Thursday, July 29, 2010

Creating an Amazing Social Network on Twitter Without Spamming the Universe

I recently volunteered to help out an organization I work with from time to time with their Social Media initiatives. When I logged in for the first time, their Twitter account had three followers - one of them was me. After a day, that had increased ten-fold - still small potatoes in the numbers game, but hey, you gotta start somewhere. And more importantly, we had a lead for a headliner guest, a sponsor and a few great panelists. In one day.

As the follower gauge crept slowly up, I was thinking about how easy it is to create a truly *amazing* network on Twitter. And I thought I'd write it up and share it with you today.

1) Start by Following Someone/Something You Know

I've mentioned this before. A new classroom or new job doesn't seem as scary when you know someone there before you start. It gives you a person to sanity check with, a guide and a mentor.

Talk to the people you know who are on Twitter. Learn from them, emulate them. Use them as references for behaviors, acronyms, abbreviations and actions.

Read what they say and notice how they say it. Take note of their balance between work and life, personal and professional.

Use all of this as a guideline for your own interactions. When you get a little freaked out, shoot a Tweet over to that colleague or friend and just have a nice irrelevant chat. It's great for the soul and you'll be blown away by how many people follow you once you relax and just have a conversation.

2) Follow The People The People You Follow Follow

You follow people you respect, information sources you trust, peers and colleagues and people against whom you benchmark your business. Take a look at who these people follow. Who do they get their news from? Who do they consider valuable members of their network? You don't have to follow all - or any - of these people, but the people you follow are a great resource to find more people to follow.

3) Don't Follow Everyone Just Because They Use A Keyword Or Phrase

There's nothing stranger than noticing you've got a dozen new followers and they all seem to have the word "soap" in their names. Suddenly, you realize that you mentioned the lovely new soap you bought last weekend. These people have created a search for a single keyword and automatically follow anyone who mentions that word. It seems like a good idea, but you already *bought* soap. You don't need or want more.

Having a keyword search set up is a great idea. It might net you a few new folks to talk with, a conversation about your business to track, some new contacts - but it's not a catchall basin. Pick and choose your connections so that there's some meaning in it for both you and the person you're following.

4) Follow People You Want in Your Stream

Everyone you follow will pop up on your home page. This and your own posts are your "Twitter stream." It could seem like a great idea to follow your cousin, because she knows a lot about Twitter, but when she starts late-night or drunk Tweeting, is that what you want showing up in your *public* stream?

Follow people who provide your stream with the level of quality and professionalism you want your business to express to the world at large.

5) Talk to People!

It may seem weird at first, just jumping in and asking a question, or introducing yourself to someone online without context, but, really, it's okay. That's normal on Twitter, where the conversations are public, so anyone can join in.

There's even specialized chats that use hashtags so you can follow the conversation with a simple search. Feel free to join in on a chat and learn what people have to say about topics of interest to you. Chats are another great way to find new people to follow.

These are all pretty basic things, but if you keep them in your mind as you get to know Twitter, you'll be well on your way to building an Amazing Network!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Create an Exceptional Social Media Reputation in 3 Easy Steps (And Ruin it in 1)

Social Media is Mainstream. Moms and Dads follow their kids on Facebook. Businesses communicate with customers on Twitter, customers check in on Foursquare to get discounts, people use LinkedIn to look for jobs. There's no need for explanations any more so your friends or peers "get" Social Media.

So, what's left to be said? Well...a lot , really.

I still see businesses using Social Media without paying attention to the positive AND negative effects of their use. It's not just about being professional (although that goes a long, long way to establishing a good reputation.) It's about building something based on high standards and polished execution. 

Here are 3 Easy Steps to Building an Exceptional Social Media Reputation


People want what they want, when they want it, how they want it. They don't want to be shuffled around from site to site. They want a response on whatever system they are on. That means that it's up to you to keep your eyes on any mention of your company - wherever it's being mentioned. Have a PR person? Make sure they are on top of all the major networks, related forums and blogs, not just the ones your company is on.

Being right there to respond to people will provide you and your business with a strong base on which to build your reputation.


I cannot begin to tell you how many companies respond to a Twitter post about bad service with "DM me with details and we'll do our best to help."

Read that line carefully - it proclaims "customer service failure" from beginning to end.

People very, very rarely post out of context. Anywhere. Humans are weird that way - we like people to know what we're talking about. So, if your Twitter search pops up a "crappy service from XYZ co," you can probably bet that there's more to it than just that single post. Do yourself a favor - read the the last few posts - track the conversation back to the very beginning and gather as much information as you can *before* you respond

"DM me with details" has very little value to a customer. In contrast,  "I see you're having trouble with delivery. Can you DM me or can I call you about resolving it?" has very high value to a frustrated consumer and will gain you a reputation for exceptional customer service. Face it - of these two, which one would you prefer to get as a response?


I just read yet another article about yet another company offering a promotion and then coming up with a bunch of hidden small print designed to make sure they weren't actually going to have to honor the promotion. Seriously, who thinks that's a good idea? In this day and age of instant communications, where one click of the button can reach tens of thousands of people, it behooves you to be what you say you are, give what you say you'll give and do what you say you'll do. Strive for clarity, honesty and transparency as a way to forge a strong reputation.

Bonus - 1 Easy Step to Ruin Your Reputation

You can spend years building a flawless reputation for outstanding customer service, excellent value and stellar quality. And it only takes one really bad experience to ruin it. What's the one thing that can ruin you?

Forget to Listen

Whether the customer is right is never the issue. Who is wrong is never the issue. 

The issue is, the customer feels that s/he has been served poorly. Why that is, is a matter for internal reflection - it is not the customer's place to have to investigate or be investigated.

There are many components of Social Media - the first and foremost is not to communicate out, but to take in. Do your best to connect to the customer - listen to them. Show that you understand and are engaged with their problem.  And above all, let them know that your priority is to resolve the matter in a way that satisfies them

Your reputation is a precarious thing. Remember to listen to your customer, respond to them quickly, be as informed as you can be and honor your promises and you'll have a Social Media reputation that can withstand any storm.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

10 Questions to Determine If You're Using Social Media "Right"

The words "Social Media" have become as common as "cell phone" or "online marketing." And, like so much else related to digital forms of communication, there's a tremendous amount of snake oil being sold as panaceas for your ailing business.

Here's a simple checklist to determine if your business is getting the maximum benefit from your social media use.

Do you answer when people talk to you?

Do other people answer when you talk to them?

Do you talk about topics other than yourself or your business?

Do your status updates look like a conversation?

Do your status updates include questions that encourage answers?

When someone complains that they did not get good service from you, do you respond quickly?

Do you respond to people on the same social network platform they commented on in the first place?

Do you allow open and free discussion on your social media profiles? (For instance, is your Wall open to comment on Facebook?)

Do you follow up with people after you have spoken with them?

Are your followers/friends/fans/likes increasing?


1-4 "Yes" answers

Your use of Social Media is not Optimal

Social Media requires good interaction to be successful. You may have profiles or pages on all the hottest networks, but you're not curating them. The more you interact, the more authentic you seem. The more authentic you are, the more people will want to interact!

Take a few moments and prioritize your Social Media presence. Focus on one or two places where you can realistically spend time with your customers and cultivate relationships with them. In 6 months, retake this test and see how far you've come!

5-7 "Yes" answers

Your Use of Social Media is Good

You've got the basics down and you're putting your best foot forward most of the time. You're busy, so sometimes maybe you miss something, but you're doing your best.

Take a long look at a few of the spaces that aren't really getting much return. Maybe it's time to let go of an old profile or network. One of your spaces might just be full of unmoderated spam and it's time to trim it. Don't just get rid of the old, though- your mailing list may still be the best conversation in town. Just be ready to let go of something that's not working and focus on what is.

8-10 "Yes" answers

Congratulations, you are doing Social Media "Right"!

You understand that responding quickly and politely to issues means there's no time for those unresolved issues to fester into resentment. You understand that being where your audience is means you can convert them to becoming your market. And you understand that talking with people is more than just talking about yourself.

Don't get cocky, though - there's always room for improvement. Take that excellent Social Media Strategy and turn it into something exciting for you and your followers!

Use these ten questions as a quick health check of your Social Media presence on any platform - you can even ask your followers to take the test for you and see if you and they have the same feelings about your Social Media use.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Three Rules of Blog Commenting for Fun and Profit

Any discussion of community and network building will inevitably touch upon commenting on other people's blogs as a great way to both promote yourself and expand your own sphere of influence. Here's three simple rules of Comment Etiquette that will set you on the right path.

Give to Get

The very best way to gain respect, increase your network and make friends is to share information. You have knowledge about your field and there are people who need and want it. Make yourself as available as you can to them. Offer advice when it's asked for, sympathy where it's needed and generally be an open book that people can turn to when they need a prompt.

Use your knowledge to set people on the right path and offer up lessons gained from your experience to provide others with a mentor or peer they can turn to when the chips are down.

Don't Sell - Talk

Writing a compelling comment takes humility. When you comment on someone else's blog, make sure the focus is on their content and what you can add to it. You have a unique perspective, unique experiences, but that person's blog is not about you. Don't take the opportunity to shift the focus onto yourself. It feels forced...and a little selfish. This is their blog - help them out. Add something to the conversation; present a new option. Don't derail the conversation in this space by pointing to another one somewhere else, unless it's really relevant to the topic at hand. And don't take that moment to pitch your exciting new product. It's not going to be as welcome as you might expect.

Avoid Zingers

There's an expectation in some spaces on the Internet that conversations have "winners" and "losers." For a lot of good (and bad) reasons that I won't be going into here, conversations on the Internet are often seen as battles that have to be won. And many people believe that the sure way to "win" a conversation is to kill it.

In reality, comments are only worth as much as they further a conversation. Your zinger may give you the feeling of a "win," but really, you've lost - not only is the conversation dead for everyone, you'll get a reputation as a troll.

Before you comment, ask yourself - is this comment going to contribute to the conversation? Will it prolong it? Am I opening doors or shutting them? Of course, we all have a moment or two when we're not in the most tolerant mood, but the more often you take a moment, breathe, and set down a comment that keeps the conversation going, the more you'll get a reputation as someone worth listening to.

As a colleague says, "First Thought Wrong," by which she means that it's important to take a moment - make sure you breathe - and consider what is about to come out of your mouth.

Use the same consideration on other people's blogs as you'd like on your own - share information, keep the conversation going. Then your comments will be seen as a valuable addition and you as a valuable resource.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Don't Assume, Do Provide Context - Writing for Social Media

On SocialOptimized, I constantly exhort you to know your audience and know where they hang out online, to most effectively target them. However, Social Media is also a powerful tool to reach outside those pre-existing spaces and attract new interest.

Today we'll talk about expanding your audience through providing context.

The keystone of Social Media is relevance. Relevance is what drives you to share information with your network and your network to share information with their networks. To create relevance, you need to provide context. And, to provide context, there are a few assumptions you need to avoid.

Don't Assume It's About You

People follow/friend/fan/connect for a lot of reasons. The number one reason is that they think that by doing so, it will add to their lives in some meaningful way. They might expect you to provide information, entertainment, discounts, something. People look for a quid pro quo when they follow you.

As a business owner, don't get locked up int the idea that your followers want to know about you for your sake - what they want is to know about you for *their* sakes.

When you use Social Media, consider answering "what's in it for me?" before it's even asked.

Don't Assume Your Followers Are Fans

You have a fanpage for your business, or maybe you Tweet often. Or, perhaps you have a nice following of readers at your business blog. In any case, you know that people read you every day...or do you? Not everyone who follows you is going to check in with you every day. Your readers might be more casual than you think they are. There's a good chance that your followers don't read every post or tweet you make.

Don't Assume They Know What You Are Talking About

Your readers want to know what you are talking about, even if they come in in the middle of the conversation. Let them know that this is the middle of the conversation, when they do. It's easy enough to backtrack on most social networking systems - provide links, quotes, synopses, whatever it takes to keep people on top of what they need to know to be able to understand what you're saying.


Do Provide Context

Whether you have an article in a local paper, a blog post a Facebook status or a Twitter update, every word counts with your readers. 

Let your followers know if this is a question, a chat, promotional, a link, food for thought. People have less time (and less inclination) than ever to think critically about everything. Let your readers know up front how much time and energy you are asking for. Are you writing about a provocative or thought-provoking topic - let them know! Are you waxing philosophical over something - or nothing?  The more specific you are about what you expect from your readers, the better your response will be.

Do Make Your Point

See the above comment about time and inclination. Before you start writing - make sure you have a point. Whether it's a new product or service you want to mention, or a relevant event, it's important to let your followers know what it is that you are trying to say. It makes it easier for them to share the information - and easier for you to reach people who care about that topic.

Do Invite Feedback

It might seem obvious to you that you want to interact with people in your Social Network, but it's not always obvious to them. A status update is most often in the form of a declarative statement.  Some people will not interpret that as a request for feedback or as a conversation starter.  Provide a clue to your followers that they are welcome to comment, so they *know* their opinions and thoughts are encouraged. This will provide more impetus for sharing, when people know that the door is open for discussion.

Do Consider Sharing

Taking the time to craft your information so that it is understandable to people outside your field and repeatable across multiple platforms will increase your chances of attracting an audience outside your usual sphere.

Short, retweetable lead ins, strong quotes, good tag words. All of these will attract people who are interested in what you have to say, and encourage them to share that with others.

Don't Assume, Do Provide Context and you'll turn your Social Media into an effective tool to recruit a new audience.

Project Wonderful