Thursday, October 28, 2010

Social Media, Not Intrusive Media

Q: When does a "foot in the door" become a "foot in your mouth?"

A: When you fail to take into account the relationship between you and the other person.

There is a kind of person who can't stop themselves from pitching their business to everyone they meet. You've met them, the person on the train who strikes up conversation and ends up handing you their business card for custom candies with your logo on them.

On LinkedIn you encounter them in the Groups and in the Answers. Not the folks who answer a question with their elevator pitch no...the really smart ones ask a question and when you answer them, they thank you with their pitch in your Inbox. "what can I do for you?" they ask in their email and you think
"What? Nothing. You were asking me for help."

You see them on Twitter all the time. "Hey," shows up in your Mentions, "We have some product that was tangentially related to a conversation you had that we didn't actually read, so how can we help you?" (In a recent case I know they hadn't read the conversation because it was about how much I *disliked* the thing they were trying to sell me.)

And on Facebook, you "Like" a business or person and the next thing you know, you're pounded with invites to Pages, Causes, Specials and Events. Um, I "like" your sandwiches, I don't feel the need to donate to your charities, attend your events and vote Sandwichian. Thanks though.

You know that one uncle? The one who - no matter what the conversation - always brings it back to whatever obnoxious topic he rants on about? (It's always an uncle and we all have them....) How everyone in the family has a ten-minute tolerance and you all would just let it drop, but one person *always* has to get into a fight with him? You're sitting there trying to eat Thanksgiving dinner and you sigh and wish they wouldn't be so intrusive about it. When you bomb everyone you meet with the pitch, that's what you've become. Intrusive.

Are you using Social Media...or Intrusive Media? Do you treat every follow as a pitch opportunity, every person who answers a question as a new contact to add to your mailing list?

No one wants a constant stream of untargeted marketing ringing their doorbell, filling their mailboxes, or clogging up their inbox. A handshake isn't a marriage proposal.

Don't Be Intrusive. Keep it Social.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Best Practices for Promoting Your Blog

How do I get my Blog Noticed?

What's the best way to spread the word and get visitors to my blog?

Based on the number of times I see these questions, and their various iterations, these are the top concerns for people thinking about blogging. Related questions like "which WordPress theme should I use?" and "which hosting platform should I blog on?" still come down to the real meat of the matter - how do you get noticed?

Once you've decided to blog, regardless of what Wordpress theme you use, SEO strategy you choose, directories you list your blog in, here are three best practices which are the key to being noticed by people who count.

Cultivate contacts in your industry

Know the other bloggers who write about topics relevant to your audience. Comment on their blogs, follow them on Twitter, meet up with them at networking events. Take the time to build relationships with your industry news sources and blogs similar or tangential to yours. Relationships with others in your field will get your blog added to Blogrolls and link pages on profiles and sites that people with similar interests and concerns will visit. Feel free to link to them in your posts, engage in conversation with them, move that conversation across both your blogs (and on to other platforms on which you interact) and you'll find that you can expand each other's audience in a totally organic way.

Provide an open environment for discussion

It's very easy to state an opinion. Strong opinions will sometimes provoke strong reactions. But to get a true conversation going, you need to provide an environment that encourages and inspires diverse ideas. Asking a question of your readers, or inviting them to chime in with their ideas is a way to open the floor and get some noise going. The more people who feel free to comment, the more they will feel free to share your post and links to the comments among their contacts.

Reward your most engaged readers

Promotional campaigns aren't just for companies. Finding a way to "promote" your readers when they promote your blog can make a huge impact, in a simple way. On my other blog, I award Hero badges to people who sponsor a review, and Correspondent badges to people who provide tips for our weekly news report. Make your most engaged readers feel special and they'll want to support you even more.

These three tips all involve incremental additional work. Rather than spending time on LinkedIn asking how you can get your blog noticed, you can get out there and comment on a related blog, share some knowledge on Twitter, talk to someone at an event. In the same time it took to ask "how do I?" you'll see continued growth in your readership, more engagement in the comments and more passion from your advocates.

Now it's your turn: What do you consider a "Best Practice" in promoting your blog and expanding your audience? I'll collect up the answers for a follow-up post!

Monday, October 18, 2010

It's Time to Revise Your Social Media Strategy

If you are not new to the Internet, if you have a website or a presence on any Social Media Platform then it is long past time to revise your Social Media Strategy.

How do I know this? Because I've read the job descriptions for Social Media positions out there. Everyone is looking for someone with years of proven experience (translation: You made a lot of money for your client) through Social Media campaigns (translation: Online advertising that had a little traction through Word of Mouth.)

It is very hard for large companies to understand Social Media. They hand it off to their Marketing people who are used to buying space and time for a projected (translation: made up) return on investment. The formulas are all mathematic, but the results are as fictitious as any narrative might be.

But you don't run a large company. You are not a CEO crowing about your company "leveraging new technologies." You are a small- or medium-sized business owner and you don't want to "leverage" just want to grow your business in a sustainable manner.

Whether you are a Social Media novice, or are current on all the most popular platforms, it might be time to rethink your Social Media strategy. At any level of use, it may be time to revisit what you're doing to step up or step back, and use your time wisely.

Current Strategy: You are not on Social Media at all

Do you have customers and vendors asking if you have a Twitter feed or if you are on Facebook? If you are answering "No" more than two times a day, it is definitely time to consider being where your customers want you to be.

It's true you don't have a lot of free time, but Social Media doesn't have to take much time. A logo and your name will give you a presence. Take 5 minutes in the morning and evening to mention a special, comment on someone's thought, answer a question, thank people for being supportive. Then...log off. It's not as much of a time drain as you think, as long as you budget your time.

Current Strategy: You have a profile, but don't really know why or what to do with it

Before you do another thing, back up and decide *why* you want to be on a Social Media site. Of course you want to "grow your business" but what, specifically does that mean to you? Do you want more people in the door? You can use Social Media to promote "bring a friend" campaign. Do you want more book sales on Amazon? Then a Social Media promotion is a good way to encourage others to get the word out for you.

Before you post that status update know why you are posting it, who you're talking to and what the outcome needs to be. Craft that update to support all of those qualities to move your Social Media Strategy forward.

Current Strategy: You're everywhere. You've got three specials, a new ad campaign and coupons going out weekly

Your sandwich shop can be followed on Facebook and Twitter and reviewed on Yelp and Patch. Is it...useful to you? Is your star rating on Yelp maintaining that high quality, or are the reviews slipping slowly down? How about those coupons and specials? Are they going out into the black hole of the Internet and never coming back? Now may be the time to read those reviews and revise what's going on internally, or maybe those constant coupons are getting you unliked as fast as you're being liked. Taking a few minutes to re-prioritize where you are and why could make a big difference in your bottom line.

Current Strategy: It's about saturation

You are on *everything*. You've got twelve icons on your store door, telling people they can, follow, friend, connect, check-in and review just about anywhere they are online.

Now it's time to take a deep breath and review and revise. How many of those sites are getting any traction? If only one person ever reviewed you on Yelp, is it worth promoting that? Take the cream of that crop - the profiles that have traffic and conversation and conversion and throw more resources into them, letting the others fall to the bottom of the pile. No need to spend all day keeping all the plates spinning when five of them are hidden from view.

Maximize your time and effort, by keeping your Social Media Strategy fresh and relevant to your customers.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Pros and Cons of Being a TwitterFace

You've been asked by your company or a client to do their Tweeting or Facebooking for them and, for better or for worse, you've said yes.

Here are some really good - and really bad - things to know about being someone else's Social Media mouthpiece.


Direct Interaction - You get to be the one who makes a difference. You get to set the tone, talk with people the way you want others to talk to you. Set the bar high, be the example other people use - this is your chance to shine and make a Social Media presence you'd want to engage with.

Influence - Everyone knows the adage "the squeaky wheel gets the grease." When your squeak has the weight of customers' opinion behind it, grease is sure to follow. Do the customers love the color green, want larger sizes, need more information? As the Twitterface of the company, you get to hear it first. Conversely, when the company shares good news, it's you who shares it. The customers will come to see you as their go-to, you as their voice and their inside man. The company will see you as being in touch with their market.

Promotion/Messaging - You know how it is. A company comes up with an idea that everyone kind of wonders..."yeah, but who is it for?" or "why?" You can be the person who shapes the messaging on both sides - let the company know what their customer base wants and let the customer know that the company is listening. If there's a promotional campaign, you get to make sure that it's relevant to the consumers and totally authentic from beginning to end. Every message and every campaign is a chance to show the consumers that the company "gets it."


Decision Making - The biggest downside to being someone else's mouthpiece is that you don't get to chose what you say. Or when. If you're an outside consultant, you may even have to scratch at doors to find something *to* say.

When the decision-making is out of your hands, you have to hope that you've got critical support at the company, or you may inadvertently say the wrong thing at the wrong time or have nothing to say at the right time.

Reporting Facts - There is nothing more truly awful than being the person to deliver bad news. The higher-ups want you to tell them that you got 10,000 followers in a week for their high-end watch business Facebook page and they don't want to hear that the people who buy custom watches in the 6-figure range aren't *on* Facebook. Likewise the fans of that popular kids series of novels don't want to hear that the author is ending it with her next novel. The truth hurts, and unfortunately, you may be doing the hurting.

Customer Service - Putting a company out there means that that company becomes visible, perhaps vulnerable. Reasonable or not, there will be complaints. And those people will expect - perhaps demand - attention. There *has* to be a policy in place or you will be fielding angry fastballs with no help. Make sure you have a contact or a customer service number to direct people to - and hope that they can handle the pressure, or you'll be getting the rebounds.

Being the Twitterface of a company means that you can build great relationships from the ground long as the company has got its own priorities straight.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Social Media - the Eternal Cold Call

Cold calling is the most feared activity in business. Before Social Media, everyone struggled to find the golden ticket that would transform the sword-bridge of cold-calling into a stairway to heaven.

And here we are in 2010. Every day, I see the same questions over and over - how does Social Media convert leads to sales, what's the ROI on Social other words, how do we transform this new sword-bridge into a carpeted stairway?

Every moment in the world of Social Media is a cold call. Someone comes to your blog - can they tell *instantly* who you are and what you do? Can they identify the point of your post? On Twitter, do you have consistent messaging? Or are you all about professionalism in one update, and talking about beer and pickles for lunch that day in the next?

The basics of Cold Calling are the basics of Social Media. Your profile must answer questions any visitor might ask:

Who are you?

Why should I visit your profile?

What makes you better or more interesting than everyone else?

Why should I care what you have to say?

Go hop on over to Facebook and check out one of the pages you've "Liked." If you were pitching this page, could you answer these questions for that company? You know why you "liked" them - but was it something they've communicated through their page, or did you have prior knowledge or experience with them that motivated you?

Now take a look at your own company's profile. Ask the same questions of yourself. Are people coming here because they have heard of you from somewhere else, or because they are seeking you out here? Do you give them compelling content or are your drawing them in through offers of discounts and contests?

Every time someone takes a look at your profile on LinkedIn, are they getting a good cold call pitch; the who you are, what you can do for them and why they should care?

Cold calls are really a misnomer. Few calls are genuinely cold. You have an industry in common, or an interest, or a need, or a mutual contact. Emphasize the mutual, the fact that there is a reason that the two of you need to be in contact.

Tweak your Social Media to do your cold calling for you and you'll have one less step towards carpeting that stairway.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Managers are from Mars, Leaders are from...

It's time for a true story!

I was speaking with a colleague about a stressful situation at her workplace. When the chips were down and the entire team was about to implode, the manager stepped in and said, "Don't worry...if Department A didn't get us everything we need, then do what you can and I'll let them know what they'll be getting and when and why."

This served to calm the jangled nerves of the team and the project got done. (Well, as done as it could be without info from Department A.)

As my colleague talked, I suddenly realized why this didn't satisfy me at *all.*

I do mentoring for young artists periodically. The project we work on gives them a published credit, and I get to acquaint them with "real world" issues like deadlines, understanding and accepting editorial guidance/critical feedback.

One of the things I do when I welcome new people into the project is send them a timeline of requirements AND an explanation of 1) Why those deadlines will come up much faster than anticipated and; 2) Which excuses for missing those deadlines will be accepted and which ones will not.

In the case of the project above, the supervisor did a fine job managing. She saw her team about to crack, stepped in, rewrote criteria and timelines and smoothed over rough edges. But, I thought, how much better might it have been if she had set those criteria *ahead of time?*

A Leader looks at the bigger picture first, anticipates the most obvious flaws (not getting input from another department on time has *got* to be an obvious issue to anyone who has ever worked on anything in any company) and sets expectations. Taking into account that the critical information one needs might never arrive is the sign of a good Leader. Having contingency plans is the sign of a good Leader.

A Manager manages a crisis, a Leader anticipates one.

In terms of your Social Media presence, be your own Leader. Understand that "being out there" means sticking your neck out, too. Someone, somewhere may have a grudge, an issue, a complaint. Anticipate this. Don't be taken by surprise when all of a sudden there seems to be a rise in "you suck" messages. Take a deep breath and implement the plan you came up with for cases just like these. Is there a genuine issue that needs to be addressed? Address it; quickly, politely. Is this a disagreement of philosophical sorts? Apologize for any impoliteness/insult, state your position clearly and then DO NOT ENGAGE further. Let the rage wear itself out.

You can Manage your Social Media Presence, or your can Lead people to see *your* vision of the future. It's entirely up to you which you'd rather be.

Project Wonderful