February 24, 2010

Social Media & Cheese

Posted in Social Media at 8:02 am by R

A perfect storm of things happened to me in the past 24 hours.

I’m in Atlanta, GA this week for the Ragan Social Media for Communicators Conference at Coca-Cola. (To follow the action check out the hashtag #ragancoke. LOTS of good stuff will show up there I promise.)

I decided for my plane trip I would download some audiobooks to my iPod. Things I’d been meaning to read or have been reading about forever. Here’s what’s been playing so far:

I will have lots of great things to say about The Four Agreements at another time. Today my attention has been grabbed by Who Moved My Cheese? I do love a good cheese, which is perhaps why the tale resonated with me. But I think I was even more impacted by the proverb of Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw because of the conference I’m currently at.

In brief, here’s the story. Sniff and Scurry are mice, Hem and Haw are little people creatures. They all inhabit a maze. They are all looking for cheese. Sniff smells the air and Scurry takes off in the direction of the cheesy smell. Hem and Haw use their complex brains to reason out where the cheese might be. Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw eventually all find cheese at Cheese Station C. They eat. They are happy. Sniff notices the cheese dwindling and he and Scurry are prepared to head out to find more. Hem and Haw are surprised when they show up and there’s not a morsel of cheese left at Cheese Station C.

Scurry and Sniff repeat their process of sniffing and scurrying until they find more cheese at Cheese Station N. Hem and Haw stay at Cheese Station C wondering “WHO MOVED MY CHEESE?” The rest of the story reveals how Haw departs from Cheese Station C and faces his fears of change in search of new cheese, while Haw grumpily (and hungrily) sits at Cheese Station C, waiting for his cheese to return.

Obviously cheese is a metaphor for success, whatever you want to define cheese as you can. Having your cheese moved is a metaphor for unexpected change to which we must adapt if we still want to have cheese.

Whenever people talk about social media, they often do so in the context of change. Social media is the great change of the moment. It’s shifting paradigms in the way we communicate and the way we do business. Social media has moved the cheese.

I heard Ari Adler speak today. He began his presentation by talking about the past. In this case, the 80’s: when cellphones were the size of my laptop bag and front line brand ambassadors were the ones answering the phones.

Technology and time have of course changed all that. Social media, for now, is the fruition of all those technologies. We are truly mobile. We are truly real time. Things have truly changed. The cheese has moved. And if you or your business doesn’t move you’re going to get hungry.

The information I’ve learned here this week has been both illuminating and reassuring. Those of us working in the field are experiencing a lot of the same things — which is a relief! And there’s a lot of great minds here, which makes for a lot of good in person crowdsourcing. I know I’m bringing home some great ideas from the brilliant people I’ve met.

The cheese has moved. But if you are armed with good ideas you can become the cheese mover.

~R

November 18, 2009

Definition

Posted in Social Media at 9:21 pm by R

Being that the field I’m now in is relatively new (it didn’t exist when I graduated college), there’s the issue of definition. It’s been stated here before that there is no “expert” in social media, and I maintain that’s true.

So, the thing to do then, is to define what we who practice in the field of social media actually do.

Like a Wikipedia entry, it’s my sense that this will be an evolving definition, made richer with the various contributions of other as we collectively discover the many facets this new communications industry covers.

Social media isn’t all that different from the traditional definition of PR, which according to my PR 101 professor is:

To build and maintain relationships.

When we are called to be community managers in the social media space, we are building relationships. When we work to engage on an ongoing basis, we maintain. But social media extends well beyond this definition, not because it’s a broader field, but because we are called to master so many tools.

A lot of social media “experts” offer Twitter strategies, Facebook strategies, blogging strategies, etc. But that’s getting too granular to really be effective (which, coincidently is probably how “experts” are earning a bad rap). Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Blogs, Ning, YouTube, Flicker, you name it, they’re all tools to execute a strategy. And therein lies the real calling and the real challenge: Keep it strategic, don’t be a tool…er, don’t get caught up on a tool.

What’s my definition for social media practitioners/strategists?

One who is tasked with building and maintaining communities, inspiring engagement, creating meaningful interactions and conversations based in the scalable publishing technologies; listening, evaluating and learning from interactions and commentary; continually evaluating strategy to ensure network growth, engagement and resonance to achieve measurable goals.

Sounds nice…but I’m sure tomorrow it will be different. That’s the beauty of this gig!

What would you add to this definition?
~R

October 26, 2009

What’s Your Policy?

Posted in Social Media at 8:32 pm by R

Whether you’re a large corporation or a mom and pop shop, any business venturing into social media needs to have a policy.

  • Who is your spokesperson in social media?
  • What brands will you align yourself with (don’t kid yourself, people are interested in who you’re following if they’re following you)?
  • How will you respond to inaccurate commentary?
  • Negative commentary?
  • Will you friend/follow everyone who’s following you?

Yep. It’s a lot to think about. There’s a lot more strategy for entering into the social media playing field than coming up with a secure password!

So where do you even start? By stating your purpose.

Are you here to:

  • make friends
  • promote products or events
  • listen to conversation about your product/service
  • use social media as a customer service tool

Your purpose will drive your strategy.

For example, if you want to create a large following, your policy should probably be to accept as many followers as are interested in you and make it a habit to follow them back.

As another example, if you’re promoting products or events, make good use of your status updates/tweets and establish a minimum of posts for the day to stay at the top of a news feed.

Social media policies, like businesses, are all a little different. So simply borrowing ALL the ideas from someone whose done it before you might not be the best way to build your policy. What work well for one may be a total flop for another.

One thing that remains true as you create your own personal policy, remember that credibility, humility and authenticity (CHA) are paramount in your social media communication no matter what your policy dictates.

Cha-cha!

That’s right. If nothing else, do the Cha-CHA and you’ll be fine 🙂

~R

October 10, 2009

The “I Need a Facebook Page” problem

Posted in Facebook, Social Media at 12:15 pm by SD

According to a recent research study by Citibank Small Business by GFK Roper, three-quarters of small business say they have not found sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn helpful for generating business leads or expanding business in the past year. While I don’t know the exact reason for why small businesses aren’t finding their forays into social media successful, I have a hunch that they may be approaching it the wrong way. I like to refer to this as the “I need a Facebook page” problem that is plaguing small businesses across the world.

If I had a dollar for every time, I heard someone say “Our business wants to use social media so we set up a Facebook page,” I would be able to do a lot of shopping. Hearing this statement makes me visibly cringe especially when I ask them if any research has been conducted to see if their customers are using Facebook.

You can have the best Facebook page in the world but if you’re customers aren’t on Facebook, then it is a waste of valuable time and resources.

To all the small businesses out there, before you jump on the Facebook bandwagon, take some time to conduct a little research. And, I don’t mean spending a ton of money on a research study. Simply, ask yourself these critical questions:

1. What audience do I want to engage with online? Is it current customers? What is the demographic profile of this customer?

2. Where does this audience spend time online? Are they frequently using Facebook or Twitter? Are they reading blogs or visiting local social networks such as Yelp?

3. What message do I want to share with this audience?

4. What do I want this audience to do as a result of my business’ presence online?

Only after you have answered these questions, can you begin determining your strategy to engage in the online conversation. By not answering these questions, you are setting your social media campaign up to fail. Avoid the “I need a Facebook page right now” mentality and take the time to do your due diligence to find out where your customers are really spending time online. This approach will allow you to actually engage in the online conversation and be among the 25 percent of small businesses that are finding value from social media.

For some helpful tips on social media for small businesses, check out this Mashable article.

– Shannon

September 24, 2009

These days brands find you…even the wrong ones

Posted in Social Media at 7:02 pm by R

I just got a notice on Twitter that I’m now being followed by someone called “Mark V Tweezers.” It’s a tweezer company based out of Florida. They’re following 595 people, have 54 followers and three tweets.

“How on God’s green earth did you find me and why did you follow me?” I wondered upon reviewing the follow notice.

I quickly scanned recent tweets. Nope. Nothing about grooming my brows. Not even a reference to “pluck” — as in “moxie.” (Though those are both words I should work into my vocabulary more often.)

Nonetheless, this brand found me. But not strategically.

Social media is an opportunity to build relationships with customers in an incredibly intimate way — much more so than some glossy mailer I’ll immediately relegate to recycling without reading. But you have to build the right relationships to even have a chance at developing that intimacy.

So what are the strategic door-knockers for creating meaningful, intimate social media relationships between brand and consumer?

  1. Research your desired audience — Who is actually talking about you/your industry/your category/your competitors? People who care enough to talk about a product, problem, scenario, competitor etc. are more likely to care what you have to tweet (and not block you, like I plan on doing to “Mark V Tweezers”).
  2. Friends in common — Social media word-of-mouth is important. Examine who is following you. Then, take a look at who your followers are following. The reception is probably going to be warmer when you have network connections to vouch for you. Also, take the time to look at who your competitors are following and who their followers are. You want in on that conversation. Speaking of…
  3. Tap into conversation — Are you coming up in conversation? Join it. Bring those conversation-starters into your network.
  4. State your rationale — If you do choose to follow someone you have no connection to, tell the person why you want to hear what they have to say. My attitude about “Mark V Tweezers” might have been totally different if it had been followed up with a quick @ message like, “Enjoyed the link you tweeted about the new post on your blog. Good stuff!” Show me you’re paying attention and why I’m relevant to you and why your brand should be relevant to me.
  5. Check a map — I’m in Arizona. “Mark V Tweezers” is in Florida. I don’t plan on going to Florida any time in the near future. So how am I a relevant follow in terms of spacial relations? If you follow for marketing purposes, be sure to do so with regional appropriateness.

It is now the business of brands to find their audiences and engage them in social media, but it has to be thoughtful. Big, established brands have it a little easier their credibility is already there in many cases. Smaller mom-and-pop brands have to establish their credibility among the people they reach out to in order to obtain any significant benefit.

Quick recap: Research, be relevant, then follow.

~R

September 23, 2009

Trusted v. Untrusted

Posted in Industry Standards, Social Media at 9:40 am by R

A few posts back, I addressed the ethical ranking of public relations professionals. And frankly, we’re a morally solvent bunch. Though, there is an emerging crowd who have coined themselves as experts in social media…and their tactics for securing business are not so morally solvent.

These experts come in all shapes, sizes and backgrounds — so beware.

For many, the question becomes how to find a social media resource you can trust. Here are a few red flags, in my opinion:

  1. One size does NOT fit all — businesses have different communications strategies to reach different audiences. Naturally, it follows that a company must have a completely unique  social media strategy (they’re like fingerprints really). Therefore, anyone offering social media success based on one platform or formula = suspicious.
  2. Tell me about your background — PR practitioner, communications director, digital media specialist or internet guru. GOOD. Knife salesman, personal assistant, travel agent = suspicious. Not to say that the latter examples don’t have some level of experience, but can they rock the strategic implementation?
  3. It’s a guarantee — if this person guarantees they will work hard to understand your business and deploy a social media strategy  customized to achieve specific business goals…GOOD. Promises a specific number of followers or any other metric = suspicious.

So how do you spot qualities in the ones you can trust? SmartBlog on Social Media @SBoSM put up a great post about some of the less tangible qualities one should consider in candidates as they build their social media team or select an outside vendor.

  1. PassionAndy Sernovitz (who authored the post) notes that this is something that can’t be taught or trained. Your team needs to have the proverbial fire in their bellies when it comes to your brand.
  2. Don’t measure candidates/agencies by number of followers — Sernovitz points out that any spammer can have a thousand followers overnight. I’d like to add to his thoughts here though — take a look at who your potential team member/agency is following and is followed by. Size up the quality of their network.
  3. Look for helpers — Because social media is as much a customer service tool as it is a communications tool, your team should be comprised of people who love to help people. Making meaningful information accessible and understandable for a variety of social media audiences is a big task not for the faint of heart. Your team should be equipped with the desire to learn (from good and bad experiences) and help make the social media experience with your brand even better.

The right team, either built internally or found externally, will be slightly different for every company. But any business looking to bring in social media minds ought to be aware of these criteria to find the right fit (re: Trusted v. Untrusted) and create success for their brand in social media.

~R

August 28, 2009

Why the new media crisis isn’t new

Posted in Social Media at 8:18 am by R

The world of the Web has thrown some pretty tricky curve balls at established media formats, namely newspaper and television. But this isn’t the first time that media companies have had to re-invent themselves in the face of a technological revolution.

Let’s rewind, shall we, to 1949. Radio was king. But TV was beginning to captivate the masses thanks to a massive cable that connected 15 TV stations throughout the East Coast and Mid-West. A single show Texaco Star Theater, hosted by Milton Berle, catapulted TV into the next stratosphere converting loyal radio listeners to tune in and WATCH.

old_tv_set_rc

Terry Teachout wrote a great post about this entire episode (pun intended). He included some telling statistics about the impact of TV’s arrival and what it meant for media consumption:

…a survey of 400 TV owners in Washington, D.C., told the tale: Adult attendance at movies was down 72%, while 36.7% of TV owners attended fewer baseball games. Meanwhile, the average amount of time that these Washingtonians spent listening to ­radio each day had plummeted from three hours and 42 minutes to less than half an hour.

I couldn’t help but recall the Social Media Revolution video when reading this part of Teachout’s post. When new mediums arrive, their impact is imperceptible at first, but takes hold and grows like wildfire.

So it is the same with social media. Our consumption patterns have changed and we have left newspapers and television to grapple with their business models in order to preserve their livelihood.

The good news is, companies like CBS and NBC survived the change from radio to TV, as evidenced by their existence today. NBC is working to transition to online and social interactivity through Hulu (an evil alien plot to take over the world I hear).

Another interesting point Teachout makes is that TV operated in the red the first few years of its existence. Sound familiar? Social media outlets are still struggling to define their worth and their revenue streams. YouTube seems to be developing some interesting tactics. Facebook is working on it, Twitter too. But no advertising format has emerged as the silver bullet for any of these platforms.

Perhaps the most shockingly similar part of this entire idea of changing media paradigms is that the argument remains the same among those who “grew up with” a certain type of communication.

“Maybe we old people can’t adapt successfully to video.”

— Jim Jordan, star of the radio show Fibber McGee and Molly

I’ve heard lots of people limit themselves to what they are familiar with when it comes to social media. It’s daunting to turn away from what you know by heart. But it’s rewarding to discover (and utilize!) the possibilities of something new!

Whatever impact social media is having on your business or life, whatever frustrations this conversion might cause, we can all take comfort in knowing that we’ve been here before and pretty much everyone survived.

~R

August 17, 2009

Social Media = Next Industrial Revolution

Posted in Social Media at 9:35 am by R

Watch and be convinced.

~R

August 11, 2009

The changing face of Facebook

Posted in Facebook tagged at 10:21 am by R

Way, way back in 2003, I was a junior at Gonzaga University. At the time, Facebook was a brand new way to communicate about parties and events, to see pictures of the parties you couldn’t make it to (or couldn’t remember). It was a way to keep up with your friends from other schools. Facebook was our own safe little network where we shared our college antics, thoughts and other information with peers.

Six years later, those early adopters to Facebook are professionals working hard for a living. Six years later, bosses, managers, clients and other work related individuals are signing on as well and — if your profile is not properly managed — have access to some of those less-than-professional photos, posts, etc.

According to a study from Printproof, eight percent of U.S. companies have dismissed an employee for behavior deemed inappropriate on social media. Mashable gave a hilarious example in their post on the study yesterday.

So what does it mean for the average Facebook user? Get in control of who sees what in your profile.

Just as you’re not likely to share money woes, relationship troubles or many other personal matters with a boss or other person with authority in your office (though that closeness does sometimes exist), don’t allow them access to the really personal stuff on-line.

Facebook has settings which allow you to control who sees personal information, photos, specific photo albums, videos, status updates and links. You can even create lists to categorize and easily manage how different categories of contacts view your profile content.

It comes down to a personal branding issue really.

Think about the sub-brands you personal brand is comprised of:

  • Friends (college, high school, etc.)
  • Family (mom, dad, bro, sis, etc.)
  • Work (clients, boss, colleagues, outside associates, etc.)

Think about the brand perception you want to have among certain groups:

  • Should mom, dad and your boss be able to see all your photo albums?
  • Do you want your colleagues to have access to that status update rant?
  • Should your clients be able to access links to news stories on politically sensitive topics?

Establish and maintain the characteristics you wish to present to each of these groups. And keep in mind that while you may limit the access of some, it’s important to be your own editor on appropriateness and language (and even grammar!). It can feel like an overwhelming and unending task but it is worth the diligent work.

Facebook is no longer just a college playground. Facebook has become your face to all the worlds you participate in — with HR managers, bosses and other professional contacts watching your every status update.

Fortunately, you do have some control. So take it! Brand yourself well.

~R

July 20, 2009

Cashing in on Twitter’s Value

Posted in Measurment, Social Media at 11:36 am by R

An AdAge article published today tags a number to the value of coverage Twitter generates in one month…and it’s big. $48 million big.

And that $48 million is just for the past 30 days!

We knew that Twitter’s influence was big, but let’s face it, everyone’s been begging for numbers to give some sense of the value.

Here’s the break down:

  • 2.73 BILLION impressions
  • 57% was TV contributed PR value
  • 37% was newspaper contributed PR value
  • 5% was magazine contributed PR value

This is powerful information for PR practioners to be able to convince clients that Twitter and social media are critical pipelines for distributing information.

The big question is will Twitter continue to be the big thing in social media? The growth has been substantial since the beginning of the year — even history making with events like the Iran elections and the passing of Michael Jackson — but can Twitter sustain it’s media darling status?

~R

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