Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking Back on 2009

Like many I started 2009 worried that the difficulties of the previous year would be magnified and my situation would eventually become serious. In late 2008 my job had been eliminated (after 20+ years with the same company) and along with it the security of health insurance and a clear sense of who I was.

But early in 2009 I launched my own social media-strategy business,
Fixitology, began volunteering for the Ad Council of Rochester and began taking an online Master Certificate course in Internet Marketing through the University of San Francisco. Before the year was out I would have multiple businesses as clients of Fixitology, I’d be consulting for Brand Cool Marketing and I would take on a fulltime teaching position in the Communication Department at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

What a difference a year makes. I count myself extremely fortunate, but I also know that a transformative year like this will leave its mark on me forever. Here are the five things I will always remember about 2009:

Change The monumental change in the way people communicate and share called Social Media is so big that many have yet to grasp its significance. Like a tsunami, this wave of communication platforms is getting bigger and bigger. Many will not see this change for what it is until it is too late. I count myself fortunate to have begun engaging four years ago and really stepping up my involvement in 2009. And like a tsunami it’s never too late to try seek higher ground or a way to ride the wave. Here’s hoping most will “get it” in 2010.

Friendship – It used to fit a fairly narrow description in my life: the people I had known for a long time and wanted to spend time with. Through Social Media and groups such as the
Social Media Club of Rochester I have learned that a shared interest in any manner of things can lead to abiding friendships with people I once would not have had the opportunity to meet. I’ve also learned that by giving help where I can and whenever I can, I ultimately feel rewarded many times over.

Learning – This has been a continual process in my life, but it wasn’t until I took the visiting professor job at RIT that I realized how interwoven learning and teaching are. I went in thinking I would be teaching, but it turns out I’m doing as much learning – about life, about people and about the way people learn. For this I’m grateful to my students and my fellow faculty. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t get valuable insights.

Courage – This is not something I had ever consciously thought about, but it is something I’ve started to detect (either in its abundance or a lack thereof) in those faced by uncertainty or the unknown. While uncertainty faced many during the year some dealt with it by striking out in new directions; others by retrenching, waiting and hoping. When a client pointed out that they admired my courage for doing the former it was a great moment of self-realization. If that is courage (as opposed to, say, naive stupidity) then I’m glad I had it at this time in my life.

Optimism – I’ve always known that my positive take on most people and most situations was at odds with some of those around me. But this year when others started thanking me for seeing a difficult situation in a positive light - I realized that just being me was helping others to see things more positively. I thought about my maternal grandmother Hilmary Catton a lot this year … it was her attitude that came through in me during the year. My favorite saying of hers (and I am paraphrasing here): “Life – it sure beats the alternative!”

So, no matter what 2010 holds in store, for me 2009 will always the year of Social Media and self-realization.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Social Media as the new technology boogeyman

As Social Media becomes a scapegoat in workplaces because “employees are spending too much time on it” or “they’re not representing us well with it” I love to tell this story about a scary new technology in the workplace

The new-fangled technology was not to be trusted … so much so that the boss set it on a desk in the middle of the office where he could see it through the window in his door. Now he was sure he could keep an eye on it and monitor its use by employees.
You see he just knew employees would be tempted to spend too much time on that contraption, would not use it for work purposes and, worse, would use it to give away company secrets. What possible good purpose could this technology be put to?

Well that “technology” was the telephone and the timeframe? The start of the 20th Century.

You see humans have always mistrusted the new and suspected it would lead to “no good.”

So how should organizations regulate Social Media in the workplace? They shouldn’t … at least not in ways different from the way they regulate computer and telephone usage.

3 Ways Businesses Can Erase Social Media Fears:

1. Explain: Tell your employees all about Social Media (including some of its pitfalls such as “Your tweets will live on forever … be careful”) and then explain to them that their use of company property (computers etc) to engage on Social Media is stealing unless they are doing the company’s business.

2. Train: Are there things they could legitimately do to help your business on Social Media? Absolutely! So train them in the types of messages around your company, your products and services that you strongly suggest they use when the opportunity is right. Show them how to use Social Media to monitor for mentions of your brand and/or product and then train again on how to direct those messages or respond to them.

3. Ingrain: Make sure every fiber in their body understands that Social Media is a public space. They should not say anything they would not be willing to shout from your rooftop in front of you or their mother (whoever carries the bigger stick in their minds).

If you, like me, believe that businesses blocking access to Social Media and other websites is wrong please consider checking out
and supporting its work.

Remember, Social Media, like most things can not truly be suppressed or held back. Why not embrace the change and have smart employees acting as your eyes, ears and mouthpieces?

Related posts:
Questions Are a Recipe for Social Media Success
5 Social Media Mistakes

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Don’t Get Bogged Down in a Blog

Ideas for newbies about to jump off the lily pad and into the blogosphere

Blogging can be an excellent way to get started in Social Media (providing of course you allow comments and feedback).

It’s the way for a company, organization or individual can show off knowledge, build trust and gather a following.

Here are some blogging best practices to advance your standing in Social Media.

Your own blog:

Content: Pick a niche that you can “own” and always be helpful by offering analysis, tips and useful commentary

Length: Plan to always post between 250 and 750 words for the best Search Engine Optimization (SEO) results.

Headlines: The more intriguing, the better. Consider using numbers as part of your title and consider numbers that resonate with readers. (i.e. 3, 5, 7 and 10) So, for example: The 10 Signs Your Social Media Efforts Are Paying Off

Keywords: Using your top keywords is critical so that your blog post helps with your website’s overall Search Engine ranking. Therefore always try to include keywords in the headline, hyperlinked text and all the key tag fields.

Links: Always internally link (to your own Website content and to previous, related blog content. Also link to other blogs and news that is highly relevant. This cross-linking strategy helps your blog rise up in Search Engine results.

Schedule: Treat blog posting as a routine – no less than one post per week is good; two per week would be better. Create an editorial calendar built around topics that will be of high interest to readers, be timely and be able to carry your keywords.

Photos or Graphics: Including at least one with a post is recommended when possible. Use your keywords in the image "alt" attribute when possible

Review: Always have at least one set of extra eyes – a trusted colleague or friend – review the post before it goes live. It’s your reputation at stake here.

Sharing: Use Social Media platforms, email or other methods to let people know when a new post goes live. Allow visitors to click on an RSS feed so they automatically get notified of new posts.

Comments: Be sure to acknowledge comments left on your blog. Be positive – even when commenters aren’t.

Commenting on others’ blogs

Be thoughtful: Reference what helped you and try to add value to the original post.

Regularity: By commenting regularly on a few blogs you will establish a relationship with that blogger and their audience.

Linking: Add links in your commetns rarely and with great care so you don’t appear to be merely a self-promoter. If you are linking to content of your own, be sure it is very relevant to the topic at hand. Consider including linking to other blogs

Related posts:
5 Really Useful Sites for Social Media Newbies
Questions Are a Recipe for Social Media Success