Business

How To : Choose a Social Media Partner

Posted on April 17, 2009. Filed under: Business, Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , , |

expertsWith the term “Social Media Expert” being added to just about every company and consultants profile these days it is hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. What follows is my opinion on how to identify a Social Media partner for your business or organization. I want to explain why I am writing this post, it is the product of several conversations with people, clients, prospective clients and just friends who all asked me this question.

Disclaimer

Before going any further with this post it is important that I acknowledge that I & my company provide Social Media advice, guidance and execution as part of our service offerings as an integrated Marketing communication company. However, what follows is in no way an advertorial, I will not be promoting our services in this post.

The Basics

A quick search of Twitter profiles turned up 80 Twitter users just on one results page that included the term Social Media expert in their profile. I think most people know to be wary of “self-proclaimed” experts. However, just in case you aren’t, you should be.

So ignoring those who will loudly proclaim their own expertise how can you find someone to work with who can provide you and your organization sound advice? There are several important criteria to consider when evaluating a potential Social Media Partner:

  • Longevity
  • Experience – Doing Not Saying
  • Results
  • Shiny Object Syndrome

Longevity

How long have they actually been doing this? Some people maintain that Social Media is so new that it is impossible for anyone to have gained expertise in the space. I disagree, Social Media has only been new to those who didn’t recognize it for what it was – primarily the mainstream media. Social Media has been around a long time in one form or another. Podcasts used to be called Webcasts, they pre-date the iPod by several years (I launched my first series of webcasts in 1998). Blogs have been around at least that long, admittedly you had to have some coding skills to create one and they weren’t really recognized as blogs per se, they were referred more to as lifestreaming or online journals (posted my first one in 2002). So to state that the space is so new that no one has gained enough knowledge to have expertise seems to me to be a way of making excuses for those who, after 3 months of Twitter use hang out their shingle as a Social Media expert. As with any “consultant” check and see how long they have been in the field.

Experience – Doing Not Saying

This is where I prefer the term Practitioner rather than Consultant – its a semantics thing, and at the end of the day the job title doesn’t really matter. However, in my experience consultants are usually very good at talking about a topic, not necessarily good at executing. When considering a Social Media Partner find out if they have actually had personal success with Social Media. When I think of Social Media Practitioners I think of people like Chris Brogan who doesn’t just talk about Social Media, nor does he just consult with companies on the topic, he “does” Social Media and as such has gained recognition as a Social Media Influencer, being approached by brands to be an online evangelist for their product. At a more local level to me, here in Austin, we are very fortunate to have some excellent Social Media practitioners. One that jumps immediately to mind is the very talented Shelia Scarborough. Sheila is a blogger, Social Media trainer and practitioner. As a travel blogger she was invited to go on a tour of China to experience the growth and changes in that country. You don’t get invited on trips like that simply by calling yourself an expert, other people have to recognize your ability and your practice in the space.

Results

Does your prospective partner know how to get you results? Can they cite previous examples of having gained results for others? Remember that in this age of sometimes semi-transparent business practices, some companies demand that external consultants sign strict Non-disclosure agreements that prevent them from using the company name on any marketing materials. So don’t be overly surprised if they aren’t able to give you a name and number to call for a large project, but they should be able to produce data at a detail level such that they aren’t faking it.

Shiny Object Syndrome

If your potential Social Media Partner wants to talk endlessly about the latest new technology, new platform or widget that they think you should be using, proceed with caution. While a good knowledge of upcoming trends is essential, the habit of simply running to the latest and greatest platform and dragging you & your organization with them isn’t good for you. Remember that Social Media isn’t about technology, its about people. The platforms we use now will be very old hat in 2 years time. Being obsessed with the technology won’t lead to a successful Social Media strategy.

Hopefully you have some things with which to separate the wheat from the chaff when considering a Social Media partner. What qualities do you think I missed, what would you add to the list?

Image by Neil Rickards
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When Did Mashable Lose the Plot?

Posted on March 23, 2009. Filed under: blogging, Business, Observations | Tags: , , , , , |

Image representing Mashable as depicted in Cru...

I used to think Mashable.com was a pretty good online publication. Certainly enough to pitch them ideas and actually have a few posts published by them, but of late, I really think that Pete Cashmore and his organization has lost the plot. Mashable used to be “All That’s New on the Web”, now they are titled “The Social Media Guide”. Unfortunately they aren’t either.

The posts they now put out are mostly lists, now I know that blog readers like lists, 10 best this, 7 ways to do that, 18 plugins for this problem. But seriously are there not enough bloggers out there already producing those types of posts. If you have a visitor base of some 1.5m unique visitors per month (according to Compete.com) don’t you think you could try and be a little bit different?

Has Mashable gone the way of its print cousins and become so focussed on Ad revenue that they have decided it is better to turn out the same old stuff that everyone else is doing and play it safe?  One post today just made me laugh, 18 WordPress Plugins for RSS – this is one of the laziest types of posts, and takes about 5 minutes to pull together. Just go to the WordPress Plugins Directory type in the resource you are looking for, and viola you have a list of plugins.

For example here’s how to produce a post called 5 WordPress Plugins for Podcasters:

Type in podcasting, get the following result:

podcast_plugins

Now just rewrite some of this info which comes from the developers and you have a post! No magic to it, no effort either.

Perhaps I am holding them to too high a standard, perhaps I shouldn’t expect anything approaching journalism from what is really “just” a blog. But I do, if Social Media is to progress, those that put themselves out there as “leaders” in the space need to try harder, need to raise the bar, not just produce the same old junk that any hack can pull out in a pinch.

Whilst I agree finding new and interesting Social Media stories is hard work, if you are truly going to be “The Social Media Guide”, then guide don’t follow.

Mashable Image via CrunchBase
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Why Kellogg’s is Right & Cenk Uygur is Wrong

Posted on March 6, 2009. Filed under: Business, Marketing, Observations | Tags: , , , |

Marketing Profs sent out their Marketing Inspirations today with a message from Liberal talk show host and blogger for Huffington Post Cenk Uygur.  In that article he argues that Kellogg’s decision to drop Michael Phelps as a brand spokesperson is a major marketing error.

I have some major issues with this article, Cenk Uygur is a political commentator not a marketing or brand expert, so I am not sure what his qualifications are to talk about branding decisions are. His position is that Kellogg is going to alienate a large portion of its customers and potential customers by deciding to drop Michael Phelps.  He bases this on his claim that 42% of the US population has smoked marijuana. He further claims that even those who have never smoked it see nothing wrong with it.

He of course doesn’t supply a source for these claims, he also fails to point out the difference between those people who may have admitted that at some point they once tried marijuana and those who are currently regular users of the drug. Because Omega & Speedo have decided not to drop Phelps, apparently that is enough reason that Kellogg should. Here are my questions. Do Speedo and Omega perform drug tests on their prospective employees, in their contracts do they have a clause that allows the company to have unannounced random drug tests? Many large employers do, my own company – which is still less than 10 people conducts drug and criminal checks before hiring. So if those companies do the same what message does it send to their employees? Oh we will test you but Michael Phelps is different because he is famous.

I have heard the defence that he “made a mistake” – how do you accidentally smoke marijuana? The mistake he made was getting caught. Cenk Uygur is trying to promote a political agenda and proposes that brands, by taking a stand on a particular issue will alienate potential customers. Did I miss something or did he just become a raging capitalist – profits at any cost?

Will 42% of the buying public in America suddenly decide that they are not going to eat Kellogg products because they dropped Mr Phelps for smoking dope? Will they suddenly see Kellogg as not being “cool”? Uygur is quoted as saying “You are no longer protecting your brand when you are prudish and overly careful,” he says. “You just seem out of touch.”  Out of touch with what precisely? Parents who are buying cereal or the kids who eat them? Is the premise that kids see a role model smoke dope and endorse cereal therefore the cereal is cool, or that adults who smoke dope will get the munchies for Kellogg cereals because of their fellow marijuana user?

Either way, I think it is Uygur who is out of touch. Stick with the political commentary and leaving brand advice to those who know better.

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Freelance Camp

Posted on February 11, 2009. Filed under: Business, Marketing, Social Media | Tags: , , , |

San Antonio recently played host to the Freelance Camp. It was my first experience of an unconference. For those of you not familiar with the concept here is how it works:

All the attendees are encouraged to be session leaders. A timetable is put somewhere accessible, each person that wants to lead a session puts their topic against a time and room slot. After about 5 mins you have yourself a schedule of sessions that people can attend.

I didn’t have a lot of faith in this as a concept when it was explained to me. My guess was no one would sign up to do anything and there would be a hundred people just sitting around chatting. Wow was I wrong. It was an extremely energetic day. I found myself leading two slots. The great thing about this is you act only as an enabler. The whole point of these sessions is that everyone in the session has something to share and that we can all learn from each other.

I came away very energized, very tired and full of lessons learned.  Big thanks go to Luis Sandoval and team for making it happen.

The two sessions I led were Big Tools for Small Business and Finding Time for Social Media. I hope you like the videos.

One of the tools that I talk about in the first session is Qipit.  Using that tool I was able to capture the notes from each session:

Big Tools for Small Business – View the notes here

Social Media Map – View the notes here

Without giving too much away, watch for one of these Camp’s coming to Austin soon!

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Social Media Ranking Tools – One Step Beyond?

Posted on January 21, 2009. Filed under: Business, Facebook, Observations, Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , , , , |

Recently those wacky folks at Hubspot released another of their Grader tools. This one is for Facebook. It joins the others in their stable of Press Release, Website & Twitter.

I like Hubspot, I like some of their tools. I use Press Release & Website Grader as they provide a pretty decent overview of a press release or website and allow you to focus in on the areas that can stand some improvement.  They are great tools for small companies that can’t afford to call in an expensive consultant.

When Twitter Grader came out, I wrote a post about it and did a comparison between it and Twinfluence for Mashable. At the time, I pointed out that this smacked somewhat of a high school popularity contest but that there was some use for it in terms of an approach that can be learned for engaging in Twitter.  When I used Twitter grader there were currently 5000 Twitter users being graded, so whatever grade you achieved it had to be measure against that fact. Right now it measures against just over 1m Twitter users. That seems a reasonable sample, actually its less than 25% of all Twitter users, so even now its real value is limited.

Enter Facebook Grader – this, in my opinion is one tool too many.  Firstly it is even more skewed as it is an early tool and currently is only measuring against just under 7000 Facebook users – that is 0.04% of the Facebook community. So basically the number it produces is, to all intents & purposes meaningless. Now I agree that for some these tools can be seen as “fun”. Sure why not. However, there are those who will take these tools seriously and use them to convince others that they are some kind of Social Media whizz just because they scored XX on one of these sites. Worse still, companies looking for some measure of success might actually start using this as a metric against which to assess their Social Media campaign.

What I do like about Facebook grader, Yes there are somethings, is the fact it analyzes your profile and points out where you have gaps in it.  Perhaps you missed the part on your profile for “Hometown” or “About Me”.  These are good things to point out and are more in line with Press Release Grader & Website Grader. But please take away the numerical score or at least make it relevant to something else.  More to the point, please take away the Facebook “Elite”.  Social Media is not about “Elitism” it is about community. Perpetuating the myth of popularity equaling Elitism is serving no good at all.

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5 Ways Twitter can Monetize without Ads

Posted on January 19, 2009. Filed under: Business, Observations, twitter | Tags: , , , |

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Recently there has been some discussion about Twitter monetization. Its the same conversation that has been going on for the past few months as people become more aware of Twitter. Unfortunately all the conversations seem to come back to the same suggestions, how Ads can be worked into the Twitter stream without annoying Twitter users.

What I would like to see is some new thinking, instead of simply assuming that if its online then it has to be ad based how about coming up with something better.

Here I propose 5 elements that Twitter could incorporate into a Twitter Premium Service that would allow for some monetization without having to resort to Ads at all.

  1. Bio Search. Right now this is extremely hard to achieve and for the most part is fairly hit or miss. It would be a great idea to have a keyword search for the bio section of a Twitter users page. I would definitely see both power users and commercial Twitter users paying a premium to get at this data.
  2. Extended Tweets – yes I know there are 3rd party services that will allow you to do this for free but if you could do it from within Twitter or better yet within your Twitter application through the use of an API Key which would allow TweetDeck or whatever tool you use to recognize that you are allowed to extend your tweets to says 300 characters I think people would pay for that.
  3. Priority Bandwidth – one of the biggest criticisms of Twitter since it first went live has been its flaky servers. So first they would need to fix that, but moving certain accounts to more reliable servers with greater bandwidth would certainly be a premium service that some would be willing to pay for, especially those that micro-blog from events, such as CES etc.
  4. The ability to DM non-followers. Now I know the TwitterVerse, will, for the most part hate me for even suggesting such a thing – after all it opens up Twitter to Spammers even more – but you get spam anyway. Being able to target Twitter users as a result of good search and send them directed messaging is a Marketers delight, and I am sure they would pay for it.
  5. Make the Sign Up Info available to developers of third party applications via the API. Twitter asks for very little information about you when you sign up, and what it does request it keeps to itself.  Making this type of information available to certain developers would allow those tools to become more useful and powerful and allow for better integration between Twitter and other Social Media platforms. For example you cannot currently export your Twitter followers and then import them into say Facebook to see who is also on there.

Well those are my 5 ways Twitter could monetize its Premium service, what are yours?
Image via CrunchBase

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5 Things Reality Check Taught Me

Posted on January 6, 2009. Filed under: Business, Management, Marketing, Observations | Tags: , , , |

Cover of

I took part in the Alltop promotion by signing up and allowing the site to send Tweets out under my name. I did this for a few reasons, I thought it was a neat way of marketing something and I wanted to see if it worked, I like Guy Kawasaki’s approach to business and figured this was a way to be a part of something he was setting up and because I couldn’t see the harm in it. I believe I got all of those reason correct. What I also got, which I wasn’t expecting was a free copy of Reality Check, Guy Kawasaki’s book.

I am on my second time through it at the moment. Now I am a voracious reader, but to be honest, I don’t much go in for business books. I see them in the bookstores, I see them at the airports, I even occasionally see someone reading one of them. For the most part I have always felt they were part of the “must be seen to be doing” effect. Like owning certain gadgets, or other brands.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not disrespecting business writers or business books per se. I am sure many of them have a lot of value. I just prefer to get my business knowledge by doing rather than reading. Of the few business books that I have read, which include things like “In Search of Excellence”, Reality Check is a stand out book. Most notably because it isn’t a business book. Although it is sub-titled, quite cleverly, The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition, I would have sub-titled it (with a nod to Dr Reuben’s book) “Everything You Wanted to Know in Business School – But Were Too Afraid To Ask”.

I have never been a fan of B-School. There, I have said it out loud, go on get over it. Perhaps its a cultural thing, the MBA has yet to really catch on in the UK (we are perhaps more like Missourians – we are the Show Me country). I’d rather hire someone who has actually done it than someone who has sat and listened to someone who hasn’t and then taught them how it might be done.

That’s not to say I haven’t encountered some very smart people who have MBA’s, Guy Kawasaki has one! But it is my belief those people were smart before they went to B-School, not because of going to B-School.

So having set the stage, what did Reality Check teach me?

  1. Its cheaper than an MBA and a lot more useful: Ok so I have already shared my thoughts on MBA’s, not going to beat that subject. Reading a book that so encompasses the business mind set like this, that takes you from concept to launch to daily operations, do you really need $000’s of student debt and two years out of your life, why not read this book and then invest that money in yourself and your idea. You will learn a lot more from reading the book and then actually doing than sitting in a classroom.
  2. It isn’t just about the technology: My company is a service provider, we don’t develop or produce technology (although that is my background – yes I am a geek). So does any of the start up part of this book really apply to me and my company? Yes absolutely. Just because the references are to technology ideas, the principles that Guy shares in the book apply to any organization of any size, from a tech startup to a florist. The product you are developing is going to go through all the same stages.
  3. Whether You Believe You Need Funding or Not, You Need To Know How VC’s Think: A lot of focus in business writing concerning VC funding centers on the next great “killer app”. Well if you aren’t in the business of producing the next great killer app or you have a big enough bank account of your own to bank roll your idea why do you need to know about VC’s. In my opinion what Guy shares about VC’s is not just about investors in the traditional sense, its about anyone investing in your company, and that most certainly includes your customers – especially your early customers. Treat them like VC’s, talk to them in a way that recognizes the risk they are taking and be aware that they are quite likely experienced and can smell Bull-Shiitake from a considerable distance.
  4. Why Money Isn’t All That Important: Ok we all know this is a lie, money is the one thing every business, especially new businesses need buckets of, or at least that is the conventional thinking. Guy points out how that paradigm has changed, how he started Truemors & Alltop for less than the average “traditional, VC funded” startup spends on having their business cards designed. Guy shares that it cost him approx $10,000 to start Alltop. How many credits at B-School would that buy you?
  5. Entrepreneurs are everywhere: This is the really interesting part of the early chapters of the book for me. It recognizes that not everyone either wants to or has the drive to go out and start their own business. However, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t think and act as though their piece of whatever organization they work in isn’t their own enterprise. Invest in it, not with money but with time, attitude and approach. If more organizations encouraged rather than stifled their Intrapreneurs, as Guy calls them, then they would find a resource that would truly help them Outsmart, Outmanage and Outmarket their competition.

Of course to some this will simply seem like a lovefest for Guy Kawasaki, it isn’t, though I happen to think he is one of the smartest marketers in the world, mainly because he is so honest about how and why he does things. Don’t believe me, come back tomorrow and read the five things I asked Guy Kawasaki and what his response were.

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Social Media Evangelists – The Special Forces of New Media

Posted on December 18, 2008. Filed under: Business, Marketing, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , |

Cover for the 2007 reprint of The Green Berets

2008 has seen the rise of the term “Social Media” appearing in a variety of places that it hasn’t appeared before, most notably in the list of skills claimed by individuals, whether as in house evangelists or external consultants. So what does it take to be a Social Media Evangelist?

Special Forces Training

This might seem an extreme analogy, what do gun-toting, clandestine troops, featured in movies & TV shows have to do with New Media?

Well firstly put aside the images from TV & the silver screen. Special Forces are not sneeky assassins they are called special for a reason, that reason is the breadth of their skills. To be selected they must pass a testing assessment course, much of which has little or nothing to do with “soldiering” directly and more to do with being able to cope with ambiguity. This is where the analogy starts. Often having positioned themselves within an organization or branded themselves as an external consultant, a Social Media evangelist will be told, “We need to do something Web 2.0” – how is that for ambiguous?

The Skills

Linguist

One of the first things that a Special Forces operator has to be is a linguist. They learn at least one and sometimes several languages relative to their area of operation. Social Media Evangelists have to be linguists as well. They need to be able to communicate in both the language of the organization and Social Media and build a comfort level that bridges the gap between the ability of the “locals” to speak the new language and do it in such a way that is perceived as threatening.

Negotiator

This is an incredible important skill, for both SF Operators and SM Evangelists. Whilst the “locals” might have series of demands, needs & desires, the specialist needs to be able to filter this wish list and establish what is possible, what is advisable and what needs to be removed from the list and most importantly be able to negotiate this new list and define why this is the way it should be done. There are bound to be internal conflicts as different parties want to be involved in the changes, working out these conflicts is where the negotiator excels.

Educator

Hollywood & TV often portray SF operators charging in to save the day, whilst there can be no doubt that these situations have existed, most often SF operators work behind the scenes, providing amongst other things education. This again is a primary role of the SM Evangelist. It is not enough to have knowledge of the SM landscape, to know the tools or how to use them. This knowledge must be shared and shared in a way that makes sense to the recipients. Using knowledge only to inflate their own sense of worth diminishes both SM in general and the SM evangelist in particular. The ability to teach new users not only of the benefits of using SM but also the tactical use of the tools, their appropriate use builds not only a broader user base it enhances the user experience of everyone involved in SM. Properly educated organizational users will be better able to engage with their customers and prospective customers – that means us.

Weapons Expert

Ok, so you knew it had to be here somewhere, no mention of SF operators could be complete without a mention of their weapons expertise. No I am not suggesting that SM Evangelists suddenly go out and arm themselves, at least not with guns & knives. However, they do need to be experts in the weapons of their trade, SM Tools. This is difficult, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, FriendFeed and all of the other services, platforms and tools that are available is it truly possible for one person to become experienced in all of them? I would say probably not for every situation, however, knowing the capabilities of these tools, and more importantly the limitations is essential. A SM Evangelist is quickly distinguished from a SM Enthusiast by their recommendations. If they propose that all platforms suit all organizations and all strategies, they are not a specialist. Knowing when & how to deploy particular tools, who within the organization is best placed to utilize the tool and for what purpose is the skill of the SM Evangelist. This is where they can bring real value to an organization.

Anthropologist

The ability to meet the “locals” who have perhaps little or no knowledge of your “country”, or worse still they have only a media presented version and have already determined what you are capable of is the challenge facing both the SF operator and the SM Evangelist. How they overcome this will vary on the situation but a strong sense of cultural sensitivity is essential. Knowing why you are there what the “locals” are looking for and assisting them in meeting their goals will only come from a truly anthropological perspective. The ability to stand outside the internal politics, social pressures, and the vested interests of certain parties to see what is really needed, what will really work and then being able to translate that in to an actionable plan that takes into account all of the knowledge gained through observation and interaction.

The list of skills is not meant to be exhaustive. The skills displayed and used by SM Evangelists will vary from case to case and different skills will be called for in every situation. These are the basics. It should also be remembered that SF Operators do not work in isolation, they work in teams, with specialists spreading the knowledge across the team. Perhaps this is the most successful model for SM as well. An organization seeking to develop real advantage through SM will build strong teams that encompass all of these skills. Equally individual consultants might be advised to recognize where their own skills are not complete and partner with others who have the skill set they are missing, combined they become a phenomenal force.

The whole point of developing and deploying SF teams is as a “Force Multiplier”, this is and should be true of employing, whether internal or external, SM Evangelists. They should act as a force multiplier for an organizations SM strategy.

Are you an Evangelist?

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Social Media Firestarter

Posted on December 16, 2008. Filed under: blogging, Business, Marketing, Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , |

success-triangleAny High School student can tell you the three elements needed for fire: Air, Heat, Fuel. If you remove the source of any one of these three elements the fire goes out. Add sufficient sources of all three and you have a firestorm.

What does this have to do with Social Media? I think that there are the same three elements for starting a fire in your social media activities.

  1. Quality
  2. Consistency
  3. Engagement

Quality

Some will have you believe that Content is king. I think this is flawed and has led to many organizations making a huge mistake in their Social Media activity. Simply having a blog post everyday or sending out your branding message in a 140 characters 8 times a day on Twitter until you have hundreds of posts and thousands of tweets to your credit is not going to create any heat around your activity.

Quality of communication is the element that is required not quantity of content. If you have nothing to say, say nothing – this adage doesn’t only apply to polite conversation, it applies to all communication. So how do I measure quality. Firstly, is it useful, not just promotional? An example: A business that sells fruit baskets could choose to post endless “special offers” or they could post recipes, How To’s, suggestions for times to give baskets. Mixing in the odd “special offer” is now going to gain interest amongst readers not be rejected out of hand.

Consistency

This doesn’t mean posting a blog entry everyday, nor posting a dozen useful links every morning to Twitter or Facebook. It does mean ensuring that what you post is suitable for your audience, relevant, helpful, informative, interesting, funny whatever your trying to become recognized for. Find something and do it regularly, consistently. Many organizations and individuals start out with unrealistic expectations of themselves and their ability to sustain Social Media activity. “We will post twice a day” or “five times a week” or some other measure of “consistency” but this is the wrong measure. What are you going to do when the day comes that you don’t have a post ready? Suddenly you have failed. You have missed a day or maybe two. Now your strategy has taken a hit. Better that you under promise and over deliver, even to yourself. Tell yourself you are going to post twice a week and then end up posting four or even five times a week, now you are ahead of your strategy. But the focus should not be on quantity but on quality, this is where the focus of your Consistency should be.

Engagement

This is, perhaps, considered the most important of the three elements by some. As with the original fire triangle remove any one of the elements and the fire dies. An imbalance of the elements will also cause the fire to eventually die. Too much emphasis on any one element in your Social Media fire will result in the same thing. Engagement should not have a disproportionate value in your strategy. Trying too hard to engage with your audience is as off putting to them as the loud embarrassing uncle at a family gathering. Everyone wants to laugh at that joke but they have heard it a dozen times. By balancing quality & consistency with engagement the audience becomes engaged willingly. They feel that they are an equal partner in the engagement and value the engagement. This is the aim of engagement. Frequent enough that there is a familiarity, and sense of participation.

How will you start your Social Media fire?

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Is Social Media the latest lifeline in a downturn economy?

Posted on December 10, 2008. Filed under: blogging, Business, Marketing, Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

A life preserver icon.

In times of economic uncertainty people instinctively look for some way in which to add additional value to their position, either within an organization or within the broader business environment.

The Rise of The ‘Expert’

In 2007/2008 SEO & SEM became attached to almost any position that vaguely involves some form of online activity. Marketers, PR, copywriters, web designers, web developers everyone suddenly claimed that they had the secret sauce that would enable your website to be on page one of any search any results remotely connected with your business.

The second half of 2008 has seen a shift of this toward Social Media. With the rise in popularity of Social Media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn & Facebook and their increasing use by corporates as a communication tool employees and freelance individuals are shifting their attention to becoming Social Media ‘experts’.

This is not all that surprising. It happens with the advent of all new technologies and for that matter non-technology trends.

The Cool Kids

There have been some interesting conversations on Twitter regarding the craze for gaining a high number of followers and achieving this by following as many people as possible. Indeed Gennefer Snowfield (@acclimedia) made the astute observation that the trend for applications like Tweetdeck that allow the management of large quantities of followers is a reaction to this method of using Twitter.

This method is perhaps being inspired by the perception of Social Media “rockstars” like Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble & others who are seen as having large numbers of followers and that there is some correlation between having a large following on Twitter and the degree of ‘expertise’ in Social Media. Therefore if you are to be seen as a Social Media ‘expert’ you should have a large number of followers and to achieve this you should follow a large number of people.

This is where unfortunately the ‘Social’ in Social Media gets over-emphasized and the Media part gets practically ignored. Social Media isn’t high school. It isn’t about being like the cool kids. Chris Brogan et al are not the Senior year whilst the rest are all Freshmen.

However, this type of behavior is to be expected in uncertain times. In the late 90’s everyone wanted to append the title ‘Webmaster’ to themselves. Not just because it was cool, but because the trend in business was to start using the Internet and in particular the web as a new method of communication. Social Media is the new channel. So individuals with no marketing communication experience are suddenly becoming Social Media ‘experts’.

Just as there are those who have and continue to present themselves as being SEO ‘experts’ without anything more than a slim veneer of search engine knowledge so I believe we will see a rise in the number of Social Media ‘experts’. Of course this is all possible because even someone with a shallow level of knowledge can be convincing in a room full of people with no knowledge. 2010 will see the shake out of those people, but 2009 will be their year. As more and more organizations wake up to the way communications between provider and consumers are happening and start to invest in Social Media and realize that they need help but can’t afford the A listers so they will turn to whatever resource they can find, either internally or amongst the budget providers.

I actually don’t see too much wrong with this. Of course there will be some charlatans, and Caveat Emptor will always apply. Organizations that don’t carry out some form of due diligence when hiring consultants of any nature share the responsibility if they implement bad advice.

Embracing The Talent You Have

What I think will continue to happen will be the rise in the numbers of Social Media participants who are conducting self branding campaigns. Jeremiah Owyang posted an article about how corporations respond to employees who develop personal brands. Given that there are over a million blogs created daily in the US the likelihood that a large or even medium sized organization doesn’t already have several bloggers amongst its workforce is fairly slim. Instead of restricting this activity why not nurture it? Provide training, hone skills, develop an integrated communications strategy that includes these individuals.

Does your organization encourage or discourage your Social Media activity?

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