Sunday, May 31, 2009

5 Steps Before Jumping Into Social Media

Thinking before you jump will save you from ending up ‘all wet’

It seems everyone can’t wait to jump into Social Media. And for business this may present a real problem.

Think of Social Media as a giant swimming pool. Now if you have a simple goal of just getting wet, then by all means jump in.

But if you have some real goals and want a return on your time in Social Media you might want to have a plan.

Here’s a checklist of 10 Things To Consider Before You Jump into Social Media:

1. Do you have the support of all the stakeholders? Seems simple, but without buy-in from employees all the way up to the CEO and shareholders you may find yourself spending more time explaining and defending rather than engaging in Social Media. If you get commitments of time and money upfront you can focus on getting off to a good start.

2. Do you have clearly defined goals? Social Media can be a lot of different things to a lot of different users, but one thing it can’t be: A miracle worker. Muddled and confused presences in Social Media will look like everyone behind them does not know who they are and why they are there. Do you, for example, know where your target audience hangs out in Social Media? Take the time to do the research and create a plan (with benchmarks to measure results).

3. Do you know what tools will best suit your purpose? Blogs may make sense if you have someone who is a good writer and has the interest in maintaining the effort. Facebook and Twitter presences could help grow the audience or how about LinkedIn profile where you share something about your business and show off your employees and their skills? The point is: Not all tools make sense for all situations.

4. Do you have the knowledge and skill to do this effectively? The good news: Your organization may collectively “know more than it knows.” In other words there may be people on board who know different aspects of Social Media. Great! But if not then you’ll need to hire some help. You also need to consider who will maintain the effort and who will oversee it.

5. Do you understand the risks? These run the gamut from “What happens if we don’t engage in Social Media?” to “What happens if something goes wrong in Social Media - how will we react?” Will your existing policies on electronic communications be adequate to cover employees and others using Social Media tools? Ask lots of questions.

If any of these questions about Social Media efforts give you cause to pause then you may need to turn to a professional – someone who can guide the process for you: from research and planning to training, implementation and measuring success.


Peter Kim writing for on The 22 Step Social Media Marketing Plan

Cory Treffiletti writing the blog Online Spin for MediaPost on The Problem with Planning Social Media (No Problem)

Social Media Academy is an education and research institute whose graduates work in many aspects of Social Media

For some national “heavy hitters” in Social Media see ReadWriteWeb’s postSeven Social Media Consultants That Deliver Tangible Value

Previous Posts
10 Commandments for Social Media
5 strategies to get the Boss into Social Media
Social Media Expertise Is Hard To Find
Social Media disasters

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Twitter Juggernaut

Social Media’s fastest growing platform won’t slow down

Twitter continues to tweet up a storm and seems unstoppable in its drive to be the No. 1 Social Media platform.

The latest evidence comes in a poll on LinkedIn that rated Twitter more important to business than LinkedIn! This in a time when LinkedIn is widely considered to be “The Social Media network for business.”

In his excellent summary of the survey, “Poll: Business People Say Twitter More Important Than LinkedIn” Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb points out that the poll question may have been tilted against LinkedIn. As asked in the poll, the question was: “What is the most important new platform for brands to master?" And he quibbles that if the question had been "what do you prefer" that LinkedIn would have fared better. Nonetheless Twitter did come out on top in a poll on LinkedIn.

And if you’re looking for more evidence that Twitter will be the Social Media App of the Year in 2009 and likely the No. 1 Social Media platform in 2010 (if not sooner), here's the latest:

- Twitter is the fastest-growing major website in the U.S., according to USA Today in its May 25 story Twitter has millions tweeting in public communication service. It had 17 million registered users in the U.S. in April — up 3,000% from a year ago, according to market researcher ComScore

- Twitter founder Evan Williams points out that in a single year Twitter has gone from 1.6 million to 32.1 million users. In a CNBC interview Twitter's growth 'just getting started he says: "We think we can grow a long term sustainable valuable business here, and we're just getting started."

- A Squidoo lens called Twitterapps lists 275 Twitter applications and believes it does not have anywhere near all of them covered.

- When an old school media publication such as Time magazine devotes space to 10 Ways Twitter Will Change American Business you know the Twitterverse has reached into every corner of our existence.

And on the subject of Twitter’s universal reach Brian Solis has posted an excellent visualization of the Twitterverse on his blog PR 2.0. I highly recommend it.

Whether Twitter is the No. 1 Social Media platform now or later, one thing is certain its rapid growth and adoption for all kinds of purposes will not slow anytime soon.

Related posts
Twetiquette: 10 basics for Twitter politeness
What Twitter isn’t

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Social Media expertise is hard to find

Beware of people claiming to be experts and offering dubious training

It seems a day doesn’t go by when there isn’t an email solicitation, a tweet or a Facebook status update offering the services of “a Social Media expert,” “a Social media guru” or “a Social Media marketing authority.” But who are these people?

With the notable exception of a few universities and some fairly new institutes and academies there is not a lot of professional teaching of Social Media going on. So how is a business or individual to decide which “expert” to hire?

In Microgeist’s excellent blog post What a Social Media Expert Should Be explains that a Social Media Expert, SME, will likely need to be well-versed in (among other things) the wide range of Social Media tools, the correct way to use each of these tools, a broad knowledge of trends in the rapidly changing world of SM and be able to offer a wide variety of options for any given client.

But there is more to consider … and it really is more about the SME’s approach to Social Media.

A flyer I recently saw promised that in less than a day a particular seminar would teach participants how to “gain the competitive edge in Social Media” and “position yourself as an expert.” It goes on to say that in just a few hours seminar participants will learn to “leverage the power of Social Media marketing to grow your business.”

This seems counterintuitive because Social Media is about:

· Being social, not being a marketer or a salesperson.

· Helping others, not gaining a competitive edge (presumably at the expense of someone else – a decidedly anti-social approach)

· Growing your relationships, not growing your own self-interest (business and otherwise).

Yes, Social Media is a powerful new tool for connecting with others. And it will by its nature allow relationships to sometimes lead to commerce. But when someone offers a seminar lasting a few hours and promises to make you an expert and show you the “secret” of using Social Media to grow a business … be careful.

Many of these people are well-intentioned, but some are just in it to make money and grow their reputations. Before spending your hard-earned cash here are

5 Questions to Ask Any Prospective Teacher of Social Media:

1. What are your credentials to teach Social Media?

2. How long have you been in Social Media? (And where can I find you in Social Media – which platforms?)

3. How successful have your past seminar participants been?

4. Among past students who recommends you and where can I contact them?

5. What is the potential for follow up once the course/seminar is over? (Will the instructor be available for further consultation?)

An unsatisfactory answer to any of these questions should be your first red flag that you are dealing with someone who wants your money more than your Social Media success.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Social Media REALLY scares some businesses

It’s the technological boogeyman of the moment. What businesses can do to overcome the fear.

Social Media you’ve really come a long way. You’ve grown from geeky young kid to awkward teenager. And now you’ve really made it: You’re a young adult and you really, really scare a lot of business owners and managers.

Social Media is the technological boogeyman of the moment.

What if my employees give away company secrets? What if they harass someone? What if they waste time?

In an earlier age it these questions were all asked of other “new” technologies: first the telephone and then the personal computer. It seems each age has a piece of technology that frightens business.

A recent survey found businesses fear Social Media. Sophos, a British IT security firm, found that”Two thirds of businesses fear that social networking endangers corporate security”. The basis of this fear is that business owners believe employees will reveal too much personal information and too much company information – thereby endangering the company.

But its more than that. Businesses – at least some of them – actively dislike the idea of Social Media because customers have all the power.

Mary Ellen Slayter writing on explains Why business is hostile to social networking and says Social media makes the top people at any business nervous because it makes them feel vulnerable.

But, really there is nothing to fear. Here’s what businesses need to do:

Review existing company policies: Is there anything in the existing company handbook or the employee policies that needs new language to cover any situation in Social Media? It’s unlikely. Harassment, revealing company secrets and being unprofessional look and sound the same regardless of where they happen.

Reinforce the policies: Make sure everyone who works for you understands that the employee policies apply for all interactions and in all places where they can be perceived to be representing the company.

Train and empower your employees: Encourage your workers to engage in the community – in person and online. Make sure everyone knows that they have the power to help the business by the way they behave in public … and yes, Social media counts as in public. Give them great information about your business and encourage them to help tell your story.

Walk the walk: Many top executives talk about open communications and welcoming feedback … it’s time to live up to that. Encourage employees to communicate with you and be sure to respond. Also: engage with your customers yourself. Start a blog. Sign up for Twitter and or Facebook. You will be surprised how much your customers appreciate the access.

Monitor your brand name and competitors in Social media: This seems obvious, but most companies do not yet understand that conversations about them are happening all the time in the Social Networks, they just aren’t aware of them. Either make kit someone’s job or hire someone to do it for you.

Relax: Really! Now! Would you think twice about your employees using a PC or a telephone. One day you WILL laugh about how you were once so worried about your employees being on Social Media.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Communications Schools and Teaching Social Media

Which communications schools are teaching Social Media integration?

The use of Social Media continues to explode.

News organizations, advertising agencies, marketing firms and public relations businesses are working mightily to add Social Media to their arsenal of weapons and tactics for reaching the unwashed masses.

And yet universities in the United States seem slow to grasp the significance of the changes in the world of communications.

A Google search on the terms “social media” and “communications school” brings a little over 900 results. But less than a half dozen of these links take you to a four-year college that teaches classes in Social Media. None offers a four-year degree in a subject area such as Social Media and Public Communications.

While there are very good schools offering one-off classes and add-on labs it's fair to say that generally American academia has not been sufficiently impressed by Social Media to offer in-depth academic course work in its various elements.

A notable exception is American University’s Center for Social Media. With its mantra of “Helping people make media that matters” and a mission to “investigate, showcase and set standards for socially engaged media-making” it is a shining example of what a higher-learning institution can do. And yet …

Somehow, it seems to me, Social Media will only have “made it” when classes such as “Twitter 101: How Twitter Fits Into the Public Communications Spectrum” and “Twitter 201: Using Twitter to Add Meaning and Value to Public Communications” are among those in a four-year curriculum in Social Media.

Clearly American academia (and the people who fund it) have yet to grasp the colossal change going on in Public Communications. Still content to teach “push” media such as television, radio, newspaper and magazine, they may offer one class on the “new Social Media” here or there.

Ironically many students graduating from communications schools in the next few weeks will know more about Social Media than their professors – a lot more – and they will have learned it on their own.

As they look for jobs in real world media it’s a very safe bet their knowledge and abilities with Social Media will set them apart from those who simply stuck to the curriculum.

When will the majority of communications schools wake up?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

5 strategies to get the Boss into Social Media

Getting the CEO to “drink the Kool Aid” and invest in a SoMedia strategy

Using Social Media to sell the idea of Social Media is not a new idea. But here are five ways you can use it to sell the boss on the idea of investing some time and money in a SoMedia strategy:

1. Show him or her how much you can learn about competitors: A few quick searches across LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook on a competitor’s company name, its key executives and its biggest brands will turn up a wealth of information.

Do some of these searches ahead of time and have them saved. Be sure to go first to one or two that reveal something new about the competitor. Explain that your company’s SoMedia efforts would be better because they would happen within company guidelines.

2. Show who in your industry is already there. If there are a lot of other companies in your industry already in SoMedia – “Why aren’t we there too?” If there are few or no other companies already there – “What are we waiting for? We can get way out in front.”

Be ready with questions such as “What’s in it for us?” (More customers and more-engaged customers) and “Will this cost us a lot of money?” (No, but we should re-allocate some of our existing marketing money.”)

3. Point out any existing Social Media expertise in the organization. Someone in accounting is a LinkedIn expert, someone in sales is a Twitter addict and someone in the front office is already blogging. Great. The in-house talent base is already established.

This means the organization is not starting from scratch – always an appealing thought to an unsure executive.

4. Use “What if” questions to pose some possibilities. “What if we start a Facebook fan page?” Or: “What if we start a blog to talk about some of the interesting things we’re doing here?” Perhaps: “What if we try a Twitter account as a way to talk directly to our customers?”

Having plenty of these questions ready will show the boss that you’ve given this some thought and you’re only suggesting baby steps. Yes, eventually you would hope to persuade them that a much bigger effort is needed … up to and including a Social Media plan and a budget to fund it. But starting small can help a nervous boss dip his or her toe in the Social Media water confident that they won’t quickly get dragged under by some underwater leviathan.

5. Try fear-mongering. Ask some of the 15 Questions to Ask a CEO Skeptical About Social Media from Axel Schultze’s excellent post on the CustomerThink Blog.

Questions such as “Do you know … how vulnerable you are?” and “Are you ready if your competitors go after your customers in the social web?” ought to get him or her to sit up straight and think about Social Media.

This last suggestion is said only half in jest. For some bosses the only real motivator will be “What will happen if I don’t do this?”

As Social Media takes more and more of your customers’ time the answer to that question might just be … no customers?