Sunday, January 31, 2010

Respect Your Authority

This past week I had the pleasure and honor to be a keynote speaker at a Social Media event for small business owners.

When I step onto a stage for a lecture or a panel or a speech, my first thought is always the same - these people believe that I know something they don't. They are giving me Authority over them for this period of time. Let's see what I can do with it!

One of the first things I do with my Authority is point out that everyone in the room has given it to me. I want them to understand that without their consent, I'm just a stranger in the room, talking at them.

The second thing I typically do is abuse this Authority. :-) In the middle of corporate orientations, I make people stand up and stretch. At Social Media events I interrupt my own speech to have people introduce themselves to the people around them. I break everyone out of the pre-set belief that *I* am the most important person in the room. Ironically, because I'm willing to turn the spotlight back on the audience, they assign me even *more* Authority.

I can do all that because, for that period of time, I am the Authority in the room..

I've said it before, you know more about your business than anyone else. You know why you do the things you do, and how. You know where you have come from and how you got there and where you're going. Respect Your Own Authority.

Once you've come to grips with the fact that you are an Authority, get out there and tell other people, too.

Join a professional association, go to an event, join a group on LinkedIn or some other network - share your knowledge.

Sharing knowledge is not the same as giving your work or trade secrets away for free. Sharing experiences, mistakes, challenges and successes with your peers and especially young folks coming up in your industry puts you in the position of "Someone Who Knows." The more open you are - and the more open to accepting new ideas, so you don't become an old fuddy-duddy who only talks about the good old days - will increase your Authority.

You can take your Authority on the road. If you're inclined to do so, do a talk for your Chamber of Commerce or that professional association. The more you share, the more your Authority grows, and your CV will reflect that as you ad these events to your list of accomplishments.

Being the mayor of your local bagel place on Foursquare may be fun for a second, but being the Authority in your industry is priceless.

Respect Your Authority and other people will come to respect it, as well.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

ArtsCAP Keynote Tonight

I hope I'll see you tonight at ArtsCAP's Electronic Media Bootcamp in Asbury Park, NJ. I'll be providing the keynote speech - and hopefully a fresh perspective!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Creating a Sense of Achievement in Social Media

I write SocialOptimized for the small and mid-sized business owners out there - the folks who shoulder the majority of the burden in their business, the folks who wear sixteen hats. The point of this blog is to ease you through at least one learning curve - because I've been where you are and I understand how it quickly gets overwhelming, having to add one more spinning plate to your already full set of spinning plates.

Social Media doesn't have to be a burden. In fact, it can be one of the most rewarding things you do for yourself and for your business. It's all about how you build achievement into your Social Media Strategy.

Let's talk games for a second.

I'm going to presume that you have played at least one game in your life - cards, a board game, an online game, an RPG, something.

Think about how a game is structured. There are rounds, or levels or hands. Each hand is played until the cards are used, each level is played until your character dies or you complete the level. At then end of the round, you are still in the game (as opposed to "out"), given gold for completing that level or points for winning that hand. In short - you are rewarded for your effort. There is a feeling of achievement for having done what you did.

Rewards programs are meant to provide a sense of achievement. Unfortunately, they often drop the ball when claiming rewards become more work than it's worth - a benefit for the company, but completely opposite the point for the consumer.

A few businesses are now building "achievements" right into their business model. Foursquare, which is the current Next Big Thing, offers whimsical rankings to users, and video-streaming site Crunchyroll actually awards "achievement badges" for various forms of participation. These achievements are meant to reward users for doing what they might already do on the site, and to encourage them to come back for more. This creates a sense of Engagement and Rewards the market at the same time.

Now, here's the challenge - building Achievement into the fabric of your Social Media Strategy.

Not only should you be Engaging your Audience and Rewarding your Market, but in an ideal Social Media Strategy, you've built in Achievement for yourself.

Anything that's fun and rewarding is something you want to do. Metrics can be "points," campaigns can be levels. Whatever the measure you choose, whatever the KPI you decide upon, build in levels of achievement, and reward yourself as well as your market, and you'll find yourself enjoying the whole process of connecting with people through Social Media.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Great Social Media Campaign in 5 "Easy" Steps

Our series on tactics has finally reached the point where you are right on the cusp of launching your promotional campaign.

Hopefully by now, you've been spending time with Social Media and feel comfortable with the basics of Finding, Engaging and Rewarding your audience.

Now you're taking your skills on the road with a program designed to promote something specific.

Tactics around this can be as simple as signing up for a social networking platform, or may be as complex as building an integrated community on your website. I can't tell you which platform to choose, or what media. Those decisions have to be made by you. Because there are a *zillion* sources already about how to build a great /fillintheblank/ I'm going to gloss over this step a little.

Chances are, you're making your decisions based on a number of constantly shifting criteria, so try to build in flexibility in whatever platform you choose. We all have great dreams, but if you look at your choices without delusion, you'll fare much better.

After you have you springboard platform, here's a few next steps to creating a great Social Media promotion:

1) Chose the media most likely to appeal to your audience

Promoting a Website? A DVD? A game? A book? Each media appeals to different people differently. Match the media to the product, so your audience is already in synch with your message before you even start.

2) Have (and communicate) a clear message. I.e., why should people care about your promotion?

It's great that you're launching a new product or company. If you don't tell people what they are looking at, why it's important to them and why they should tell other people - they won't know.

3) Brand your SM presences and your promotion in a consistent manner.

If your Youtube channel is yellow and blue, and your Facebook Fan Page is green and red, it's hard for your audience to see the connection. Using the same logos, the same taglines, the same URLS seems uncreative, but it's not. Consistency helps in SEO, in SEM, in Social Media and any other form of marketing communications.

4) Make it easy for people to communicate with you.

"Contact Us" your website says, but then requires registration, which requires getting a confirmation email, which then sends you back to the site where your customer can finally email you. It's a great idea - instant market research...on the 3% of people angry enough to bother to complete the process. The more layers you put between people and you, the less engagement you'll get.

5) Give people a reason to share your information. Your promotion is only viral if people share it.

This one seems to escape most companies almost entirely. How nice for you that a video of your promotion is online. People might watch it, but will they share it? Your promotional campaign can (and should) build in a reward for sharing your information, which will create at least a little traction. There's still no guarantee that your campaign will become viral, but at least you've given it a good push.

The title of today's post is at least a little facetious. None of these steps are easy, but they are all critical to a great Social Media promotional campaign.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Social Media Without Delusion at ArtsCAP on 1/26

I'll be presenting the keynote speech at ArtsCAP's Electronic Media Bootcamp on January 26th in AsburyPark. I'll be talking about the Three Dimensions of Social Media.

In the meantime, here's my presentation from AsburyPop on "Social Media Without Delusion"

Thanks to Laura Gesin for putting this up on the VoxPop site and to John Kaplow for asking me to be part of this exciting ArtsCAP event!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Questions You Need To Ask Before Launching a Social Media Promotion

This series began with tactics to build, maintain and sustain a Social Media presence. In Developmental Tactics, we looked at some of the day-to-day tasks that would nourish a Social Media presence and bring it to maturity. For the purposes of today's discussion, we're going to assume that you are doing all those things as a matter of course and are now getting ready to launch something...something big. It might be a new website or your book, your band has a big gig, or your store is running a mid-winter sale...whatever it is, it's time to promote.

Before you create a promotional campaign, here's a few questions you must be able to answer in order to know what kind of campaign to run - and where to run it.

1) Who is this promotion for?

Is it for your established customers or are you trying to bring in new clients? Have you maxxed out the potential in one niche and want to focus on another? Is this promotion a way to bring old fans back into the fold?

Knowing who you are targeting in terms of where they are in their relationship with you, will help you craft a message that isn't obscure to newbies, or condescending to old friends.

One-size-fits-all releases makes sense if you are scattering your word widely across unfamiliar spaces and hoping someone there will be interested. In Social Media your network is made up of people and spaces that have a specific relationship with you and your business. Know who you're talking to to know what to say.

2) What's in it for them?

Once you know who you are talking to - and you may very well decide to have two or three different foci for you campaign, before you start choosing media, answer this - what is the benefit for the intended audience in what you are about to promote?

You know the benefit - the new website has more interactivity, or the collaborative tools will provide greater productivity, or the video or book is informative and/or entertaining. Can you make it interesting to your 12-year-old niece? (If you don't have a 12-year old niece, you can borrow mine. She has a finely tuned BS meter.) Look beyond the jargon and look honestly at whether you are selling snake oil or something solid. If you are working in a highly technical, specialized or professional field jargon is a requirement - but behind that, is there something real? If so, what? When you think about where to talk about your new project, think about what the benefit to your audience is, not the benefit to you. Sure - your new website looks nice, but if you have the same info as before, you'll keep getting the same bounce rate. Tell your audience what's in it for them, then deliver it to them.

3) What are the chances that they will watch/read/listen to/use what you are promoting?

Here's that moment that comes in every post here at SocialOptimized - the moment I ask you to step back and view your business without delusion.

Of course *you* are excited about the new book, site, sale or tool. You are happily trumpeting it everywhere you can think of. Take a deep breath and ask yourself "If it wasn't *my* business, would I care?" Be honest. In your enthusiasm, you may have slightly over-stated expectations for your ROI. Maybe your mailing list or FB page has 147 members, but you ordered 2400 t-shirts.

Engagement can't be forced - you have to offer your audience something of interest to them. A video-focused audience might not be as excited as you are about a whitepaper or a presentation.

Using your basic building and development tactics will ensure that your new endeavor reaches the ears of people who are interested - you've Found Your Audience. Ask yourself the above questions to help you create a promotion that will get them to to Engage with your business.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

3 Developmental Tactics For Your Growing Social Media Presence

In our last post, we dealt with 4 basic tactics for a Social Media Presence in the early stages of Development. Building Your Reputation, Your Audience, Your Knowledge Base, and Your Network are all critical at every stage but, before you even have a thing to promote you should be working on those four Building Blocks.

After you've been online for a while, you are going to want to take a step forward. At this stage, you have a level of comfort with your tools and are ready to push yourself, your business and your network to the next level. You might be working on an event, a book, a new product, a promotional campaign, a new website, or some other thing and want to start seeding the idea to build up interest.

Today's post will explore several specific tactics to develop your growing Social Media presence.

1) Ask Your Peers For Advice

Your network will include peers from not only your current industry, but contacts from related and tangential industries. If you've been very active in building your network, you also have connections from entirely unrelated industries whose point of view will be completely different than your own. These people can all provide perspective, advice and leads.

- Use professional networks to find resources to assist you
- Ask questions of people who have already been down the same path to understand potential pitfalls, get tips and learn where shortcuts work and where they hurt
- Don't be afraid to look for external validation from peers. Everyone hits a wall, even in pre-development work. There is nothing wrong with asking people to confirm that it's not you.
- Learn the logistics and limitations of your project by reading blogs. whitepapers and other info out there for free.

It's easy to have a "good idea." It's a whole other ball of wax to be able to bring that idea to fruition. You are not alone and you are not the first person to do whatever it is you are going to do. Peers in your network have been there and done that, you can learn a lot from them. Peer input will not only give you clarity, but can keep the flame of your creativity alive.

2) Solicit Suggestions and Input from Your Audience

Before you start popping out PR materials with lots of screamers, think about your audience. Will they care that you're developing a new website? Maybe not - unless you get them involved.

- Run contests to promote the idea, and for images and content
- Get feedback on intangibles like color schemes, mascot names and logos
- Recruit beta-testers. If you have a new tool you're working on, or a game, or anything where functionality is in issue, ask your audience to be part of the process.

The key to shifting a person from audience to market is to get them involved. When your audience feels that they have been heard and involved in your choices, they will naturally be more engaged in the end product. You'll gain valuable information (market research) and they'll gain enthusiasm as your project progresses, knowing they were part of it.

3) Seed Your Senior Members

If you've been working on building your network and your audience, you will have noticed that some of those people have positioned themselves as your allies. They enthusiastically support you, they share news you share, they "like" and comment and Digg and do whatever they can to get the word out.

- Ask them directly for assistance with sharing news
- "Leak" information to them, so they feel like privileged sources and let them know when they can - and cannot - share that information
- Reward them by thanking them on your Social Media spaces and acknowledging them as part of your team
- Seek further buy-in from them by asking those suitable to do so to handle additional tasks.

These allies, your senior community members, want to feel loved and appreciated and want to share their love and appreciation for you. Give them as many opportunities to do so, escalating appropriately. There may be a person from whom a "like" and a "Digg" are all you need and want, there may be a person who you can give actual business to in thanks for their support. Understand the limitations of your senior members and ask them to do, as a favor to you, what they would do gladly on their own - then thank them profusely for it.


These tactics, in conjunction with the 4 building blocks, will help you develop a strong picture of what you're trying to build, how to go about it and who you can rely on.

Next up - what to do, when you're ready to launch!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

4 Building Blocks for Your Infant Social Media Strategy

For the next few posts, we'll focus on Tactics associated with the lifecycle of your Social Media Strategy.

Today's Tactics are for the Infancy of your Strategy so, not Tactics as in "spend your money on this ad on this platform" but Tactics as in "these behaviors will allow you to create a strong base even before you have a specific thing to promote." Consider these the building blocks of a strong strategy - the more you work on these tactics, the more clear your next steps will be.

You can start these tactics before you've even begun to develop a central communications base - or while your business is taking the first tentative steps into Social Media.

The 4 Building Blocks of Social Media

1) Build Your Reputation

There are a seemingly infinite number of spaces on the Internet in which conversation is occurring. It's likely that the number of spaces in which your particular knowledge is useful is finite, but your very first step should be to be in those spaces.

Search Engines are your friend. Pick one, put in the topic you know a lot about and words like "discussion group," or "mailing list" or "Facebook" and look at your results. You'll find forums, lists, groups, and maybe even specialized organizations and enthusiast spaces. Pick one or a handful of these and engage them.

Specific Tactics to Build Your Reputation:

- Read and join conversations
- Respond to questions and comments
- Assist people with finding what they need
- Learn who the other people on the community are, what they are good at and who you can trust

Every time you contribute to a conversation, you are building your reputation for being knowledgeable and, depending on how you handle yourself in a disagreement, professional.

2) Build Your Knowledge Base

No matter how much you know about your area of expertise, you can always learn more. Staying on top of the organizations, people and places that relate to your business may take up some serious time, but it's business critical. Actively reading, thinking and conversing about new developments will go far to building up your own knowledge set. The more you know - the more you can share.

Specific Tactics to Build Your Knowledge Base:

- Follow leading blogs in your industry, comment on them when you can.
- Use RSS to create a customized news feed from a number of sources
- Take online classes and read whitepapers offered online
- Look for previously posted answers to questions you have on the online spaces you inhabit, before you ask them yourself.

Continuing education is continuing. Like Social Media, the more you put into your field of interest, the more you'll get out of it. Learn what you can, where you can and share it as often as you can.

3) Build Your Network

Every time you interact with a person, you have a chance to create a relationship with them. Social Networking platforms make it easy (and more visual) to connect with other people in a way that forums and mailing lists don't. Use the tools each system has to follow, friend, add or connect.

Specific Tactics to Build Your Network:

- Add at least one new person a day per platform
- Look for peers in your field of expertise, news resources, professional connections, add them.
- Think forward about your business needs. Add people who you *may* need to know to your network now and you'll know where to find them tomorrow.
- Use system search tools to uncover key opinion leaders in your areas of interest, reach out to them

Be a RON - a Reasonably Open Networker. Use your discretion and trust your gut - if someone seems off, don't connect. If you can find a point of commonality or mutual admiration, then do.

4) Build Your Audience

Let me say this plainly - you can't game the system when it comes to Building Your Audience. Any tool that claims you can add 10,000 people to your audience a day is no good for you. Avoid those tools and anyone who tries to them sell them to you.

Your audience is made up of people who care about your product or service. Do not try to spray your scent across the entire Internet and hope someone will think you smell good.

If you play with the first three Building Blocks, then this one will be handed to you. You'll be inhabiting spaces that are filled with people who might care about your business, you'll be building up an audience of those people and assuring them that you can walk your talk.

Then, when you finally have something to focus on, you'll be well on your way to having a potential market.


I'm going to open up the floor to you, dear readers - what do you consider to be a basic Building Block for an infant Social Media presence?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Where You Are Doesn't Matter Until You Know Why You're There

One of the questions about Social Media I have heard most is "Which Social Network should I focus on?"

Part of the inconvenience of Next Big Thing-itis is that whatever the current "Next Big Thing" is gets most of the media coverage. Whether it's Facebook hitting X number of users (a totally meaningless number, since many accounts on Facebook are dead or nearly so,) or the current flock of celebrities who Twitter (another meaningless set of numbers since nearly all celebrities post communications meant to be read, but rarely respond to comments they receive), this kind of coverage means that the noise is way louder than the signal until the Next Big Thing is something else.

The side effect of Next Big Thing-itis is that for most people, putting the cart before the horse is their main issue. They ask where they should be, before they even know what they want to do there.

Effective Social Media is not a popular dance club. Being seen is not enough

So let's back up and take a look at the difference between Strategy and Tactics.

Strategy is the theoretical plan you start with. Taking into account your own Strengths and Weaknesses and those of your closest competitor(s), you take a high-level look at your market and formulate a plan based on as many variables as you can find data for.

For instance, this blog. My Strategy in creating this blog was to provide a single place to gather my thoughts on Social Media. Rather than build a website listing all my great skills and clients other stuff you may or may not care about, I decided to cut to the chase - here's my thoughts on Social Media. Having one place to collect them allows me to disseminate them easily.

I was well aware that there are many Social Media and Social Marketing blogs already in existence. I'm not competing with them, because my Strategy was to create a single place to gather *my* thoughts. Not to sell services or books (although that is not outside the pale, eventually.)

Tactics are the specific techniques and tools you use to execute a Strategy.

I chose a blog rather than a Facebook page, because a blog allows me more free rein with my ideas. If I want to try out a thought, a tactic, a marketing campaign, a design element, a blog offers me the most freedom to do so. It provides more space for exposition than, say, Twitter, and more personalization than LinkedIn. It's not a corporate presence like a company website or a presence on Foursquare. This blog is the conversation I have with - ideally - you, my readers.

If you can't articulate your strategy beyond "to have a Social Media presence" then it doesn't much matter where you are, because you don't know why you are there anyway.

Let's say that you are working on a new project - book, website, product, whatever. If you ask me what tactics should you use to promote that project, I'm going to tell you that it doesn't matter. There is no *thing* to promote, outside of your head. I mean this sincerely and with all due respect - very few people truly care about a project that you "are working on."

This is true for any widget, event or concept that is not about to be in existence. Any gleam in your eye might be of interest to those people who are close to you; your friends, your fanbase, etc, but for the large majority of people out there you'd like to reach, the fact that you are "working on" something means nothing.

So, what tactics *can* you focus on while you're writing that book or designing that site? You can pick one or two main Social Networks and Build Your Audience. It honestly doesn't matter what Network you choose - unless you focus your energy and time on one or two, you'll just have a small, diffuse audience all over the place. Pick a space and work it. Make it a base of operations - call all the shots from there. Refer back to it on your secondary and tertiary networks, mention it in casual online conversation - put it on your business card. Pull people into that space over and over and over. Build Your Audience using that space. Then, when you finally *have* something to promote, you'll have that audience to reach out to and hopefully, be able to convert them into your market.

Next post, I'll be talking about some broad categories of Tactics, so you can better target your efforts to the spaces you inhabit and the actual phases of Social Media Marketing.

In the meantime, your homework is to finish your End-of-Year review of your Social Media efforts and pare them down into the top few spaces where you'll spend most of your time and effort in the coming year. (I.e., for me, working on this blog.) Next Time we'll talk about what you'll be doing there to start the new year off with a strong Social Media Plan for you and your business.

Project Wonderful