Monday, December 19, 2011

Best Practices for Strong, Stable Linkbuilding with Social Media

The old adage "It's not what you know, it's who you know," is more important than ever in today's business world. And, one of the major measurements Social Ranking sites use now is an objective measurement of the value of your network. This is a questionable measurement since, our networks are always valuable to us, but on the principle that links in from major industry players weigh more heavily than links from friends and family, there some value to the concept.

So, what can a small- or medium size business do to build a strong network? Let's start with Social Media Linkbuilding. Many, if not most, of the "Best Practices" guides online on linkbuilding advocate tactics that are questionable, if not outright ignored now by measuring tools. Just as poor website construction can damage your overall SEO, poor linkbuilding tactics can severely damage your Social Media credibility. Here are five simple tactics that will increase your credibility and your network value.


Converse, Don't Monologue
Like people, companies are self-absorbed. They enter Social Media spaces focused on what it can do for them. They pop up on Facebook, Twitter or whatever platform with the corporate equivalent of "Hey guys, I'm here!" and expect people to care. But, just as no one really likes the guy who comes into the room at the party and says that, no one really cares that your business is on GetGlue...until you become interesting.

Forget the press release that you now have a Twitter account. Take time every day to find people talking about your business and just talk with them. Have a chat about the sandwich, those tickets they bought - were the seats good?, news in that field...and after you're become someone to listen to, THEN tell them about the sale coming up.

Talking with people sends a clear signal that you are not just in this for you - you really get the Social part of Social Media.


Be Generous
Sharing ideas, praise, credit will make you the kind of person whose network people want to be part of. Who is retweeting you, sharing your Facebook posts? Thank them, make them feel special, make it a special thing to be recognized by you. You'll find that the more generous you are, the more generous your network will be to you. It takes so little time or effort to recognize and thank someone, there's really no good reason to not do it at least semi-regularly. Slow news week? That's a perfect time to highlight some great network contributors! Saw a great article? Tell the person - publicly. Yes a nice long email explaining what you liked about it is great, but a short "This was an excellent article" on your Social Media platform helps spread the word. This gives the author a chance to respond back and possibly a new connection for both of you.


Don't Hijack, Give Credit Where Credit is Due
When you quote someone, you're expected to source the quote. On Social Media, source your links and wisdom, too. No one likes the guy who never has his wallet...no one wants to be part of the network of the guy who never says where he saw the link first. Use via to let people know that they've been sourced. This link will come back to them...and there's a good chance that you'll get a link back from them.

People who hijack links without sourcing the original, or who run them through their own jump pages make for lousy network additions. Avoid people who hijack links and hope they avoid you.


Variety is the Spice of Linking
You're good at linking to people in your industry. You know your peers and vendors and maybe even some of your customers. But no company is an island. There are industries peripheral to yours...and many service industries that you can benefit from like research, design, finance...don't be afraid to link out of your vertical. In fact, be afraid to not link out of your vertical! The further out you link and connect, the further out your message will be heard and seen.


Be Bold
Once you've started conversations with people in other industries, there comes a moment when you can just talk with anyone. Don't worry that the person is a President of a powerful company - if they are speaking with you as an equal, just talk back to them as an equal. Social Media is a great equalizer. Be bold in who you address and confident in how you converse with them.  The bolder you are, the more confident you'll grow, and the stronger your network will become.

Use solid linkbuilding tactics to build a solid network to raise your credibility and value.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Matching the Pace of Social Media Change - 3 Simple To-Dos

Twitter's just launched business pages and a new mobile look. Facebook relaunched a few months ago, with some much needed privacy features. Every day a new "social" platform pops up with promises of connecting you to your audience, your network and the great wealth out there just waiting to be had.

And here you are, juggling every single aspect of your business from acquisitions and logistics to customer service and marketing. How on earth can you keep up with the pace?

Here are three daily to-dos to keep you walking side by side with the fast pace of Social Media:

Research

Take 5 minutes every day to read the headlines in your industry...and another 5 to read about recent changes in Social Media.

Twitter's video takes 1 minute 49 seconds to watch. Watch it. That still leaves you with over 3 minutes to scan the headlines from your top business sources.




Trial

Obviously, not every new system or platform that comes across your desk is going to be right for you. Twice a week - or three times, if you're having a slow week, sign up for a trial. Use the platform, check the scores, see if that system has any value to you. Shelly Kramer points out, in her article about the new Twitter business pages that many Twitter users never go to Twitter's page at all. Perhaps building a business page there is not that high priority for you.

Don't worry that some blogger said it was the best new platform of the year - they may have a vested interest, or they may simply have different needs than you do. Know whether you're looking for a tool to give you the 10,000 mile perspective or leads to opinion leaders in your town before you make time to sign up for a trial. Consider the time it'll take to develop a profile. Can you do it quickly, or will it mean weeks of meetings with your "web guy"? Each new platform that pops up, take a moment to decide what time you're willing to invest.

Try out the service for a week. At the end of that week, if you can't think of a single reason to use it again, delete your account, then move on. Don't worry if the Social Media news is full of that system, it's not for you.

If you love that system, let people know. Share your insight with you peers. Become an advocate for a system that works for you.

Integrate

When you've found that system that really resonates, tell the company. Offer to beta-test new features. Let the company know you're out there advocating.

Integrate that platform into your day, so it's just another five minutes while you have your morning coffee. Check the dashboard, integrate the information into your day. Decide what works for you, and discard the rest.

You don't start running 20 miles a day - don't try to keep up with every single change in Social Media. When you take a few moments every day to Research - Trial - Integrate, the fast pace of Social Media won't be intimidating. You won't be "keeping up," you'll be walking side-by-side with the tools you need.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sticking Your Landing on Facebook

Your Landing Page on Facebook is a person's first impression of your business. Is it well-dressed, personable, does it, in fact make a good impression?

I ran into some discussion on LinkedIn about the nature of the Landing Page on Facebook. A person wanted to have people enter their group on a tab that was not the Wall tab. The replies were universally against it. Why? Because a Facebook Wall provides instant insight into the true nature of the company. When a potential Fan comes to your Facebook Page they will instantly see several important things:


Are You Posting Fresh Content?

This is immediately apparent, even to someone who knows nothing at all about "Social Media."

Is the content on your Wall linking to news, perspectives and commentary of interest to your audience, or are you recycling company announcements and using rhetorical questions to stimulate conversation?

When the Wall is full of press releases, it's an indication to a visitor that communication is all about you. Asking better questions than "what can I do to help you?" will stimulate real conversation and gain genuine engagement from your Fans.


Are You Getting Responses?

Because of the visual nature of Facebook, a visitor does not have to actually look at the content of your Wall to see if a conversation is happening.


It's instantly apparent that this link has 13 likes and 6 responses. And that a conversation has occurred. Even without knowing a single thing about the topic, anyone visiting this page can see that there has been a response by the community and, even more importantly...


Are Your Responsive to your Fans?

Equally as instantly obvious to anyone visiting your Wall, is whether you are responding to the people who are writing to you.

When you look at most company Facebook pages, you see a neverending stream of company propaganda, Likes, and perhaps, even, a comment by a fan...but rarely a response by the company to those responses. On very large company sights, those responses are disappeared, leaving nothing but the propaganda.

When your Fans comment, are they seeing a response from you?

Famously, when a company I'm interested in joined Facebook some years ago, they asked their followers what they wanted to see. I replied that I wanted to see them respond to us when we commented on their posts.

"Like this?" the company replied to my comment.

"Yes," I posted, "but with content."

They have since been very responsive to the posts on the Wall.


Social Media is never about you, it's always about the members of your community and network.


Your Wall is the best Landing Page you'll ever have. It indicates communication skills, responsiveness, and how much you value your community. Stick your Landing, and you'll get top scores from your community.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Social Media is the Vehicle, not the Destination

In the welter of tools to help you focus your Social Media strategy and tactics, to measure the results, and to increase your audience, there is an unfortunate tendency to act like Social Media is a single thing.

"Which is best for my company, Facebook or Twitter?" is a question I see all too often on professional networking platforms, as if there could be a single answer that covers all needs.

We don't presume there are only one or two models of car that fits all needs. Social Media is the vehicle - the means by which you communicate with your audience, engage them and reward them when they go to bat for you. Picking the right vehicle to communicate with your audience is critical to effective use of Social Media.

You might be targeting casual users of Social Media, people who share birthday greetings and jokes and life events and photos. Facebook, Groupon and Email Marketing is the way to go to reach out to these people. It's not that these users object to learning technology, but they don't want it presented *as* technology. Your Social Media tactics need to focus on saving these people time and money.  It's not about ad aesthetics, design or engagement...it's about rewards and convenience.

Perhaps your audience is on the go. They are tethered to their phone and their phone is tethered to their computer. These people want speed, simplicity and convenience. Twitter, mobile marketing, a proprietary app that gets them in touch with you quickly, is perfect for this crowd. This Social Media strategy needs to be about compelling, targeted content, plain and simple.

If your audience is hands on, with their fingers in a lot of Social Media platforms, you need to be ultra-responsive. These people will know if you don't understand Social Media, and have 15 layers of decision-making before a simple "yes" can be tweeted. These people also bring with them a large audience of their own on multiple platforms. Obfuscating or delaying will end up in one way - with egg on your face. If you get a comment on Twitter from someone with 15,000 followers, think twice before you blow them off.

If your audience is minimalist, they have one or two platforms they rely on and no more. They live off their phone, but don't necessarily like mobile marketing. Build in privacy controls so that you're not facing negative feedback when your cool new ad sends itself to their phones.

Luxury users are rarely cutting edge and want big rewards for their involvement. High-end shopping means high-end privacy and one-on-one personal connection. These people are not communicating with you on Facebook.

Just as there's a vehicle for every personality, there's a vehicle for every message. The medium *does* matter, but in the end, the message had better be what your audience wants to hear. Get the right Social Media vehicle to drive that message home.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

When Your Fans Love Your Work - and Treat It Like Their Own

In an increasingly digital world, there are two kind of content creators: The Open and The Closed.

Closed content creators are focused on the rules of content use that they grew up with in the 20th century. Content is the sole possession of its creator and/or the company that licensed that content. While Fair Use is often acknowledged by both content creators and users, some companies are less likely to actually allow free and fair use of images and words - even when that use actually affects their bottom line positively.

In a world where tools to create video, audio, illustrative and text-based mashups and parodies are common, and information available on the Internet is seen as open-source, even when it is copyrighted, it becomes critical for any company to know when to establish Fair Use policies for consumers of that company's content.

Most companies react to their consumer's use of their content with the legal equivalent of swatting at a swarm of mosquitoes. These shotgun tactics might, in fact, slow down use of your content, but just as swatting at mosquitoes is unlikely to eradicate biting, this kind of legal action does little in the long run to stop consumer reworking of your content.

More importantly, in many cases, there are perfectly good reasons why you should encourage your consumers to take your content and run with it.


Today we're going to look at situations when you should allow your consumers to use and reuse your content.

When to Become an Open Content Creator:


When you have nothing to lose

You and your company are just getting started, you have a modest audience and a modest market. At this point, the absolute most important thing for you is to get the word out. In this case, it's probably the best of all worlds if you provide your consumers with materials to mashup, remake and parody. Create contests where you set the usage rules. Provide images and ideas, even tools to help your fans create and expand your audience.


When you have a huge audience

Let's be honest here. Is a fan-written story about Harry Potter really a threat to the franchise? No, and despite what Warner Brothers says, it never can be. The reality is that every story, every piece of art, every parody video keesp that fandom alive one more day. And it may even draw a new fan in, long after the series itself has ended.

When your name has saturated the potential audience, let go of your creation. There is nothing anyone can do to hurt you.


When you are growing rapidly beyond your ability to manage

Your new idea has gone viral. Peoples' interest in it is off the charts. You cannot and should not attempt to control the property. Let it fly, let it live! Allow your advocates to work for you through contests and rewards. Give them a chance to be part of your team while your real team upgrades the site infrastructure.


When your potential audience is small

There's niches, and there's micro-niches. A niche is marketing to Lithuanians, priests, or left-handed people. A micro-niche is marketing to left-handed Lithuanian priests. There are only going to be so many people who fit your niche, no matter how much promotion you do.

Because you cannot knock on doors to find every single person who might potentially be out there who would be the perfect market for your product or service, it makes a lot of sense to let your audience help you. When they can remix and rework your content so that it attracts new consumers, it's a win-win for everyone.

Giving your fans a chance to own your work makes them more likely to want to own your work.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Care and Feeding of Influencers and Advocates

Companies are spending a lot of money and time identifying people who are Influencers in their industries. They slice and dice their own data to see who their Advocates are in their Social spaces. But, what, exactly, do companies do with this data once the have it? Too often they attempt to hitch their cart to these people and let them do the heavy pulling for them.

The importance of Influencers on your business shouldn't be downplayed. Influencers in certain industries can make or break a company in early stages. The right kind of coverage on the right blog can be the difference between great success or relative obscurity. Influencers see you as someone they want their audience to know about.

Advocates are members of your market that spend their time praising you/your business, sharing information with other people in their own networks and generally expanding your ability to get the word out...because they like you, your product, your goals and your voice. Advocates see you as someone they want their friends to know about.

Many companies make the mistake of seeing Influencers and Advocates as people over there, not people who are right there by their side. Or as animals to harness and pull the company cart. Or numbers to be measured and used, rather than valuable members of the team, to be integrated into the business strategy.

So, how should one take care of Influencers and Advocates?

Influencers and Advocates are, first and foremost, relationships that need to be built up. Sending out well-written press releases is important, but actually taking time to meet, speak with, and build up a relationship with an Influencer is the difference between someone reporting your press release and someone writing a glowing post about the press release.

Listen to what is being said by your Influencers and Advocates. This is an easy point of contact for you to engage those people talking about you. When someone who links to you all over the webs says, "this new thing - it's not so great," stop what you're doing and ask why. That Advocate might have a personal beef, but they might very well put their finger on a weak point that you never saw. You won't know unless you listen to them. An Influencer in the space who calls attention to your new product could be the difference between an amazing launch, and something much less amazing. Know what has been said, know who says it. Listen to those comments and absorb the insight into your strategy and tactics.

Acknowledge contributions made by your Advocates - thanks Persons 1, 2 and 3 for a lot of insightful comments recently! And thank those who retweet and share, as well. Thank Influencers for their time in mentioning you. Every kind word from an Influencer in your field is another person out there who has their eye on you, waiting to be impressed.

Reward positive gain behavior. Don't offer reward for minimal efforts such as Liking, but do take time to notice the time and effort your Advocates put in for you. "Hey, we notice that you're really being awesome and we wanted to say thanks" goes a very long way. Influencers often can't legally take gifts, and in any case that is not the relationship or reputation you want to build, but taking a moment to thank someone for their Influence and promotion is never a moment wasted.

The more you listen to, and talk with your Influencers and Advocates, the more of a relationship you build.

Take good care of your Influencers and Advocates, don't try to harness them to do your dirty work. It's your cart - put in your best effort to pull it yourself and your Influencers and Advocates will pitch in right there next to you.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Are you a Social Media Hobo?

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It seems that everywhere you go these days, someone is shaking a can for Social Media recognition. In a desperate attempt to be seen as Influencers and Taste Makers, every company - and many individuals - are making it so easy for you to share their wisdom, that websites and social media profiles are practically covered with widgets, toolbars, and sharing icons.

At what cost?

Are you missing the forest for the trees in your pursuit of a piece of the Social Media pie? Take a honest look at your content. Is it fresh? Is it interesting? Is it yours?  But...who cares if that information is yours originally? A retweet or a share might get your audience acting...that's good enough right?

It's all well and good to aggregate, share and inform, but what people really want is information they haven't seen before, information they can use. They want information that entertains and informs and, in some cases, enrages.

Experts that aren't creating their own content, but are asking for recognition from their audience, have become Social Media hobos. They aren't contributing. It may be the easy way to a higher Peerindex, but there's nothing authentic about it.

You can make a difference in your field. You do have time to write an insightful post on your blog, or create a simple, meaningful infographic.

You are the expert in your area, there's no need to be riding someone else's train.

Put down the can and stand up from the stoop - don't beg for follows, likes or shares. No one respects a Social Media hobo.

Be the expert you are in your field and you'll get the respect you deserve.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Truth About Consumers' Role in Innovation


Innovation is a buzzword that never dies. Every company, no matter how risk-averse, fearing that control of their brand has been ceded to their consumers, flogs employees and consumers alike with their innovative-ness, if not with actual innovation.


In the entertainment sector, innovators have quite literally cut out all the layers between themselves and getting the material almost immediately - for free. Creators are disfranchised from their own work and distribution companies have been marginalized, forced to run after new technology like a dogcatcher chasing an errant mutt. The only people who gain from this are the innovators...but this is not sustainable. This kind of innovation is choking the industries it feeds upon.

In thinking about how this innovation has not only not helped, but has negatively impacted some industries, it dawned on me that the idea of innovation by consumers is backwards. Innovators are rarely consumers. They drive consumption by their innovation, but they are rarely buying the products themselves. Why? Because they can do it better - that is what drives them.

A strong company breaks its own toys and rebuilds them differently. If you're waiting to see what your consumers come up with, you've already fallen behind the curve...and while you're playing catch up, the innovators have moved on to break the toy 6 different ways, run rings around your security/DRM/ and have provided people 3 different ways to use your product for free.

I've never really understood Apple's closed community before, but my own explanation makes it make sense to me now - they break their own toys.

If you're letting consumers drive your brand innovation by breaking your toys, you've already lost the market.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Difference Between Buzz and Sustainable Growth Strategies

You may have see a headline that looked like this recently:

10,000 Free Round-Trip Tickets to Japan

Articles go on to say that the Japan Tourist Bureau is planning to (possibly) give away tickets to (possibly) influencers and mega-bloggers to come to Japan, and (possibly) write about their experiences there.

This is a fine short-term strategy, but it's not what JTB should do.

Here's what's wrong with this plan:

1) JTB is (planning on) giving free tickets to people who are already highly likely to travel.

2) It's a short-term boost that might create a minor bump in tourism, but has no sustainability.


***

I love Japan. I love visiting it as often as possible and I write about my experience there for people to enjoy. There's a pretty good chance that I'd get one of those free tickets. But that's relatively pointless, because I go there anyway.  The people who are pro or semi-pro travel writers, or have compelling Japanese business interests, are not avoiding Japan because of a high yen or fears of radiation. And, people who are worried about radiation are unlikely to go to Japan just because a travel writer says it's safe.

I might motivate one or two people a year to really get over there - I did motivate a whole crowd to come in 2005 for an event I ran in Tokyo. And, if those people liked it, then they might go back. If 10,000 people motivate one or two people to go, it's a nice little blip on the tourism radar.

But.

This is not sustainable. This is buzz.

JTB can't afford to give away 10,000 free round-trip tickets every year and not all of the people who get those tickets will go again, bring a friend, or instill desire in readers to visit Japan.

For a short-term campaign, they'd be better off giving free tickets to people who have never been there, have a compelling reason to visit and who are likely to bring spouses and children with them.

There's still no sustainability, but then their campaign would also express some goodwill and get people who might not otherwise visit Japan over there.The problem is...

Buzz is not a Growth Strategy

To create a sustainable way to increase tourism, JTB ought first to look at cost. Airfare to get to Japan from my part of the country is ridiculous and is heading higher in the next few months. This presents a tremendous hurdle for anyone who might want to go there, especially if they have a family. A trip to Japan now costs what you might pay for a used car, or a year's tuition for a community college. This seems like the most obvious pain point in the world to me.

JTB - you want more people to come to Japan? Make it cheaper to get there.

13 hours in the air is a long time, but it takes me that to get to just about anywhere outside North America. The cost is the problem, not the time. Work with airlines to bring airfare to something a normal human with a spouse and kids can handle.

There was a time when airlines sold cheap overseas travel fares. I remember a coworker going to Japan for 3 nights, 4 days with hotel for $400 as an airline special. If I could get that deal, I'd go there every month for a long weekend and to pick up manga and magazines. I'd eat out, too. And not just ramen on the street.

Work with airlines to bring back airfares that don't take being a millionaire to afford. I have no doubt that tourism rates will rise right back up.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Confession Time: I Don't Take Google+ Seriously

Okay, I know it's all the rage to heap praise upon praise for Google's new Mom-free social media sharing space, Google+. But being the trend-bucker and sooth-sayer I am, I'm going to make a public confession here:

I don't take Google+ seriously.

I've been using "Social Media" since the days of Bulletin Board Systems, when I had a Panasonic Senior "portable" computer (that weighed 18 pounds and had a thermal printer on the ass end) and had to take my phone offline to pretend to have a drink and a chat online with a friend who lived ten minutes away. So, whenever a new social platform opens up, I'm glad to take it for a spin, click the buttons and kick the tires. And, after serious consideration, I just cannot take Google+ seriously.

Circles Aren't All That (much less a bag of chips)

Circles seem like an exciting and revolutionary idea, but if you have ever created a mailing list, it's really not. Even on Facebook, you could always just message a few friends and share something with them. It wasn't hard. Circles are useful, if you have passion around three or four separate areas and don't want them mixing. I'm not a big fan of segmenting my conversations. Segmentation isn't privacy, either.

When Circles first showed up, there was a lot of conversation about good Circle taxonomy. I thought about it at length and came up with the following Circle names:

  • People Who Think They Are My Friends
  • People Who Want Me To Listen To Them Talk
  • People Who Want To Hear Me Talk
  • People I Follow on Google+

In reality, I have only one Circle, called "Following." Because that is what I do - I follow you because I want to read what you have to say...it doesn't matter to me which of the many topics I'm interested in that you write or share info about. In fact - I'd prefer to get a nicely varied mix of different kinds of information on different things, because otherwise, it'll all start to sound the same. I like variety. If you want to follow me and put me in a bucket, fine. I post and share on multiple topics, so you're as likely to get Social Media articles mixed in with Comic/Manga news, British Archaeology and Physics.


The Main Topic Discussed on Google+ is...Google+

This morning I open my feed and no less than half of the conversation is about how good, bad, indifferent, useful, useless, growing, dying Google+ is. At least Facebook is mature enough as a platform to only have this kind of navel-staring happen with particularly obnoxious updates. This morning's headline was trumpeting Google+'s failure to retain users. I wasn't surprised because the true power of a new social platform is access to a new audience. Google+ lacks this because:


The Audience on Google+ is People You Already Know

The early adopters of Google+ were Social Media wonks, who naturally want to poke and prod any new system...and folks fleeing from Facebook because their Mom was on it. These people were likely to be in your network already, if you were on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora or any number of platforms. I know of exactly one person who found a whole new community there - and it wasn't organically grown on Google+, it migrated there from...you guessed it, Facebook.


Last, and quite possibly the biggest factor I have in not taking Google+ seriously is...

It's Google. They have long ago shown that "Don't Be Evil" has no meaning to them, and they track, trace, follow and measure our behavior. This is better than Facebook why? Google sells our information and stares back at us, unblinkingly, completely unable to see any irony.

Why am I confessing this all of a sudden? Because this morning I came to a sudden, shocking conclusion.

Here is the avatar I use for almost every single social media platform I'm on:



This painting was done by talented artist Mari Kurisato based on a photo of me. She takes commissions and her art makes great site avatars. If you're looking for an exciting, unique way to make an impression, I recommend her work highly.



And here is the avatar I have on Google+:




This is the avatar I've had on my Gmail account since I began using it. These are my two favorite anime characters.



And, that's about how seriously I take Google+.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Measure Twice, Post Once

When developing a Social Media Strategy, it's absolutely critical to know a few things before you begin:

Who Are You Talking To?

What Are You Trying to Say to Them?

What Do You Want Them to Do?

Before you try to answer any of these questions, think about where you're getting you data from. Are you out there listening to your audience, measuring your market and do you know how your strategy is supporting your business objectives? To do this, you must measure twice, so you only have to post once.


There are any number of free and proprietary social listening and measuring tools. They change so quickly that any list will almost immediately become obsolete the moment I hit "publish" on this article.  Here are a few of the tools I use to track influence, sentiment, response and engagement:

SocialMention - Social Mention tracks your keywords (company name, personal name, tagline) across the social internet. It tracks passion, sentiment, strength and reach, which gives you a good idea of what kinds of responses you're getting and from whom.

Klout - According to their description, Klout measures the likelihood of response to you. Higher scores mean that any given post/status will engender response, sharing or action. Unfortunately, many people are using Klout scores as a measure of expertise or elite status. Avoid this, as it indicates a lack of understanding about Klout. Klout has also spawned what Animenewsdotbiz has coined as "Credibility hobo." This would be asking users for shares, +1 on Google and other assistance for upping your score. "Brother can you spare a +K?"

Topsy will give you a overall picture of your activity online. It's doesn't dig deep into analysis, but if you want to see a quick overview of your activity - and any activity engendered by it - Topsy is a good tool.

And as I posted previously, I'm finding Crowdbooster to be a very useful tool to get a visual impression of the popularity and response to any given post.

Of course, any savvy company should have a Google Alert and Twitter Search set up to see what people are saying about them.

Now that you know who is listening to you, acting on your links, sharing and responding, and what they are saying about you, you can answer the above questions appropriately. You will know who you are talking to, when they respond, and to what. You can see what language works and which kinds of posts get the most response on your platforms.

Listen and measure before you post for the most effective use of Social Media.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Facebook's Social Media Makeover - The Good and the Bad and the Not So Ugly

How often do you redecorate your living room? Once a decade? Maybe a little more? The reasons why you don't are self-evident - makeovers cost money, they are a pain, they take up time.

It's not hard to imagine, although we are not those people, that there are people who constantly tweak and move their furniture to give the room a new look, to keep it fresh and exciting.

Now imagine if those people were your parents. Every time you drop by, they seem to have moved stuff around. Sometimes you like the changes better than others, but it does make things hard to find - and it unsetttles you. This is the real problem of course - it's not that you don't like the new furniture, it's just that these are your parents and they aren't supposed to change!

Welcome to Facebook, the comfy chair of Social Media. Facebook is Social Media your Mom can use. You smile at it, you use it, but you don't respect it because, well, your Mom can use it. Even so, when Facebook switches the furniture around, it's unsettling.

Today we'll cover a very few points of some good and bad things Facebook did with their site switcheroo and the one or two things that are most up for debate as "that goddamn" feature.

The BAD

1) They changed our settings, again.

This is tantamount to your parents changing the lock, leaving the new key under the mat with a note that they've given a bunch of other people the keys, too, so if you're in the shower and hear noise, it's probably just one of those other people.  Wait, what?

Facebook has an appalling habit of "helping" you with your notifications and privacy settings. This time they turned all notifications OFF, except the ones that they turned ON.

How to Handle This: Don't wait for Facebook to change - make it a habit of visiting your Notifications, Privacy and App settings every three months. Clean out Apps you don't know, don't use, don't want. Make sure the Privacy is set the way you want it, that you can share with the people you want. Turn off or on notifications. Do this as a regular course of matter, so you remain in as much control of your account as possible.


2) They rolled all the changes out all at once.

Go back to the your parent's house metaphor. When they get a new chair, it's a nice change. If they had the entire house stripped and redecorated, it would be jarring. And, yes, the Facebook makeover was jarring.

How to Handle This: Don't Panic. Take a look at the popups and read them, so you know what you're looking at. Find a Social Media person on Facebook such as myself, (yes, I know I don't have an account name, all the sensible versions of my name were taken and I would just rather have a random character set that EricaFriedman1897. That sounds horribly AOL to me) or Christine Pilch who can talk you through fixing and changing settings.


The last and worst Bad thing is an ongoing problem with Facebook.

3) They made changes to our accounts without our permission.


Facebook does this continually and for me, it's the single biggest problem with Facebook security and privacy. I did not want to make Lists, so they made them for me! Um, no, see, I did not want to make any Lists. (See Below for more Lists comments.)

How to Handle This: Tell Facebook. We all must make it clear that, while we understand change is inevitable, we would very much prefer to be asked if we want a new feature, rather than having it thrust upon us. Some parents never change their living rooms, ever. And that's really all right. Our Mom's Facebook and ours don't have to look the same.


The Good

Now for the one really Good thing they did.

1) The biggest and best new thing they did was force Business Pages to let people post on their Wall, even if they have not "Liked" the page. There truly was nothing more galling than having to "like" a page before telling them they suck.


The (Not-So) Ugly

This leaves us with some of the new features, which are liked and disliked in equal measure.

Lists

Lists are an attempt to be more like Google+. This is misguided thinking. Facebook's market is you and your Mom. Not immersed Social Media users who are going to have a number of profiles on sites around the Internet. For most Facebook users, sharing with friends and family is one and the same.

I also call into question the premise that Segmentation = Privacy. Keeping your Friends in separate rooms is not the same thing as Privacy.

Worse, they did a terrible job of it. (^_^); My Family List had my wife's niece on it, but not my wife. Or any of my immediate family.

How to Handle This: Luckily Lists are easily removable. Scroll to the left of the List name until you see the pencil icon. Click "Hide." (I find, however, that my Lists have reappeared this AM, despite removing them yesterday. That could be very annoying.) Once Lists were removed, I found my Feed returning to a format I was more comfortable with.


The Update Ticker

I like this, although this wins as the number one "Turn this damn thing off!" that I see in comments. In the right sidebar, the top now is a ticker of comments by friends or on friends' posts.

How to Handle This: Lifehacker has posted an article on how to kill the Update ticker.

Scrolling Top Toolbar

A colleague of mine and long-time friend, Bonnie Wasilewski, pointed out the neat new feature of the top Toolbar scrolling down the page with you. Now you don't have to scroll back to the top to see notifications or get back to your home. I hadn't even noticed this, until she pointed it out, but dang! it's useful!

How to Handle This: Use it. No matter where you are on the site, you'll see what's going on in your world, without having to jump up and down the page.


Subscribe Button

For those of us with public lives, this is a welcome feature. Now people can read our posts, without us having to "Friend" them.

You can read status updates, see links and feel part of the life of your favorite celebrities and thinkiner, without having the right to communicate with them. Think of Subscribe like reading a newspaper in your home used to be. You get to read, but there's no real way to comment in real-time.

How to Handle This: Each post you make can be marked Friends, Public or Custom. You default to Friends, but if you don't mind your Subscribers reading something, mark it Public.


Conclusion 

The biggest problem in all these changes is Facebook's misunderstanding of their audience. In their desperate attempt to stay relevant and cutting edge, they are losing people from both edges of their usage curve.

People who wanted Google+-like features are already on Google+. I see many comments to the effect that people are "done" with Facebook and can be found exclusively at G+ now. (This is an issue I want to write about at length later, because in Social Media, you can't take your ball and go home.)

On the other end of the curve, are Mom and Pop users who really only wanted to see their kids and grandkids and share some pictures. The new changes will alienate and confuse these people, and over-complicate the site needlessly for them.

In the end, when the kerfuffle has settled, and everyone has gotten used to the Good, Bad and Ugly of the new format, Facebook will change it all around again. (Update: Facebook has already announced more changes to come, starting off with Facebook Timelines. Stay tuned!)

This is what happens when Facebook changes its layout - The Oatmeal

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Fallacy of Social Timing and the Wisdom of the Crowdbooster

If you read any smart Social Media guidelines available, one of the absolute most common pieces of advice you'll see is to be mindful of the timing of your statuses and tweets. "Put them out there when they are most likely to be seen!" is the seemingly obvious advice from all quarters. There's a science of social timing that is both absolutely correct....and completely, utterly worthless.

I've been using Crowdbooster.com to get a clean visual image of the impact my Tweets and Facebook posts have in their spaces. Here's an example:


This chart shows me which tweets were most replied to, retweeted and which got the most impressions. Crowdbooster also will suggest new influencers that have followed me, and suggest I interact with them, or which Tweets I should share on Facebook, since they were popular on Twitter (not always the best advice, either, but that's another post.)

Overall, I'm really happy with Crowdbooster, more so than many other measuring tools I've used. If you'd like an invite, ask in the comments and I'd be glad to share what I can.

But the wisdom of the Crowd fails in regards to timing. Not because it's wrong - but because it misses the point. And so do most articles that discuss the importance of timing in Social Media.


This seems like a very reasonable suggestion  - and it is, honestly, I get great feedback when I post on Twitter around 7AM, 10AM and 2PM. So where's the fallacy? The fallacy is in thinking that this time is important for me to post. The reality is - this is when I spend time interacting, posting and replying almost every single day. So, of *course* that is when I will have developed an audience, who will read, retweet, reply, share, etc.

The fallacy is in assuming that the times you should post are being driven by some external wind that you have no control of, and all you can do is hang on and get your posts out there. This is obviously not true. If you run a branding workshop every Monday at 9AM Pacific Time (as @Brandingexpert Rob Frankel does every week,) then after a few weeks, you can imagine that Crowdbooster would tell you that running that workshop at 9AM Pacific Time every week is the best time to do it.

Forget Social Timing, Create your own schedule. Create your audience and your market. Take control of your time and don't let the wisdom of the crowd - or the Crowdbooster - tell you when you "should" be on social media.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What Does Your Klout Score Mean to You?

Recently, Social Media Influence measuring tool Klout has been a hot topic in the Social Media sphere. Not just because of the scores it gives out like grades, but more for the power that Klout provides to companies and savvy marketers.

I see a lot of anti-Klout backlash on Twitter, people harrumphing about not having time or interest to worry about their score...and even more people who are concerned with increasing their score. On Quora someone asked "How much Klout does Klout really have?" Here is my answer:

It depends on what kind of clout you're looking at Klout for.

Right now, Users are looking at Klout as a measure of their influence - which Klout broadly defines as likelihood of response to a tweet/post/status.

Brand Marketers are looking at Klout as a tool to identify Key Opinion Leaders so they don't have to do their own KOL research. (Which, I admit, having done qute a bit of that over the years, can be a drag.)

Most of the folks who are actively engaged with Social Media see Klout as a kind of gold star on their report card. It's not like they really *care* per se, but they know that lazy, time-crunched people make decisions based on things like that, so they keep it high, without actively pursuing a a high Klout score for the sake of having a high score.

EVERYONE knows it's a game and can be manipulated, and that the algorithm is flawed, skewed and biased. But it simplifies complexity, and that has some value, even if it is flawed, skewed and biased.

There was some press this week about a fashion party that only allowed people with a Klout score of 40 or above in. That shows a complete misunderstanding of the kind of authenticity needed to have a good Social Media reputation. To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I wouldn't join a party that would let me in...for that kind of reason.

I like Klout. I've gotten some good perks. My score is good. It's a tool, and a score, and maybe even an entree to exclusive things, but the true clout I've built is the way I interact on Social Media platforms. I have a high Klout score because I have clout, not the other way around.

What's your take on Klout?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Do You Know Who You're Talking To?

This morning I encountered, for the xillionth time, a pitch for a great new product. There is a clear niche it could fill, and no one else is doing it, the pitchman said - so why aren't people jumping on board?

This person had the answer to the number one question start-up advisers say needs to be answered: What problem does your product solve?

But he didn't have the answer to another, extremely important question: Who are you talking to? This question is the corner piece of any good communications strategy.

If you have a solution to a problem that only affects a very small audience, it's going to be much, much harder to gain traction, even if the product is an excellent idea.

And, if there are any other near-solutions already embedded in the industry, even if they aren't as perfect as your solution, you're going to have to be that much more convincing to pry people away from tried-and-true methods.

So, before you start your new Social Media campaign for that exciting new product, take a second to decide just *who* you need to be speaking to. Do you need to get your industry on board first? Or your peers for review? Perhaps it doesn't matter and you need to get end users first and foremost.

Then map out *where* you intend on speaking with these folks and *how* you plan on bringing them into your fold. Fans do not typically hang out in the same spaces as industry peers - and they rarely use the same language. Match your communications to the venue and the audience

Have a plan for engagement. "Hi everyone, I have a great idea!" is often the tone taken by companies when they appeal to their consumer base. Great ideas are everywhere. What you need is a great plan for execution.

Then, lastly, have a clear, concise way to measure commitment. Know what it is you are trying to achieve - perhaps your first step is simply getting people to sign up, then you hope to convert a percentage to the paying model. Know this first, so you can be honest about your success or failure.

Who you plan on talking to is a critical corner piece of your business' puzzle. Get that organized and you'll find that the rest of your plan will begin to come together neatly.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

On Social Media and the Quantification of the Qualitative

One of the biggest movements in Social Media Marketing right now is the search for numbers. Marketers and and companies are flailing to find a way to drive business through Social Media efforts...and failing horribly. Earlier this year, Practical Matters reported that few sales are generated through Social Media.

Klout, EmpireAvenue, Twtrland, and a million other tools, both free and paid, promote themselves as ways to understand the influence your Social Media use has. In the end, few of these have value beyond garnering how many people see a thing and, perhaps, how many people reacted to it in the least possible way (Retweet, Like, Share, +1.)

Our response to all of this should be "Well, duh~." On Quora a number of people have put their finger squarely on the problem of "measuring influence."  Influence is not a number.

I love Klout, I really do. But there is a huge flaw at the center of Klout - and at the center of all influence measuring tools - they are measuring something that isn't quantitative. Klout tells me that they measure engagement - how likely a comment I make somewhere is likely to be responded to. But they don't (and can't) measure the quality of that engagement.

At the heart of Influence is human interaction. This is not a numbers game. Any marketer that talks to you about likes and votes and other quantitative measures, is missing the key point of Social Media being Social.

Social Media is about you reaching past your own self-interests. It's not as complicated as creating a "vote for your favorite charity to get some money (that we will claim on our taxes)" and it's not "for every $$ you spend, we will give ten cents to charity (that we will claim on our taxes.)" There's nothing social in corporate philanthropy, or telling the world how much your employees gave to charity. These are entirely self-serving numbers.

Social Media is about building relationships based on trust, credibility and from that, building influence. There are no numbers here. Your spouse is not a 72 (although this week, the number has been going up.) The friend who was there to help you move in is not a 60.

Set aside the numbers for a day, a week, a month. Don't check your Klout score. Don't look at your Radian6 dashboard. Ask a question and see what kind of response you get. Praise someone for their support and see who else chimes in. Reach out to help someone and see how many other hands reach with you. That's the measure of your Influence.

It's time to stop quantifying the qualitative. It's time for Social Media to be about people, not numbers.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Building Internal Traction for Your Corporate Blog

You've opened up a blog site and told everyone on the Exec team to go ahead and blog. Now, weeks later, the blog is still pretty empty. What's missing? A corporate blog, like everything else in the corporate world, needs a value proposition.

Before you even open that blog, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered honestly.

Is it really a good idea to have a corporate blog?

Is sharing information likely to help or hinder your business?

Is there a culture of sharing or non-sharing in place in the company? If so, how did that culture arise and what are logical ways to shift that?

***

Once these questions have been answered, you're going to have to get through the next set:

Why would someone want to share information on that blog - tell them why.

How does someone share information on the blog - tell them how.

What kinds of information are sharable - tell them what.

Who can share information - tell them who.

Until there is a clear, concise incentive/value for people to share information on your corporate blog, they're just going to go about business as usual.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Three Things I Won't Share On Social Media (Unless I Want To)

It's pretty obvious to anyone on any Social Media platform that advertising is still the main business model. And it's pretty obvious to advertisers that the more they know about me, the better a job they can do at predicting what I might want to buy next.

To that end, most Social Media networks ask me to share a lot of my personal information with them. Of course they want me to find people like myself, past work colleagues, alumuni of my college, people with similar interests - and so they tell me how much easier it would be to find these people if only I were part of that network.

In fact, when I first joined Facebook, you had to pick a geographic network. Whether you liked it or not, you were lumped in with people in your relative geographic location. As soon as I was able to remove a geographic network from my FB account, I did.

There are many reasons I might want to share a piece of information with a Social Media platform and there are even more reasons why I might not. When you're asking for personal information, contact information and other market research data, consider that what is best for you, is not always best for your customer.

Here are three things I won't share with you, unless you make me...or unless I want to.

1) My Past Locations
This includes former addresses, places of employment and education.

Maybe it's just me, but I really have very little incentive to speak with the folks I knew in high school. Or college. Or grad school. We were in the same place at the same time, and we did share some experiences but that doesn't mean we're "friends." And if we are, there's a good chance I'll know how to find them without your help. The same is true for former colleagues and neighbors. These are situational relationships and once we're no longer dealing with the same boss, we may in fact have nothing in common.

Before you ask us where we went to school, consider that, for many people, school was *not* the greatest time of their lives and that things that happened in that (perhaps distant) past are not really worth revisiting. And what, really, value is that to you as a social platform or as a business? Consider the analogue version of this question, "Oh, you're from Ohio? My nephew lives there....do you know him?" When you ask me where I went to school, so I can "connect" with other people who went to that school, that's exactly what I hear in my head.

2) My Present Location
I'm not going to propose a scenario here about women, and the consequences of telling perfect strangers where to find them, but let's be realistic here - for ages, companies have asked us to provide our names, addresses, phone numbers and emails if we so much as want to mention that their coupon had a spelling mistake.  WHY? You are not going to call us - we don't want you to call us, it would be intrusive and weird.

Foursquare is a system designed around the idea that reporting our location could be of benefit to us. Check in and get a discount. Check in a lot and get a bigger discount. But...take a step back and tell me that this wouldn't be the most useful tool for a stalker in the known universe. Because it would. And if you have ever written an article, blog post, book or done an interview and had a mailbox full of hate, there is no way this tool is going to look like something you want to participate in.

3) My Future Location
I might be planning a trip. I might even want to share it with my Twitter pals. Does that mean that I want ads telling me about great deals in that location? Maybe...but not unless you ask me first.

Again, imagine an analogue scenario. You're talking to friends on the phone about a trip. Then your local travel agency calls, "We hear you're going to Las Vegas. Call us about a special deal on hotels!" "Targeted advertising" feels remarkably similar to "creepy eavesdropping" for the average person. The fact that you're parsing my status updates doesn't make your business clever....it makes your business a stalker.

Before you ask questions about your consumers, consider the possibility that being intrusive has less value than you think in a building a relationship with them.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Reward Tactics for One-, Two- or Three- Dimensional Media Consumers

Many years ago, I was speaking with a work colleague about a popular movie that had a twist at the end. She promised not to spoil it for me, but I assured her, although I had not seen the movie itself, I knew the twist. She was completely confused as to how this could be. The difference between us was in "dimensions."

One-Dimensional Consumers take in information pushed out by mostly mainstream media in a one-way direction. TV news, newspapers, radio all provide information to people who are influenced by the ideas with which they are presented, often far beyond their ability to recognize. They communicate with friends and family, but don't share ideas beyond immediate benefits. These consumers like coupon sites, discounts for following you on a social media platform and are unlikely to become advocates across a wide field.

Recommended Tactic: To reach one-dimensional consumers, provide Immediate Value. Give 15% off for presenting this coupon or coupon code at time of order. Requests to share reviews, or news will be met with blank stares, as their relationship with you is one a single line  - you to them. Keep them informed about deals and sales, but don't expect them to do more than tell  a friend - in person- about your rewards.


Two-Dimensional Consumers consume media from a small circle of contacts and share with a largely overlapping group. Within the group, they may share, but information from outside the group is weighted as far less important, or even completely ignored.

Recommended Tactic: For this group, Tell A Friend can make an impact. These people eat together, go out together. Allowing them to share a discount or special will bond the group tighter and bring in 4, 6 or 8 people instead of 2 to your business.


Three-Dimensional Consumers see themselves as a nexus of information. They consume from many sources and, are as likely to share that information out to their circles as they are to act on it for themselves.

Recommended Tactic: These people need Portable Rewards. Don't limit them to proprietary access or require them to access from one platform. Reward engagement and advocacy more than just passive support. These folks are your frequent mentions, shared links and major influencers. Don't ignore them when they speak to you, which they will. Be responsive and they will reward you with positive feedback that spans their extensive network.

Create reward strategies that are appropriate to the level of  consumer engagement, and you'll find your Social Media tactics paying higher return on investment.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Six Ways to Make Your Content More Un/Sharable

The goal of Social Media for business is, arguably, getting your name as widely spoken of as possible. The more people who follow, friend, fan, connect and like you and your business, the more people are available to share your news, specials and content. What you want, in a nutshell, is to expand and strengthen you brand.

Today we talk about what works and what doesn't in terms of spreading brand engagement, i.e., what makes your content sharable.  To do that, let's start with what doesn't work particularly well:

Unsharable

1) Make People Seem Self-Absorbed by Sharing

I just signed up to try your service out. It's a little early to ask me to share that news with my friends. In fact, when I read that Twitter you automatically provide me, "I just got a trial to XYZ platform! Come sign up, so I get something special!" it just about screams "douchebag." Who does this? When you are in a supermarket, do you stand in front of the sample counter and scream "Hey! I just got a taste of this new grape juice! You should totally be impressed and get one too, so I can get a free towel!"

So, please, don't ask me to shout about a free trial. I like my friends and don't want them to think badly of me.

2) Make People Confused by Sharing

I liked your article - enough that I want to share it. But when I click RT on Twitter, instead of "Spring Shoes Preview" I see "RT @VeryLongMagazineName From your home for fashion, and cool things, and great site in general VeryLongTitlename: http://www.verylongurlname/abstractnumber.... via sharingplatform"

This is a direct abuse of my interest. Now I have to make sure I edit the heck out of your bad titling strategy, which is way more work than your article was worth. Keep it simple has got to be the bottom line on your title strategy.  Good Retweets ought to look like this:

RT Who What: Where and leave room for a short Why. (Short, so other people can retweet it again.)


3) Make People Work Hard to Find What is Shared

Maybe it's just me, but there is nothing that annoys me more than clicking on your link to an article, which sends me to your website, where you've scraped the original headline, that I then have to click. I know a lot of well-known Social Media Experts do this...it doesn't make it right. I will NEVER share your link, if I know you've done this. I will always go to the original article and share it from there. You've hijacked a headline, you don't deserve my assistance.


Sharable

1) Make People Feel Smart by Sharing

A snappy title is nice (particularly a title that is short, and makes for easy sharing,) but what really gets me going is something I haven't seen before, something that is relevant to my audience.


2) Make People Feel Generous By Sharing

In direct opposition to asking me to share an exclusive experience, most people are way more likely to share something when they can appear generous by doing so. In the case of the trial service above, which asked me to ask my friends to see if they are "eligible," how much cooler would it have been for the company to say, "since you are eligible, you can share three free trials with friends!" Then I'd feel good about sharing the trial, my friends might like it better than I do, and your trial could potentially get you 4 customers, rather than one with fewer friends to share with.

3) Bonus: Make People Feel Good By Sharing

Let go of the bottom line. Do something for the sheer good of humanity, and invite your advocates join you. When your sharable news ties the good nature of your customers to your corporate philanthropy, you've missed the point. Let people know that they have done good and they'll want to share the experience.

There is no one right or wrong way to share information, but removing barriers between your content and your followers' desire to communicate their ideals will get your name further afield with every share.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Social Media for Crisis Management: Using Your Powers for Your Own Good

Recently, an acquaintance Twittered me about a potential crisis situation at an event they were attending. I checked the event Twitter Feed and found that the event itself was, quite conspicuously, *not* tweeting about situation.

Nearly an hour passed before the event's feed mentioned the crisis - and only to say that it had been handled and nothing important had occurred. In the meantime, thousands of tweets had gone out about the situation. Many people were looking at the official feed for information and finding nothing. Worse, during that time, the official feed was commenting about a photo shoot elsewhere in the event, making the event look clueless and self-absorbed.

What does that say about the event's understanding and use of their own resources?

Whether you're dealing with a unsatisfied customer, or an emergency situation at your office, there are a few things you must use your Social Media presence for at all times:

Know What Is Being Said About You

If you are on the Internet, there is no good reason to not at least have a Google Alert set up to see who is saying what about you where. More advanced listening and monitoring tools are available, many of them are free. This doesn't have to be complicated. Make it part of your morning with-coffee reading.

Whoever is charge of Social Media for your company - whether it's you or a hired hand -  should have a command center view of what is being said where about your business. This view allows you to know when a situation is brewing, what questions people are asking about your company and what issues are of importance to them. Paying attention to what's being said about your business online is as key a listening skill as pay attention to your customers when they ask for help.

At this event, clearly there was someone Twittering - and, just as clearly, there was no one monitoring Twitter to see what situations, questions, complaints and issues were arising.
In the meantime, people *were* using Twitter to try and identify the problem and communicate whether the situation was serious or not to other attendees.

It would have been far better for the event to have taken control of the situation instantly to provide information, but they let the moment pass, and the control of their Twitter feed slipped right out of their hands.


Be In Control of Your Own News

We all prefer to learn important news from people involved, rather than second- or third-hand. Obviously, if your child comes home from school with a bad grade, you hope they will tell you, so you don't have to learn it from their teacher.

When your company is facing a crisis, your consumers, followers, fans want to hear from *you.* Not a newspaper, or a third party. And if you aren't breaking your own news, someone else will be glad to break it for you.

No one wants to share bad news, but before a situation spirals out of control is the best time to take control of that news and be seen as reliable and transparent by your stakeholders.



Keep Your Customers Informed

Once a situation occurs, it's already too late to keep the cat in the bag. Your stakeholders will know about it almost as soon as you do.  If they are keyed into Social Media, they may know about *before* you do. They will look to you for guidance and communication. They may want answers, but more than anything else, they want leadership - and they want it from you.

Now is not the time to stay secluded and work on a slick strategy. Now is definitely not the time to ignore the bad news and post happy, shiny news. Now is the time to get in front of the messaging and be visible and present, so stakeholders are reassured that things are not falling apart at the top and the left hand knows what the right hand is doing.


Provide Solutions Before They're Needed

In the case of this event, a few official tweets asking people to stay calm, stay away from the area in question and assurances that inconveniences would be cleared up as quickly as possible, would have gone a long way to keeping the area clear. In the meantime, officials could well be hampered by curious crowds, while rumors spread online.

Even better, if the official feed had provided alternate access routes, meeting points, and communications venues, the message received by attendees would have been that the event had itself completely together. Instead, they received radio silence, as rumors spread.


In Times of Crisis...Have A Plan 

Having a crisis strategy for your Social Media is just as important as having an emergency plan for your office. Of course no one wants to plan for catastrophe, but having a plan in place will, at minimum, save your company's reputation, and could gain your company respect for the way it handles the moment.

Listen to what's being said, stay in control of the situation and on top of the messaging - set a groundwork for social media use in a crisis -  for your own good.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Paving a New Path to Social Media ROI

For most businesses, there is one major obstacle between themselves and effective use of Social Media. "Relationships" are not enough of a Return on Investment for many executives to greenlight use of resources.

Many curently successful businesses were developed in a world where the path to ROI was well-established. Media was a known quantity, what would be invested and what could be reasonably supposed to be received were all relatively standardized. ROI became a series of mathematic formulas applied to cost.

As media use by consumers shift, so do those well-known formulas. What formula is there for understanding the place of the consumer's voice to your business?

Now is a perfect time to reformulate your path to ROI.   

For many businesses, our choice of media is no longer the deciding factor in the success of a campaign. Our choice of approach is.

There are six paving stones on the new path to Social Media ROI.

Step 1: Build Your Audience 

Many social media strategies end at this crucial first step. Based on the old marketing trope of more eyeballs equals more ROI, companies open multiple social media profiles or work on giant campaigns to get as many "Likes" or followers as possible.

Unfortunately, in this new world, numbers don't translate into business. When companies set up a presence on Foursquare, or a discount on Groupon, they get an initial rush, but not repeat business.

Without a loyalty feedback loop, sheer numbers will only provide you with the initial surge that any new campaign brings.

So, start by building your audience...but don't stop there.


Step 2: Develop a Culture of Engagement

Comments and Retweets are the first indication that people are listening to us. Are we listening to them? Do we share good news from our followers, do we retweet their tweets and comment on their posts on our Facebook Wall?

Companies that create an environment of accepting both positive and negative comments with aplomb and receptiveness, let people know that they aren't only letting best friends forever in the clubhouse.


Step 3: Develop a Feedback Loop  

Now that folks are listening to you - show that you're listening to them

Engagement is a two-way road. We can't truly expect to build a loyal following if we ignore people when they try and speak with us. When companies make the effort to acknowledge those who acknowledge them, they create more even more positive feelings about their products and services.


Step 4: Let the counting begin 

By now you should know what you're counting. Visits will give way to views of videos/products/mentions to third parties.  There are so many tools available right now that it's no longer a question of how to measure, but what, exactly is meaningful measurement for your company.

Know what your own influence is and where. Track the sentiment associated with your company and products/services. It's no good to be top of Google for "worst service ever!"

What are you doing - what actions are you tracking - what numbers have some meaning to you? How many times is your new project site visited - who is visiting, how long are they there, where are they sharing the news? Track not just what people do on your site, but what they say about you when they leave it. Don't just live in your corner of the Internet - own it.


Step 5: The Road More Traveled 

Highlight paths of action for your followers. Give them a welcome page that will make it easy for them to find you, to buy from you, to download your trial. By now you know what you want them to do - let your site, your tweets, your announcements lead them to do it.

You can see from your tracking efforts which Social Media profiles are the most successful and where people are going to provide you with the best possible results. Craft your messaging to highlight these well-established paths. Make it as easy as possible to go from Step A to Step B.


Step 6: The Light At the End of the Tunnel 

Of course once you have them on your shop, or your Whitepaper, or video page, you need to know if they are buying, downloading, viewing. Keep them focused on the path you want them to take - then watch to see if people follow that path or jump the fence. There's your ROI - are people taking the actions you want them to take? Have they filled out the form, joined your Facebook Page or listened to that podcast? Take a look at those ultimate actions to understand if your are getting the ROI you seek.

With each new marketing push or campaign, start back at the beginning  and pave your new path with these six stepping stones to establish a clear ROI for your Social Media efforts.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Old Social Media is Alive and Well - Are You Using All Your Tools?

When you think of "Social Media," what's the first thing that comes to mind? Twitter? GetGlue? Facebook? Gowalla?

As the pace of technology increases, and new social platforms and "solutions" are created and paraded practically every day by marketers and media alike, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the new - and it's easy to be tempted to throw away the old.

What do I mean by "Old Social Media?"

Mailing Lists, Groups (Google Groups are what used to be known as UseNET, Yahoo Groups are Mailing Lists) Forums and Discussion Boards can be just as relevant to your business today as they were ten or fifteen years ago. Remember - the medium isn't the message - the message is the message. Find your audience where they already are and reach out to them there. 

Case in Point: My wife subscribes to a number of extremely niche mailing lists. Yahoo Groups was not and never will be elegant, but it allows for a pretty high level of functionality for a mailing list owner and doesn't require any knowledge of ListServ commands for users. Let's face it, Yahoo Groups is pretty Lowest Common Denominator. Which is exactly why it can be so useful.

Low barriers to entry, exit and management, make Y!Groups a popular platform for old-school mailing lists.

And, as I say, my wife subscribes to several. One of them deals with the topic of Ancient Roman Cooking. This is exactly where a Mailing List excels. When you have a small, rather specific niche, having a mailing list is a great way to keep people who are interested in the topic up to date with events, news, and allow them to have focused conversations.

In this particular case, an author of a book on the topic took the chance to reach out to people who are immersed in this niche and let them know that an event of interest - at which she would be lecturing and dinner based on the famous Roman gourmand, Apicius', recipes would be prepared - was coming up.

Don't believe in the power of Mailing Lists? Too glamorous, tool old-fashioned?

Well, upon hearing about this dinner and lecture, my wife and I decided to fly across the country to attend. How's that for the power of Social Media?

Email marketing, mailing lists, groups all may seem horribly old-fashioned these days, but the the #1 rule of Social Media is "talking with people." Talk to them *wherever* they are. You've got too much to do already - don't ignore the tried and true over the new and shiny. Social Media is talking with the folks who walk in your office door, on your Fan Page, following your Livejournal or on your mailing list. They may not be shiny, but whatever gets you in front of people who care is the right tool for the job.

When planning out your Social Media, don't ignore the tools you already have in your tool belt. That's Good Social Media.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Social Media is Customer Service - Do What You Say

For any business owner, business development is personal. Whether you have a BD department, or pay someone to do your marketing, ultimately you reap the rewards and it's you who cleans up the mess.

Communicating with people always leaves openings for misunderstandings. Today we'll touch on a few key points to help keep customer communications smooth.

1) Keep Everyone Informed

From the Head of Business Development right down to the kid who comes in three times a week to help re-stock, it is critical that everyone in your organization is on board with development processes, tools, tactics and campaigns. Imagine the potential cost to you if the kid who stocks is headed out the door, and meets a family of five who asks him, "Is this the week when children's shoes are half price?" and he has no idea that the sale is going on. "Uh, no...?" he replies and that family walks away.

This is the same scenario when your Foursquare account tells customers that they get a free appetizer for checking in, but the wait staff has never heard of any such thing.

When companies get a bit larger, it becomes easy to send out memos about critical tactics and assume that they have been read and understood. To avoid gaffes of miscommunication, make it a priority to communicate that today is special, because...to everyone in the company.

2) Be Prepared to Fulfill

Companies that do a lot of promotional campaigns are used to customers walking in with a variety of coupons that may or may not be mixed and matched. When your company offers a deal through Social Media, be prepared to carry through with exceptional service and the deal as described. Even if it's not what you usually do.

3) Don't "Explain," Communicate

When you get on Facebook, are you ready to hear what customers have to say, or are you closing off the Wall, so you can stay blissfully unaware?

Explaining *why* a situation get ugly, or a customer was denied isn't half as powerful a business development tool as making sure the customer gets what they were promised.

The better your communication lines are - responding to general inquiries, knowing what people are saying and not covering your Social Media ears when problems arise, the better you can learn from one BD tactic to another.

Listen to what you employees and customers are saying, then follow up with both. Don't leave employees dangling, don't leave customers unhappy.

Do What You Say and Say What You Do to effectively maximize your Customer Service and Social Media.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It Takes a Community to Build a Community on Facebook

We have a vision.

Our stores will be full of people, cheerfully exchanging greetings with the salespeople who know them by name.

Our gigs will be full of fans.

Our products will fly off the shelf.

Our events will be full of entertained, educated attendees.

We have a vision of our company, our organization, our band our cause.

The question is - how do we get there? How do we fill our stores, our gigs, our events with people?

One of the most common things you read about Social Media is that it helps build a community. While this can be true, it's not a simple prospect. As many businesses have found, Facebook Pages often lead to - at best - a few "Likes" per post and, often, dead silence even when direct questions are asked.

The truth is - it takes a community to build a community.

Let's take my friend's band as an example. I know, it's a friend, so you're gonna roll your eyes when you read this but - they really are very, very good. Like so many bands, they have a unique sound that appeals to an adult sensibility. If you know anything about music, you know that the sharing of music has made it easier - and harder than ever before - for bands to be heard.

The band has a Facebook Page, but gets almost no response from posts - a clear indication that the band was "liked" by friends and friends of friends, then hidden. Or folks who aren't terribly active on FB are making up a big part of the "Likes." Very typical problems for a small audience on Facebook. With few people paying attention, then only a few people are listening, liking, sharing or commenting.

Before they can build a community around their music - or become part of an existing community for independent musicians - there are some questions they have to be able to answer. All of us have to answer these questions before we can effectively create a community of any kind:

Who are we?

What do we want to say?

Who are we talking to?

and, Who is doing the talking?

Facebook is a terrible place to build an audience or a community. Successful Pages on Facebook are almost always Pages by already-popular brands, companies or people who are using Facebook as another way to touch base with people who already know about - and care about - them.

When we envision our communities on Facebook, we have visions of a busy Wall, full of encouragement and conversation. What many companies often see is a series of announcements, requests for "Likes" and finally, pleas for a response of any kind.

Before you put your eggs in the Facebook basket, build yourself a community elsewhere. Keep it lively, full of conversation and contests, questions and answers. When you've built those conversations up in other places, you can feed those folk who already make up your audience a new way to communicate with you - on Facebook. Instead of using Facebook to build an audience from scratch, you'll want to control the space yourself. Your forums, your mailing list, your website, your terms of engagement. It's much easier to know who you are when you're on home turf. Develop your identity in a space you control - then take it on the road. Building an audience through Facebook is hard, expanding upon an audience already built using Facebook is easy.

The folks who engage with you elsewhere can help you grow your Facebook presence. Then you'll have a community to help you build that Facebook community.

***

Postscript: My friend's band is Eminence Grey (he's given me permission to mention their name and link to them) and if you do visit their Facebook page, you can listen to their song "Mourning Coffee" on the Facebook music player. It's a pretty terrific track, so I hope you'll drop by for a listen!

Project Wonderful

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