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 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 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:


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 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.


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.

Project Wonderful