Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Two Things You Can't Fake on Social Media

This week Social Media channels are abuzz with NBC's epic failure to recognize what Social Media is about...and what the Internet is, full stop. While Twitter blazes with reported failures of NBC's streaming channels and inability to access live coverage, NBC executives have taken to the airwaves to explain to the denizens of the Internet how the problems are all their fault.

The above debacle is a massive and public expression of the two things that cannot be faked in Social Media: Cluefulness and Relevance.

Being clueless is, unfortunately for many businesses, quite simple. All you need to do is have no idea of the needs of your audience, or any idea of what social media really is (hint: it's a lot of people talking...).

Being Clueful and Relevant means you know:

Who Your Audience Is (Where they are, When they are on)

What They Want

How They Intend to Get What They Want If You Don't Give It To Them

This last is where NBC really dropped the ball. By insisting on delayed coverage for the Opening Ceremonies, I guess they expected we'd all sit around staring at the clock. Instead, many of us simply found overseas streams and proxy servers, so we could watch the Ceremonies live. It took me, oh, about 15 minutes to find a working overseas stream. When that one cut out, it took me 10 more minutes to find another one.

But I'm not talking about NBC today. I'm talking about another failure to be Clueful or Relevant. A much, much smaller scale of failure, but just as annoying.

Yesterday I received a tweet: Hey @Yuricon! I followed you, you should follow me!

Okay, not the most skilled opening, but maybe sincere. So I popped over to their account and found something that only very tangentially intersected my interests and the interests of my audience. I tweeted back:

"Your topic isn't my topic, but if you say something interesting, I'll share it and follow."

Okay, so far, another day on Twitter. Bear in mind that I am outspoken about media's failure when it comes to women (hyper-sexualization, body image, unequal portrayals of men and women in power, dismissive and judgmental language in regards to women, etc.,). The next tweet showed a massive dose of Cluelessness.

The person/company in question assured me that they understood women, because he (he had identified himself) was publishing a book on self-improvement for women. My response was admittedly very sarcastic, something about how wonderful that was, because more women need more men to tell them how to improve themselves.

Here's my point. NBC execs are taking to Twitter to tell us to stop whining, that the problems are with our computers..., this shows clearly a complete lack of connection with their audience. It's obvious that to NBC and to the IOC, that we are merely a commodity to be bought and sold. NBC cannot fake having a clue, or understanding the least anything about Social Media. This guy was also unable to fake being Clueful or Relevant and instead, just opted to throw his one pitch with "something about women" at me.

The worst part about companies pretending to have a clue or to be relevant, is that it is horribly, painfully evident to anyone looking on.

NBC could have asked their interns, "Hey, if we do a time-delay on the Opening Ceremonies, what would you do?" This guy could have read some of my posts and seen what he does that would be relevant to me and my audience.

Have a clue who you're talking to - about what - and why - and you won't need to fake anything at all.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

How Social Media Can Work in the Brick and Mortar World

The first post on this blog starts, as it should, from the beginning. To make sure we're all talking about the same thing, I provide a short overview of the terminology we're using. Here are a few highlights relevant to today's post:

Social Media is the media you use to communicate with people. It does not mean "online" or "Facebook." Any medium you use to communicate - to be social - is social media. Twitter is a form of social media. So is a forum or discussion group. So is a cocktail party.

Social Media Marketing is using social media to communicate the value of your products and services. If you are good at your business, you do this every time you talk to a customer. If you have a Fan page on Facebook, or a website with updates and promotions, you are also doing this. 

As I will say over and over here - the medium is not the message. It is merely a medium. If you can think of "talking to people" as a kind of medium - that's Social Media. You communicate something to them (wherever, however) and, if you do your job well, they communicate it to other people. The medium is "being social." 


Local businesses are having a hard time of it these days. They are being squeezed by the convenience (and, in some cases, the lack of sales tax) of online sites and the cost of doing business in brick and mortar world. I sympathize with local businesses, because physical real estate and overhead do make costs much higher upfront. Knowing this I will often go to a local business to get an item that I know I could get a little cheaper in a big box store, just to support the business and the town. However, I'm seeing a real gap in local businesses these days and it's not just in pricing. Return policies, greetings, pricing and communications skills all seem to be taking a hit.

I walked into a store recently, and saw *exactly* the item I was looking for. The price seemed competitive, so I asked if the price included a critical part (something without which the item was useless.) The person behind the counter came over, looked at the tag and said, "No." Then he started to add up the costs of the all the pieces that I would have to pay for. The total wasn't cheap, but it wasn't massively out of line with what I had seen for that item elsewhere. I thanked him, said it was a little expensive,  but that the piecemeal pricing was very offputting and walked out the door, wondering why he wasn't asking me what I needed the item for, how much his competitors were charging and most importantly...what he could do to make that sale?

Social Media is talking with people, Social Media Marketing is communicating the value of your goods and services. That store owner could have used Social Media to fill my immediate needs and make that sale by doing any one of the following:

Ask a Question

Had he stopped me with "What are planning on using this for?" as a lead-in to a discussion of the superior quality and longer life of this item as opposed to some other brand, he would have stopped me from leaving the store. Being interested in why I needed it, and how I would use it, could end up making that sale.

Tell a Story

Surely someone else has bought that item, why not tell me about that person, and how it suited them. Don't offhandedly say "well, pros like it," because that doesn't mean anything to me, but a hearty tale of stability, flexibility for multiple situations and long life could have made that cost seem less of an obstacle.

Be the Expert

When I go to a local business, I expect that you know every single item like the back of your hand. If I want confused stares and shrugs, I'll go to big box stores. I came to this store because they specialize in this field - I expect to get expert advice. If the best you can do is quote a price and watch me walk out the door, you've lost your chance to be seen as a resource.

Make a Deal 

This is a classic fall-back technique. Throw in a lower-priced, but necessary item, if I buy the rest of the kit. It's low cost for you and I'll need to replace that part anyway, eventually, so if I've bought the rest of the set-up, you can be pretty sure I'll come back here to get the replacement.


A good Yelp review is nice and might get someone in the door, but best practices when you speak with every customer will stop them from walking out again and keep them coming back.

Online or offline, brush up your Social Media and make those sales.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dress Up Your Profile for a LinkedIn Groups Interview

When one reads articles about professional networking on LinkedIn, LI Groups are almost always a key component.

LinkedIn Groups are loose confederations of people with a topic, industry, company or qualifications in common. Conversation is mostly driven by group members, and from time to time by a highly engaged group leaders. Some LI Groups have very specific criteria - members of trade associations, employment in a certain field, particular academic achievements, work experience at a specific company, but many others have more open criteria and will allow people who are even peripherally associated with the topic to join. Each group is a little different, and each will have a different take on what makes a good member.

I run an industry-related group myself and, as a result, I see all the various ways a person can misunderstand, misrepresent or simply miss a chance to be seen as a valuable group member.

Here are a couple of tips on dressing up your profile so that the group leader adds you without hesitation:

First: Read the Group Description  Do you fit the group? Are you close, but not quite, what the group is looking for? If you really don't fit the group criteria re-think what you hoped to gain from the group. Check to see if the group posts are Public or not. You may be able to read posts, even if you are not a member of the group.  If you come close, then it's time for a relevance upgrade to your profile...

Second: Add Relevant Experience and Projects to your Profile You may be a volunteer at a local event and that is why you are so interested in this topic. Add that experience to your profile! Companies looking at candidates often look for outside relevant experience to round out on the job experience. Make every effort to let a group owner know that you belong in this group because you already have done relevant work.

Third: Write a Short Note to the Group Leader LinkedIn doesn't give Group Leaders a chance to require notes from applicants, but providing context goes a long way to filling in holes. Explaining how your experience or projects are relevant to the group. Don't give the group leader a resume, just highlight the relevance of your experience.

Fourth: Do Not Reply With Anger to a Rejection Because my group is an industry group, I end up rejecting a great number of people who do not really pay attention to the group criteria. Because some number of those people are younger, with little professional experience, I occasionally receive very angry emails explaining why my rejection was unfair. Not surprisingly, this does not work to change my mind...if anything it reinforces my belief that my choice was the correct one. No one needs or wants a professional group member who throws hissy fits. As the Group Owner one of my jobs is to keep the group from too much drama, in fact.

In my group, I am as flexible as possible when I allow folks in. If there is no note added, I will visit a profile and look for relevant experience. So frequently I encounter profiles that are incomplete or utterly bare, with no way to know why this person thinks they are a good match for the group. I also see a great deal of wishful thinking, as young people apply to the group in order, they hope, to get a job. Unfortunately, my group description specifically states that the group is not to be used for job-hunting. If they took a moment to read the description, they'd know that.

Seeing how you fit into the group will go a long way to saving time and energy (and avoiding potential rejection.) Dress up your profile and be professional to pass your LinkedIn Group interview.

Project Wonderful