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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HOW TO:Connect LinkedIn to Twitter

Posted on December 11, 2008. Filed under: Observations, Social Media, Technology, twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Someone recently expressed the hope that some day there would be a way to connect LinkedIn contacts to Twitter.  Actually what they asked was if there was an application that did this.

I set to thinking about this and after a few hours figured out the solution – ok when you see the solution you will probably wonder why it took me several hours – I was doing other things at the same time.

So here it is, in all of its ugliness, its not the neatest work around but it does actually work.

First thing I suggest you do is create an alternate email address with one of the following services:

  • Yahoo
  • Hotmail
  • AOL
  • MSN
  • Gmail

Why these, because they are the ones supported by Twitter for contact import.  If you already have an account with one of these services you can use that but bear in mind you are going to add your LinkedIn contacts to it and then you would have to figure out who of your contacts came from LinkedIn and who already existed, hence my suggestion that you create a new account. I have only tested this with Gmail, I don’t know if the other webmail services support contact importing, so from here on it only applies to Gmail.

Ok having setup your new email account (or not). Go to LinkedIn.  Go to Contacts. Scroll to the bottom of the page where you will find “Export Connections”.  Clicking that will take you to a screen like this:

li_export1

Select Microsoft Outlook – .csv file.  Save the file somewhere you can find it again.

Go to your Gmail account and select Contacts and then Import (should be on the top right hand side of your screen).  Import the file from LinkedIn.

Now you can return to Twitter.  Go to “Find People” and enter the details for the account you setup:

twit_findWhich will look something like the image above.

Twitter will then import your contacts and show you how many are currently using Twitter.  Of the 454 contacts I imported 88 were using Twitter.  Having selected which ones you want to follow you are then shown a list of those contacts who are not on Twitter.  You can choose to email them an invite or skip that stage.

And there you have it, your LinkedIn contacts are now being followed on Twitter.  Overall I would say it took me a little under 5 mins to carry out these steps, of course it will depend on how many LinkedIn contacts you have.

Know a more graceful way to achieve this, tried it with another email service, let me know.

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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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Who I am I reading?

Posted on November 16, 2008. Filed under: blogging, Observations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , |

summer reading

Most people know who the “Rockstars” are in blogging these days. With an estimated 1 million blogs being created everyday in the US you would think that it would be very hard to get noticed or have your voice heard. Those who have been blogging a long time have already managed to differentiate themselves or have disappeared.

But what about those who are not necessarily rockstars, who aren’t the top of everyone’s list but still have a lot to offer.

Chris Brogan recently decided to give back to his followers by creating an awesome list of his “Rockstars”. In effect a blogroll, but of huge proportions. The list was “self created” in that everyone on the list (myself included) submitted their websites and were just listed.

What I wanted to provide here was my list of personal “Rockstars”, more than just a list, a reason why these are the people I look up to and read on a regular basis.

Christine Gilbert – writes at almostfearless.com Christine left her job as a manager at a Fortune 500 company to travel the world. She sold her belongings to travel the world, to write & take photographs. Some might think this an incredibly stupid thing to do, especially in the current economic climate, others yet might wonder at the bravery that it takes to undertake a journey like this. I love to keep up with Christine’s travels. A real world, Where is Waldo?

Amy Derby – writes at Write From Home Amy writes in a real world style. She is both engaging and though provoking. Her blog is ostensibly aimed at aspiring or new freelance writers, but her messages are as equally important to anyone, writer or not.

Cheryl Phillips – writes at The Daily Blonde Cheryl is part of the group referred to as “Mommybloggers”. I am always uncomfortable with terms like that, firstly because it seems to be exclusive, as though the writings of this group will only appeal to other Mommy’s. This is definitely not so with Cheryl. Her blog is about being human, about being real. Sure a lot of what she writes about is her family, but she writes in an unapologetic, real world, take it or leave it style that appeals to me.

David Lano – writes at davidlano.com I am a new reader of David’s, he started following me on Twitter a few days ago, and as I do with anyone who follows me there I go and check out their blog. I really like David’s writing style, accessible, informative and he asks good questions.

Tony McCune – writes at What I See From My Window This is not so much a blog as it is a photo project. Tony invites you to send him a picture of what you can see from your window and a few words about the scene then he posts it. Its a simple idea, which is what makes it so brilliant. I love going here everyday and seeing a new view from someone else’s window. Tony has been sent pictures from across the world and all of them from someone’s window. Go take a picture from your window and send it to Tony.

Tawny Press – writes at Innoventions Tawny & I met through LinkedIn. She has been my Social Media mentor and encouraged me to get back involved with Twitter after I had given up on it. She is “officially” a corporate educator, but her ability to educate the rest of us regarding the best practices in Social Networking is what will keep you visiting her blog. She has some wonderful How-To’s on using Twitter and associated tools. She writes these not from a mechanical perspective but from the practitioners perspective, she has used the tools, documented her use and then written the How-to, saving the rest of us hours of trial and error.

Christa M Miller – writes at Vocational Duality Christa & I met through LinkedIn when I answered a question she had posed about using Twitter. She represents that great dynamic of professional non-fiction freelance writer (Law Enforcement is her specialization), mother, wife, fiction writer. All of these influences make appearances in her blog which makes it all the more readable. She can discuss items as diversse as personal branding issues using great personal examples of googling potential collaborators, to discussing the challenge of writing with a two-year old on your lap.

David Brown – writes at neo1seo David has a really interesting idea about how to respond to your followers on Twitter. He has a video that is sent to them via an auto-response. He says he has only received on bad comment back and lots of positive ones. I guess the auto-response part is slightly less human, but I must admit I love the idea of a video introducing yourself to your follower, that part is really human.

Of course I read the Rockstars too, but these are the people I read not because I should, but because they give me a reason to at the personal level. So who do you read?

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