Does Your Company Have a Social Media Plan?

Social media and conversation marketing have the potential for transforming brands like no other communication methodology ever employed. The reason? It transforms the fundamental nature of the traditional brand/customer relationship. Historically, companies have used traditional media to advertise in a uni-directional way. It used to be all about broadcasting a message – with feedback loops tied chiefly to the ultimate purchase of a company’s product – or worse, no purchase at all.Thanks in part to the transformative impact of online social media, that brand/customer relationship is experiencing a sea-change.. As increasingly informed and savvy consumers begin to demand more transparency and honesty from businesses they support, companies are no longer able to hide behind an ability to fully control the message. Steadily, businesses are now leveraging social media as both an offensive and defensive means to forge new and solidify existing relationships while building trust through transparency. The most successful of these organizations are now doing much more than simply monitoring the consumer pulse… they are engaging and interacting on a real-time basis with existing and potential customers, throughout the entire buying cycle.In some respects, today’s businesses face the same challenges that early marketers experienced with emerging print and electronic advertising mediums, the most important of which is building meaningful and lasting relationships with new and existing customers. The key difference this time around is that successful marketing efforts increasingly hinge on the ability to reciprocate, in authentic ways and real-time ways, with a growing and increasingly sophisticated online consumer audience.That’s why, planning for consumer engagement through social media is an increasingly central consideration for today’s business owners!However, the pitfalls of a poorly or ill-conceived plan are myriad, and social media and conversation marketing by themselves are only a part of an integrated marketing solution. Although it’s important to stress the value of building relationships through social media, it’s incredibly difficult to achieve success when you’re developing those relationships in an unstructured fashion.Thus, social media is not to be performed in a haphazard way. Rather, it works best when applied in a logical sequence using a more structured approach. The mistake that most often leads to frustration and ultimately, abandonment, is not having a plan of attack!Instead of thinking of social media as a freestanding tactic, first consider how you can add social media components into your existing marketing plan. Before you begin any social media campaign, you should think about incorporating these three elements specific to these marketing channels:1. Know what you don’t know. 2. Determine how much time you have to commit to a social media campaign 3. Understand your audience objectives within each social network 4. Dovetailing social media objectives with where your customers “live”Know What You Don’t KnowSocial media and conversation marketing are not ends unto themselves… like traditional marketing, they are simply tools, albeit transformative tools, to building brand, market affinity and sales. And while it may be too much to expect even the wisest “old dogs” to learn to master all the nuances of these “new tricks”, true wisdom stems from surrounding yourself with people who get it. Don’t let fear control, instead become intellectually engaged in ways that leverages your knowledge of your core business, customer and products and work with teams who can help convert your vision into the social media and conversion marketing space.Social Media Time CommitmentIt’s essential to understand how much time you have to devote to social media. The online world is a vastly different place than the traditional advertising space largely due to the lightning fast and highly reciprocal communications the web presents. In terms of product marketing, people now have the ability to share experiences, provide recommendations and promote products and services with speeds unmatched in other forms of media. Positive experiences, as well as bad ones, are shared easily and can make their way through the online landscape with an immediacy never before experienced.As a result, dipping a tentative toe in social media waters without knowing how to swim (or at least tread water) is a prescription for looking at the sky from the bottom of a pool. Nor is it right to spend time developing valuable online relationships, only to appear and disappear like a social media ninja. The best results are often achieved with steady participation, constant communication and engaging interaction with your audience. People will want to hear what you have to say as long as it provides real value to the community.But note, online communities can spot an online poacher from a mile away! Savvy users of social media know what this term means but for those of you who don’t, online poachers are only there for one thing: to use social media merely as a platform to broadcast their marketing messages in much the same manner as they would with traditional media. Don’t fall into this trap. Make sure that you are prepared to get involved in more than a one way communication.Ultimately, the only way to succeed is to make time and commit to an on-going online relationship campaign. Know that once you decide to engage your customers in the virtual world, there should be no turning back.Understanding Audience Objectives Within Each Social Network:What is the audience objective within each social network? The great thing about social networks is the ability to pinpoint with precision special interest groups that dovetail nicely with your company’s mission. But beware the trap of hitting the “right” audience with the “wrong” message.For example, professional networks like LinkedIn are not really the best place to deliver your sales pitch as they often fall on deaf ears. For instance, if your company sells women’s high fashion clothing, you’ll likely miss your mark with a buy now sales pitch on the 1,550+ entertainment groups found on LinkedIn. Here, you’ll be better served offering helpful content relating more to industry news, trends, jobs and advice. On the flip side, Facebook’s 100,000+ entertainment groups offer a tremendous opportunity to find and interact with audiences that may already be talking about your products. This may sound like marketing 101 stuff but no social media plan should be undertaken without understanding network- specific audience objectives.Dovetailing Social Media Objectives with Where Your Customers “Live” This said, where do you go online to find that audience? Social networks, much like traditional marketing channels, do tend to cater to specific audiences. However, unlike offline marketing mediums, social networks require companies to engage with consumers on their own terms. Therefore, it’s important to do some research to find out which social networks are right for your business’ message.At a high level, social networks like LinkedIn focus more on professionals while Faceook and MySpace are more informal and cater to X and Y gen audiences alike. But the real value (and opportunity) with sites like LinkedIn and Facebook rests in the ability to get involved with a variety of mini networks such as Groups, Pages and Causes.Here, businesses can find and interact with consumers in a highly relevant setting. Say your company sells high performance mountain bikes. There are currently an amazing number of Facebook Groups (3,600) devoted to mountain biking and over 35 on LinkedIn! Your company’s target audience is here and might already be talking about your products so why not join in the conversation?Facebook allows companies to create a free Fan Page where your product evangelists can “Become a Fan” and get breaking news, tips and even special Fan discount offers. In addition, Fan Pages can be marketed to other Facebook users much like the way Google’s AdWords paid search service works. If your company doesn’t already have a Facebook Fan Page, it is highly recommended to start one now.The internet marketing era may have only come about in the decade or so but the rate of evolution is, to put it mildly, a revolution. We haven’t yet reached the pinnacle nor can anyone say for sure where social media will be or what role it will play in business communications in the coming years but one thing is certain, having the right plan and committing to its proper execution will place your company at the forefront of the new age of digital communications.

Health Insurance and Health Care Reform in 2014

The most significant changes implemented by health care reform legislation will come into force on January 1st of 2014. These changes will have at least some impact on all individual and family policy holders and will also effect grandfathered policies that were effective on or before March 23, 2010. The positive changes will be for those who have been rated up or declined for health insurance in the past, for those who are currently or plan to become pregnant, and those whose income is less than 400% of the federal poverty level (I will be developing a worksheet to help you determine whether you are eligible for a subsidy). The negative changes will be for those who have an average or better than average health rating and for those on the younger end of the health insurance spectrum (20s-30s).If You’ve Been Declined or Rated UpIf you have pre-existing conditions, you are now in the sweet spot of health care reform. Starting in October of 2013, health insurance companies will be able to begin accepting applications for policies with a January 1st, 2014 effective date. These policies will not use health status or pre-existing conditions to determine benefits, to decline or charge higher rates. Moving forward, the only factors that will contribute to your health insurance premium is the plan you choose, your age, and tobacco usage. I am not yet aware of how currently effective policies will transition, whether your rating will simply be removed from your existing policy or whether you will need to apply for a new policy to get rid of your rating. I will know more as we get closer to the open enrollment period starting in October 2013.Maternity CoverageIf you are pregnant or are planning a pregnancy, starting on January 1st, 2014, all new health insurance policies will cover maternity automatically. It has not been made explicitly clear whether women who are currently pregnant will be covered. However, given the language of new policies regarding pre-existing conditions, I am comfortable in speculating that there will not be a waiting period for women who are currently pregnant and whose due date falls in 2014 and beyond. I will give updates as I become aware of definite regulations.Health Insurance SubsidiesHealth insurance policies sold through the NC exchange on or after October 2013, with January 1st effective dates, will be eligible for the subsidy. The subsidy amount will be based on your income and you will be eligible if your income is less than 400% of the federal poverty level. Based on income brackets, the premium you owe for your health insurance policy will be calculated as a percentage of your annual income. As previously stated, I will be creating a calculator to help you predict what percentage of your monthly income a health insurance policy will cost you. Health insurance agents will have the ability to assist you in purchasing a policy through the exchange.Young and/or Favorable Health RatingIf you are young and/or have a favorable health insurance rating, in almost all cases, you can expect rate increases in 2014. This rate increase is due to required pre-existing coverage and to rate variance shrinking from young to old subscribers. The purpose of coverage penalties for currently uninsured individuals is an attempt to bring in healthy policy holders and temper this increase. There will be high deductible plans available to those who want to satisfy the health insurance mandate while minimizing monthly premium expenses.There is a danger however, that individuals with low health care expenses will be driven to companies that have high complaint ratios, but offer coverage that fulfills the mandate, because those with poor health are likely to gravitate towards the health insurance companies that most reliably pay claims. If a scenario like this occurs, the reliable health insurance company’s premiums will be driven very high, which may even cause them to go bankrupt if they are unable to attract healthy subscribers. The tragedy of this type of scenario would be that the bargain basement health insurance company would come out on top for the very fact that they don’t do a good job of paying claims.Grandfathered Versus Non-GrandfatheredIf your health insurance policy was effective on or before March 23, 2010, and you have not made changes to your benefit level since then, you have a grandfathered plan. Grandfathered plans are not subject to many of the health care reform requirements, so if you are one of those who expects to see rate increases due to coming changes, it makes sense for you to stick with your current plan for now. If you are in your 20s or 30s, and/or have a very good health rating with your current plan then you probably fall in this category. However, in several years, up to 40% taxes will be applied to grandfathered plans that will cause them to lose their appeal. When these taxes are applied, then in almost all cases it will make sense to roll into a non-grandfathered plan.When to Enroll (Open Enrollment)Starting in October of 2013, you will be eligible to begin applying for a policy that falls under the new health care regulations. The initial open enrollment period will last for 6 months. After this time, there will be an annual open enrollment period at the end of each year (October 15th-December 7th) in which you may switch your benefit level or apply for a policy with a new company. Outside of open enrollment periods, you may change your policy during special enrollment periods created by certain life events such as moving your residence, losing group coverage, getting married, or having a baby.How to EnrollThe enrollment process for policies sold outside the exchange likely remain much the same as they are today with two major exceptions. Medical underwriting will no longer be a part of applications and enrollment periods will be restricted as described above. Policies sold inside the exchange will have the same type of applications as outside except there will be required proof of income if you are eligible for a subsidized policy. It is not yet clear what specific documentation or tax form will be required to substantiate claims of income.Current PoliciesIf you currently have a health insurance policy that you are happy with and plan to keep your policy beyond the open enrollment period, your policy will likely transition on January 1st of 2014 and be automatically modified to accommodate the new regulations coming into force. As previously stated, I am not aware of how ratings on current policies will be handled. They might stay on, in which case you would need to apply for a new policy without a rating to shed your old health rating. The more likely scenario is that non-grandfathered policies will automatically shed their health rating and transition into the new rating pool for that specific policy.What Should You Do?!There’s nothing to do immediately. As October moves closer and the NC health insurance exchange is up and running, I will be able to provide more specific details and directions in navigating the coming changes. I wish you well and invite you to contact me with questions or concerns.

Seeking Out Good Educational Careers

Your qualifications, degrees, specializations, work methods all are ready, but you are still confused or doubtful about choosing right educational careers, then all you need is a little bit of insight. The vast field of academics and modern innovations incorporate good placement options in existing and upcoming sectors.So as an education personnel what would you job profile be? Where would you get a good employment? What would be the degree of service? Well all these questions only need a know-how of the process of educational careers in general, and you need to have knowledge about that.Working as an education personnelYou may have a lot of responsibilities dealing with a whole lot of students and teaching techniques, you have to be constantly aware of the teaching aids, and developments of study and mode of teaching is being imposed. You need to have vocational training in teaching or you can also take career counseling sessions and get valuable info from such centers, and gradually placements.Remember, since it is academics, educational institutes require a high percentage of marks, obtained in high school, in bachelor’s and master’s degree. Educational work includes being in charge of teaching a class, for various purposes starting from kindergarten to research or professional training. There are no boundaries of knowledge you see, and teaching is considered prestigious.Jobs to look forYou can look for jobs that support educational careers online, sign in web pages and informative portals. You can keep a check of available vacancies in an institute which fulfills your educational qualification.You can start from the base level of teaching or analysis, and you can also get into career counseling and professional assistance centers which promise good educational job opportunities.However, before investing here, be cautious about their authenticity. To seek for good jobs it is essential for you to know what you are about to comprehend as a career. If your ideas are clear regarding the kind of work you want to do in the education sector then don’t wait, just post your resume!EmploymentThis is where a lot of focus is impaired because it is the ultimate destination for you.Moreover, jobs in education are often available in university departments, who might ask for full time or part time teachers, paraprofessionals, project heads, managers, consultants, HR personnel, specific training instructors, student behavior teachers, psychological enhancement teachers, and teachers for the disabled or spastics.There are specialized schools and services, and also elementary, public schools where you can teach in general or your mastered field, be it art, music, dance or sports.Now you should start your job search ASAP, in premiere job search sites that are available in Google and several links with educational employment blogs. You can also buy DVDs and information kits regarding your job profile and teachers training and start your work at home itself.Educational careers are rewarding and upcoming with various job opportunities that embark upon the education system as a surplus of modernity.