chances are you’re missing the message. Share industry and personnel news on LinkedIn, tweet breaking news and updates, post interesting photos and calls to action on Facebook, and pin your most engaging images related to trending topics on Pinterest.

Think of each channel as another facet of your business’s personality and tailor your content to that.

Optimize

If you want to harness the power of social media, you need to make it easy for your audience to share — and easy for the content to be attributed to you. Optimize all your communication channels to include both “share” and “follow” buttons. Make sure your retweet widgets include your Twitter handle.

Use websites like sharethis.com to integrate social media into the content you produce. It will make your customer experience more meaningful and your social media standing more robust.

A solid social media strategy takes planning, time and a lot of attention, but if you invest the resources in building an effective presence, you’ll capture new customers, fans, friends and influencers.

Whatever you do, don’t forget the most important piece of the social media puzzle: analytics. Gaining quantifiable data gives you insight into social sharing behavior that will tell you what you’re doing right (and wrong!), reveal where improvements can be made and keep you on the path to becoming a brand powerhouse in the future.

Natasha Ashton is the co-CEO and co-founder of Petplan pet insurance and its quarterly glossy pet health magazine, Fetch! — both headquartered in Philadelphia. Originally from the U.K., she holds an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. She can be reached at press@gopetplan.com.

Published in Philadelphia
Thursday, 31 January 2013 19:01

Adrienne Lenhoff: Think before you post

Have you rethought your opinion of someone because of something they’ve posted on social media? Social media has blurred the line between business and personal acquaintances, with most people having both personal and professional contacts linked to their pages on social platforms such as Facebook.

Social media creates an environment where many of our social filtering inhibitions disappear, and people tend to feel freer in expressing views they would not otherwise express in real-life social and business settings.

We witnessed the best and worst of friends, family, business colleagues and acquaintances during the 2012 presidential election. In the offline world, most of us would refrain from lambasting someone for expressing their opinion. Most of us, however, would not begin verbal attacks against the individual or the candidates.

The election was an eye-opener

The presidential election shed light on the impact that the things we post on social networks has on our relationships with others. Forty-seven percent of respondents to a poll conducted by Mashable had unfriended someone on Facebook because of election-related issues.

Even if you did not actually unfriend someone, think about those you might be avoiding as a result of their comments or whose update settings you’ve changed to take them out of your active friend feed. Conversely, are your business colleagues or acquaintances taking these same actions against you?

Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project has conducted several surveys about people’s use of social networking sites for politics and personal political interaction. Here are some of the findings:

  • 60 percent of American adults use either social networking sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, and 66 percent of those social media users, or 39 percent of all American adults, have done at least one social media civic or political engagement activity.

  • 22 percent of registered voters shared their presidential vote on social media.

  • 22 percent say they avoid making political comments on social media sites for fear of offending others.

  • 67 percent of those who blocked, unfriended or hid someone on a social networking site did it to a distant friend or acquaintance.

  • 21 percent of those who blocked, unfriended or hid someone on a social networking site did it to a co-worker.

  • 16 percent have friended or followed someone because the person shared the user’s political views.

When it comes to blocking, unfriending or hiding someone on social media, overpolitical postings are often the reason why. The biggest complaints regarded someone posting too frequently about political subjects, posting something a user disagreed with or found offensive, and arguing about politics with the user or someone they know.

The loss of anonymity

For better or worse, the presidential election opened the floodgates of online bashing and heated arguments. In the early days of online interaction, most sites and media outlets allowed users to identify themselves using pseudonyms or user names rather than their true-life identities. That cloak of anonymity allowed many users to dispose of their inhibitions and interact as they would not otherwise in a real-world setting.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a shift from the use of pseudonyms or user handles to sites that now require comments and engagement be tied to social media profiles on Facebook that reveal our real names, along with potentially allowing viewers access to our personal and professional identifying information — including employment information.

When you see someone boldly expressing themselves across social media platforms, it has the repercussion of not only fragmenting relationships but also making you lose respect for ones you have always respected. It puts people in a different light and has the potential to make you rethink who you would want to do business with.

Adrienne Lenhoff is president and CEO of Buzzphoria Social Media Marketing and Online Reputation Management, Shazaaam Public Relations and Marketing Communications, and Promo Marketing Team, which conducts product sampling, mobile tours and events. She can be reached at alenhoff@shazaaam.com.  Follow her on Twitter @alenhoff.

Published in Detroit

In the age of social media, it seems everything is transparent. In the case of social media contacts, which can be visible to the public through sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, there are questions as to whether that information can, nonetheless, be deemed a trade secret, and if so, who owns the trade secret.

“It was only a few years ago when businesses began incorporating social media in their marketing strategy,” says Yuri Mikulka, chair of the Intellectual Property Department at Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth. “Now, it’s recognized as one of the most powerful marketing and PR tools for companies, whether big or small. In fact, when positioned well, social media data can serve as an important asset of the company, especially for those relying on Web traffic and member lists to generate revenue.”

Smart Business spoke with Mikulka about ensuring social media information receives the highest possible protection and remains an asset even when employees leave.

What constitutes a trade secret?

Generally speaking, a trade secret is information that derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not readily ascertainable through, proper means by the public. A company can enforce its exclusive right to possess and use such information as long as reasonable measures are employed to keep such information secret.

Can you protect your social media profiles as a viable trade secret?

This emerging area of law was preliminarily addressed in two recent court cases. Christou v. Beatport, LLC centered on ownership of a MySpace list used by a nightclub to promote its events. When an employee opened a competitive venture, the club sued him for misappropriating its MySpace profiles. The employee responded that MySpace is public and cannot constitute a trade secret. The Colorado federal court disagreed, noting that ‘Friend- ing’ a business or individual grants . . . access to some of one’s personal information, information about his or her interests and preferences, and perhaps most importantly for a business, contact information and a built-in means of contact . . . ’ and that this information is not necessarily public.

Another case in a California federal court, PhoneDog v. Kravitz, centered on a Twitter account maintained by an employee on behalf of the employer. The departing employee kept the account for his own use but changed its name and erased any reference to his former employer. The employer sued, seeking $340,000 in damages, allegedly based on an industry value of $2.50 per follower. The court rejected the employee’s argument that a Twitter follower list cannot constitute a trade secret.

These recent decisions seem to indicate that even if social media profiles are visible online, they can receive trade secret protection — as long as some portion remains inaccessible to the public and employee passwords and login are required to view the information. Nonetheless, because these decisions were issued during early stages of cases, keep an eye out for new cases in your jurisdiction on these issues.

How do you protect social media information as potential trade secrets?  

Here’s what your company can do:

• Put in place policies, procedures and employee agreements that outline and define acceptable and prohibited use of social media.

• Make it clear in writing that any work-related social media is company property.

• Have employees sign a social media policy. At least one court recognized the importance of the employee’s signature in determining whether the company owned social media contacts.

• Get employee buy-in to effectively enforce your policy by providing training and seeking participation to protect the company’s confidential information.

• Maintain employees’ login and password information to company-related social media, and change it when employees leave.

• Periodically monitor employee online activity because trade secrets lose protection when disclosed. If disclosure is inadvertently made, quickly take down the information.

• Consult an attorney to review your social media policy, agreement and practice.

• Periodically update your policy because law and technology are changing so fast.

Yuri Mikulka is chair of the Intellectual Property Department at Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth. Reach her at (949) 725-4000 or ymikulka@sycr.com.

Insights Legal Affairs is brought to you by Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth

Published in National
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