Interviewer’s Note: Every day, more companies create an online presence. More people join Twitter and add their voices to the vast mix out there. As I’ve studied small business and social media, I’ve wondered how a company or business can distinguish themselves from all the rest, and help their chances for success. So when I met Kristine Putt of Paragon Moon, I was interested in hearing about her working in creating brands that work for small business, and what role social media plays in building those.
Hello Kristine, welcome to the Pluggio Blog. How do you describe what your business does?
I’m a small-business brand designer. I help entrepreneurs and solo-professionals create MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS with their clients through creative visual brand communication.
What made you decide to start your own company and become an entrepreneur?
Small businesses (firms with fewer than 500 employees) are what drive the US economy. They provide jobs for over half of the nation’s private work force. Without small business, America would perish. And poorly designed brands combined with ineffective marketing strategies are the NUMBER ONE CAUSE of small business failure. I saw a need that wasn’t being met and an opportunity for me to help. I became an entrepreneur to provide a much-needed service to small business. I created Paragon Moon, which is a brand design studio that offers design, marketing consultation and a personalized support system for small business owners: All my services and packages are designed specifically for small business: affordable, convenient and results-driven.
So, it’s quite an essential service, yes?
When a small business understands the importance of – and implements – proper branding principles, it thrives – instead of merely surviving. And we all need American small businesses to thrive if we stand any chance of successfully eliminating the potential for another devastating recession like the one we just went through. Hence, small business needs support in branding as much, if not more than, the “big boys” do. But until now, good design was out of reach and effective marketing was outside of the small business owner’s budget.
I read about your diverse educational background; did you take any classes to get up to speed on using the internet, or social media, etc?
No, I took no classes in social media, only in graphic design. Social media is natural. It’s intuitive. Or it should be, anyway. The “how to” is in the name: SOCIAL media. It’s about being social. It’s about connecting. It’s about sharing and practicing transparency. Long gone are the days of the best-kept-secret! A company that is not willing to engage in simple conversations with its prospects, customers and competition (yes! I did say ‘competition’) will not survive for long. It’s imperative that businesses embrace the social aspects of connecting, even if it is merely digital. Those digital connections cultivate relationships, and it’s these relationships that result in lasting, loyal customers in any business.
What roles does Twitter play in your business? Do you use it to find new clients, or keep in touch with existing ones, or test out logos, etc?
I use Twitter to seek out and interact with quality resources. I also connect with what I refer to as “power partners.” These are people or businesses that have my clients, but do not directly compete with me.
What impact or change have you seen in your business due to Twitter/social marketing?
I learn something new on Twitter every day. I’ve met some inspiring, empowering and thought-provoking people that have turned into amazing resources for me. It’s not about how many people you follow, but who you’re following, so be selective if you desire positive results (quality over quantity).
Are there any of your accomplishments with social marketing that you are particularly proud of?
YES! But it’s a new venture, and I can’t tell you much about it just yet because I’m not finished developing it.
No problem; we’d love to hear about it at some point when you’re ready.
What I can say is, that through the power of social marketing, I’ve been inspired to launch a specific campaign, one I never would have thought of had I not been following the “right” people on Twitter!
6,000 followers is pretty impressive! How did you build your following? What kinds of people/businesses are they? How do you choose who you will follow? What do you look for in a follower?
When I first started using Twitter, I followed other designers. My goal at the time was to develop a sort of “virtual cubicle wall,” where I could (digitally) lean over and ask for suggestions, tips, advice…like a second set of eyes. I don’t look for clients directly on Twitter, that’s a waste of time and it’s hard to not look like a spammer when you do that! But I do look for “power partners.” For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, a good power partner for you may be a florist. Exchanging lists of leads is much more productive than seeking individual clients, one by one.
What strategies did you use for social marketing (either online or offline)?
I share things I’m interested in or that which my audience will find value in. I personally reach out to specific people as much as I can. I cultivate relationships on a deeper level outside of Twitter by contacting people directly (usually by telephone). I’ve conducted interviews and feature articles (like the one you’re doing for me here!). I believe it’s important to make personal connections, not merely keep your Twitter updates on “automatic” at all times. This can mean a number of things. Sometimes I’ll thank someone for following me. Other times I retweet what someone has said if I find value in it. I recommend all business owners steer clear of getting too far off topic. For instance, my personal claim to fame is as a brand designer; if I tweet too much about something that is not related to marketing or design, I can quickly dilute or discredit my own brand, so I try to remain on topic (“on brand”) as much as possible.
What worked for you? What didn’t work for you?
Being selective in my following is important, but maintaining consistency was critical. I had to learn to do that because it’s really easy to get sucked into casual chats about things that don’t do your brand any justice. Keep your tweets narrowed down to what you want to be famous for! Discuss personal things with friends in the direct message column, not in the public stream.
If you could go back to when you first began using social media, what is one thing you would have done differently?
I would have defined my goals before I started tweeting. Your goals impact the way you tweet and the communications you engage in. The old cliché, “Think before you speak (tweet!)” absolutely applies! Social media is effective only when it’s based upon your own personal goals, and everyone’s goals are different. Or they change as time goes on. The people I followed four years ago were very different from the people I follow today, because I did not have specific goals for social media four years ago. Today I’m all about creating brand awareness, being recognized as a professional in my industry and creating meaningful relationships with respectable entrepreneurs. So my tweets are strategically adjusted to align with these goals.
What does Twitter do for you that nothing else can do?
It’s a simple user-friendly and highly intuitive platform. Facebook has so many complexities and is constantly changing; trying to keep up with Facebook privacy issues and the user-interface changes is enough to send anyone screaming for the exit. Twitter has maintained consistency. It’s changed very little since its launch and maintains a short, simple and clean interface. Hence, it’s very easy to manage and doesn’t disrupt my day.
What lessons have you learned about Twitter and online marketing?
Accountability!!!! What you mean or how you mean it doesn’t always translate well in a tweet. Sarcasm can be misinterpreted. And you can’t retract what you’ve put out there, even if you manually delete it. You are your brand. Your communications are your brand. And social media is the voice of your brand. If you do not stay on topic, or communicate clearly, you’ll send “mixed signals” to your audience. So think carefully about what you are communicating.
Follow Kristine on Twitter here.
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