Thursday, December 30, 2010

Big Changes Coming in Social Media in 2011

In 2011 there will be monumental changes in social media. And by monumental I don’t mean anything that has to do with new platforms or new tools. No, I mean there will be monumental changes in the way people use them.

Here then are my 5 Big Changes in Social Media for 2011

1. People will want more real experiences: It will no longer be acceptable to interrupt real, in-person conversation to check-in, tweet or update your status. Those of us who have had it up to here with this kind of rudeness will start calling people on it. We’ll all be looking to take social and other web experiences and find some real aspect to them.

The opportunity: Real Foursquare badges anyone? Any marketer who can take an online experience and add entertainment or some other real-world value will reap big rewards.

2. Social networks + email = marketer’s dream: Email is newly resurgent as a marketing tool. Combine this with the ability of social networks to help identify groups of interested customers and you have a winning combination.

The opportunity: Marketers will use email to encourage the sharing of content on social networks and use social networks to encourage engagement via email – a win-win for both email and social marketing.

3. Social network growth will slow: Facebook will continue its inexorable march to get everyone (and their pets) signed up and Twitter will continue to explode as a newsfeed. However, everyone will become a lot more selective about who they follow, friend, fan and like. This will mean a slowing in the growth of social networks.

The opportunity: The percentage of active participants on networks will rise meaning those you engage with are more likely to respond.

4. We’ll all watch the clock: How much time we are willing to spend on a given social platform will become an issue. So many people signed up on Facebook in the past 12 to 24 months, for example, that the newness of the network kept a lot of them on it for hours at a time. That, will change rapidly in 2011 as the newness wears off and we reconsider the utility of two or three hours per day spent on a social network.

The opportunity: Anyone who operates online and can simplify processes (from the sign-in to the check-in to the posting of a comment) will win big.

5. We’ll reach a saturation point: “Social media saturation” will become a catchphrase and as a result we'll all start trimming if not wholesale chopping down the number of social sites we visit to only those most-relevant to us.

The opportunity: With the crowds starting to form around fewer networks it will become increasingly easy to figure out which platforms and social network members are truly influential.

So, what do you think? Can any or all of this come to pass in social media in 2011?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

5 Foursquare apps you may not know

Foursquare is one of social media’s fastest growing tools. Here are five web-based apps to help you get more out of your time on Foursquare: This is an app that tracks who is checking in at various locations around you using Foursquare. And although it also offers data on check-ins on Gowalla, Brightkite and Twitter, its data is most comprehensive for Foursquare. It uses Google Maps-like functionality to show where you are in relation to various locations. In Venue mode it lists those nearby locations already identified on Foursquare. In Tips mode you can read what others have said about a particular location. This site allows users to manage the brands they're following and not following. And, as of this writing, there were 343 brands on Foursquare – many of them offering rewards for being followed. If you are anxious to become the mayor of more Foursquare venues or looking to get a SuperMayor badge this is the web app to use. It makes it easy to find out how many more check-ins it will take to become the mayor of a venue and is also a good tool for visualizing your Foursquare history. This app has the slogan “See who’s playing” and answers the question: If you’re in front of a computer and want to know where your friends are before heading out what can you do? Sign into Fourcourt with Foursquare sign in and see where everybody you know is (or has been recently). A site that says it has more than 20,000 offers from around 79 countries. It allows search by name of a business, tags, category and location (within 25 miles). Note: Outside major metropolitan areas there may be a limited number of offers.

Know of other useful Foursquare web-based apps? Please help others in social media get more from Foursquare by adding them in the comments area below.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Social media branding: Discovering the real you

Before you can successfully plan a strategy for personal branding in social media you need to understand the real you.

This is the fifth part of an ongoing series looking at personal branding (links to previous posts in the series below). Today I offer some suggestions on how to discover your own inner strengths and interests.

It sounds easy enough right? Just think about what really lights your fire and what you love to do? But it’s a little more complex than that.

We humans lose track of our true selves and we stop seeing our own strengths and weaknesses. So what to do? I’d like to suggest two relatively inexpensive tools that can help you get on the path to self-discovery.

Strengths Finder

This little book may be the best $10-$15 you’ll ever spend.

To help people uncover their talents, Gallup introduced the first version of its online assessment, Strengths Finder, in the 2001 management book Now, Discover Your Strengths.

The book spent more than five years on the bestseller lists as it helped millions to discover their Top 5 talents. In
Strengths Finder 2.0 Gallup unveiled a new and improved version of its popular assessment and sorted strengths into 34 themes.

You read the first 30 pages of the book and then submit to an online test. A computer-generated report is then emailed to you. Based on your Top 5 you can quickly see what approaches come naturally to you and which will likely give you the greatest satisfaction.

strengths as determined by Strengths Finder are (in order):
• Ideation
• Learner
• Context
• Achiever
• Includer

And while none of this was surprising, the way these strengths play off each other and people with different strengths was a huge insight.

KolbeA Index:

Kolbe A Index is a little more expensive (about $50) and measures a person's instinctive Method of Operation (MO), and identifies the ways he or she will be most productive. It is only taken once, because these innate abilities do not change over time.

The index was developed by Kathy Kolbe and identifies four human instincts used in creative problem solving. These instincts are not measurable. However, the observable acts derived from them can be identified and quantified by the Kolbe A™ Index.

These instinct-driven behaviors are represented in the four Kolbe Action Modes. For each you will be rated on a scale of 1 to 10. The combination of these scores tells you where your strengths lie.

KolbeA Index results are:
Fact Finder: 8
Follow Through: 3
Quick Start: 8
Implementer: 1

What all of this means is that I now have a solid sense of what my natural tendencies are and what really gets me fired up. Armed with this I’m ready to start planning my social media personal branding approach.

What do you think? Are these outside tools helpful?

Earlier posts in the series:
1. Personal Branding in Social Media: First Steps
2. Social Media Optimization for Personal Branding
3. Words to live by in social media personal branding
4. Blogs are the cornerstone of personal branding

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Offering social media thanks

Thanks for the great platforms that make social media part of every day of my life.

Thanks to
Twitter for being my No. 1 source of news – and this from a guy who worked for more than 20 years in the newspaper industry!

Thanks to
Linkedin for hosting such great groups – places I learn something every time I check in.

Thanks to
Facebook for allowing me to stay connected to people I would have lost touch with years ago.

Thanks to
YouTube for showing me aspects of life and this world I would otherwise never see (and the fact that so much of what I see on YouTube is funny doesn’t hurt either).

Thanks to
foursquare for getting me to explore the planet – or at least whatever part of it I happen to be on at a given moment.

Thanks to
Social Media Today for being the best aggregator of serious and accurate insights into the developing world of social media for business.

Thanks to
Mashable for being the quickest and flashiest aggregator of news about social media.

Thanks to
Alltop for allowing me to set up a social media feed tailored to my particular interests.

But, most of all, thank you to everyone I interact with daily, weekly or ever on social media you teach me so much and make every day insightful – I can’t thank you enough.

Related post:
A Social Media Feast for Thanksgiving

Friday, November 12, 2010

Blogs are the cornerstone of personal branding

Using social media to help your personal brand stand out is a smart move, but where do you start? Can I suggest a blog?

Here then is the fourth installment of my personal branding series of blogs (links to the previous three are at the end of this post).

5 key steps to get you off to a good start with a blog:

1. Pick a topic that is uniquely you:
Think passion and interests: You will not be able to sustain a blog on a topic that you don’t feel strongly about. And you should define the scope of your topic. Think Goldilocks and The Three Bears: Something that’s not too big and not too small. For example, don’t just decide to write about public relations, but maybe about public relations for non-profits who are looking to include social media. Then you should be able to sum up your blog’s purpose in a single-sentence elevator pitch that spells out why your blog is unique (and therefore worth following).

2. Be authentic:
Write about what you know, what you find out and where you find it. Be human and allow your blog to grow intellectually as you grow. Become THE expert over time. Followers will gravitate to a blog that is making a journey they can tag along for. Be sure to link to appropriate sources and give credit where it’s due.

3. Be smart:
. Post your best work. There will be posts that need more time for review and rewriting. Make sure you have several blog posts on the go so that you can keep to a posting schedule. But, also, don’t over-second-guess yourself. No post will ever be perfect. Listen to that inner voice. If you think you’ll regret a post a week from now don’t post it. Also make sure your posts inside the magical 250- to 750-word range so that search engine spiders will find and rank your posts.

4. Be interesting and/or newsworthy:
This is easily said, but maybe not so easily done, right? What’s interesting? I found this definition at What’s newsworthy? I like the definition here at If you can appeal to these main definitions of interesting and or newsworthiness you will very likely gain an audience.

5. Stick with it:
A blog can be relatively easy to start and sometimes painful to maintain. You never seem to have enough time. You run out of things to write about. Some solutions? Plan an hour or so a week to write and review. Set a realistic goal (say, posting a 250-to-500-word piece weekly) and stick with it. Start a list of potential topics and keep adding to it. For each idea that becomes a post you should add two more to your list. Jot down ideas whenever they hit you. Maintain this list. Stick with it.

Bonus tips:

Make it easy to spread share your blog: Add code (easily found in a Google search) that allows people who like your posts to share it with others across social networking and social bookmarking sites.

Get to know your regular blog visitors: Thank them for their comments (if they leave them) and check out their blogs if they follow yours. You never know where one of these online relationships might lead to a future opportunity.

Collaborate: Ask others to occasionally guest post on your blog and offer to reciprocate. Your name on other blogs gets it in front of fresh eyes.

Be patient: It may take weeks or months of posting to build a following and some relationships. Just understand that it will pay off.

So, are you ready to blog? I hope you try it because as the cornerstone of a social media personal branding strategy it is hard to beat. What didn’t I mention? Please let me know.

Related posts:

1. Personal Branding in Social Media: First Steps
2. Social Media Optimization for Personal Branding
3. Words to live by in social media personal branding

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Words to live by in social media personal branding

When it comes to personal branding in social media what you say is as important, if not more important, than where you say it.

In this third part of my look at personal branding in social media (links to the first two are below) I’d like to focus on what you say and where you say it.

Those who are relatively new to social media may not realize that whatever you say on most platforms can be found not just by people looking for you but also by those who may not even know you exist.

Among this latter group are prospective business partners, future employers and possible social acquaintances.
You, and what you say, are often “found” thanks the search engines’ “spiders” – the automated software programs that crawl the web to gather and categorize data. If these spiders see your name associated with terms such as marketing and sales that is how they rank you – and how others are likely to find you – higher in search results on sites such as Google.

Can you influence what words (and therefore industry, expertise etc) your name is most-commonly associated with? Of course. Do you want to take steps to make sure your personal brand is appearing in search results the way you’d like it to? Absolutely. But how?

Five ways to use keywords to make your personal brand distinct:

1. Have a keyword list:
Keywords are single word or multi-word phrases and you need to have a short list that sums up you and your interests. Mine, for example, include social media, social media strategy, social media tactics and social media best practices. Whenever I’m writing something for the web (like this blog post)I always want to include one or more of these phrases in the headline, the first paragraph and the last paragraph. That way the spiders are more likely to associate those phrases with my name.

2. Blog:
The easiest way to have your thoughts published in an easily found and cataloged way is a blog. Come up with a theme that you’ll write about, be sure to use your keywords, write posts of between 250 and 750 words (the widely believed minimum and maximum searched length of posts) and post regularly (at least weekly).

3. Share something: You need to know where to find good content by others so you can be a curator of content around the topic you wish to be associated with. Then share links via social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin and be sure to drop in some of your keywords in the postings. If all your social presences are linked (as they should be) this helps the spiders understand your close ties to the subject matter and likely boosts you up the search results.

4. Add something:
Know who the thought leaders in your field are and learn about where they post content. Then find appropriate opportunities to contribute to the discussion of a blog post or on a Linkedin group, for example. You might also look for example to virtually introduce two people you know on social networks who might benefit by getting to know each other. This adding value will get you online mentions, which in turn raises your profile online.

5. Have a plan: Doing all of the above as opportunities present themselves is fine, but why leave it all to chance? To get measurable results you need a plan. That means writing a piece of content once and finding multiple ways to repurpose it across various social platforms. It means building in time to engage with others in social media. It means, most of all, making sure you stay on topic and use your keywords.

Bonus: Want to know how you’re doing using keywords on your blog, for example? Go to Wordle and enter the URL for your blog. The resulting word cloud highlights the words you are most often using. The image above, for example, is a Wordle word cloud of this blog.

If all of this sounds like work, it is. But to succeed with personal branding in social media what you say is an important social media strategy.

Related posts:
Personal Branding in Social Media: First Steps
Social Media Optimization for Personal Branding

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Social Media Optimization for Personal Branding

If personal branding unlocks the many benefits of social media participation then search engine optimization, or SEO, is the key to that lock.

To follow up on my
Personal Branding in Social Media: First Steps post I’d like to look at a few ways to ensure you’ll be found – whether it’s for a job, for your business or just to network with others.

First, have you Googled yourself lately? You do Google yourself regularly, don’t you?

If you do a web search (and by Google I mean all search although we all know who dominates this space) on yourself you will fairly quickly see how others see you on the web. And for the purposes of this post I’ll assume you want to be found.

As it relates to personal branding it is very important that you are found quickly … preferably at or near the top of the first page of Google search results. So how do you get there? I’m glad you asked …

5 Steps to a Search Engine Optimized-Personal Brand Through Social Media:

1. Own the URL of your own name: If your name as a “.com” is still available run out (no sprint!) and buy it now. You get one shot at this – seize it. If your name is already taken find a way to get a distinct version of your name as a URL. The closer you can tie it you as a person, the better. For example, I was lucky to grab when it was available, but if it wasn’t I was willing to settle for MikeJohanssonNY or MikeJNY (I live in New York).

Having your own name as a URL (and some kind of website about you at that address) is quite important. On this website you will link to all of your other web presences. Elsewhere (social networks included) you will link to this website. All of this helps the web spiders that in turn help
Google Search understand that you are THAT individual and not some other person with the same or a similar name and then rank you and the search results you appear in.

2. Use your name consistently across the web: Whatever name you use in life, on a resume, on the web or across your social networks needs to be consistent. That way someone looking for Bob Harris won’t be confused when they find Robert Harris. For example, if you Google
Mike Johansson you should find a lot of stuff about me. At least that’s what SEO efforts in personal branding should be getting me.

3. Use keywords: Make sure you have an elevator pitch (the 30-second statement about who you are and what you do) that has your essential
keyword phrases in it. This pitch should set you apart from others. All or part of it should be used as your bio across all social networks.

4. Link all of your online presences: This seems obvious, perhaps. Whatever platforms you are on you should highlight the others on which you can be found. For example, on Facebook tell people how to find you on Twitter and Linkedin or how to find your blog. Some social networks allow you to post clickable links while others (such as Twitter) do not. Post clickable links where you can or incorporate your Facebook and other links as part of the background image on sites such as Twitter. This cross-linking will pay big dividends when someone searches for you because no matter where they first find you they instantly know where else they can connect with you.

5. Check, and recheck, how others see you: You should Google your own name at least once a week. Look for how you do, or don’t, show up in the first page of results. Notice what other results show up further down. Are there some that you want to get rid of (I’ll blog about that soon). Look for clues to see who else shows up in that search and try to determine if a change in your keywords or adding one more social network might put you ahead of them in the race to be found.

Practice all of these steps in social media and you will see yourself rise up in the search engine results. But maybe you know of other simple steps in personal branding SEO that I haven’t covered here, please share them …

Related posts:
Personal Branding in Social Media: First Steps
Be a Giraffe in Social Media

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Personal Branding in Social Media: First Steps

Personal branding is the topic of a presentation I will be giving this week and it got me thinking how social media has changed everything.

We used to be able “tell” a future employer, client or customer about ourselves with a resume, a college transcript and/or a list of references.

Today we are more likely to “show” them a little about ourselves with all our online presences (whether we intend to or not).

I’m not saying the old way is dead, but it may well be on life support.

So in the next few posts I’ll look at some aspects of personal branding with social media – since that is likely to dominate most of our online visibility. I’ll start with things that assume you want to be found and then deal with how to handle the things you’re not so proud of and how to deal with that proactively.

Let’s start with Five Personal Branding Basics in Social Media:

1. Have your avatar be the same across all presences: That little image of you needs to be instantly recognizable. We recognize a face before we recognize a name. And, even if you have a common name, your face is distinctive. Also, make sure your face is what dominates the space. Anything less makes it hard to recognize.

2. Have your name be your real name OR a consistent name with a consistent bio: Your name on your social media presences should be the same. This may not be practical if you have a very common name or a long or difficult-to-remember name. In that case come up with a memorable name for your account and be sure your real name is prominent. For example, I am
mikefixs on Twitter, but my real name is right there at the top of the bio. In the bio say concisely who you are and say it consistently across platforms. This consistency will ultimately help with the search engine optimization (SEO) of your name.

3. Have all your social media presences linked (as much as is practicable): Reference all of your social media presences (as much as you can) from each of your social media pages. There is a whole blog post in how to do this for SEO value and that will come later. For now it’s enough to say that anyone finding you on one social media platform needs to know all of the other places they can connect with you.

4. Have a consistent stated reason for being in social media: It says a lot about some people who are on Linkedin to find their next job but on Facebook to recall all the partying. It may reflect your true nature, but it sends a mixed message. Decide why you really need to be in social media, spell it out in your bio spaces on each page and stick to it.

5. Have a clear vision for how you add value in social media: This is trickiest part if you’re relatively new to social media on many platforms. Do you know how you are adding value to others by being here? It may be to answer questions from others. It may be to share great stuff you find. It may be to help others connect. How you are perceived on the “giving” side of social media will have a huge impact on the likelihood you will be on the “receiving” end of good things in social media. What kind of good things? Introductions to new networks, tips on great jobs, leads on the latest information in your field … the list does go on. The important thing is that ultimately this may be the real reason to be in social media.

So, does this list do a good job getting you started? To the more experienced out there: What did I forget from my list for social media newbies?

Possibly related links:
Part 2: Social Media Optimization for Personal Branding
10 Commandments for Social Media
5 Really Useful Sites for Social Media Newbies

Thursday, July 29, 2010

10 Tips for Better Business Tweeting

As more and more businesses look for ways to engage in social media, many are turning to Twitter. And it’s fair to say most are wasting their time.

How can you more effectively operate in Twitter on behalf of, or for, a business? Let’s look at 10 tips:

1. Be transparent: If the purpose of your Twitter account is to help spread the word about your business, products or service then your bio, your profile background and either your account name or web site URL should make it clear that the account is tied to a business. Any deception here will be obvious.

2. Be attractive: Start with an interesting avatar image (not your company logo – except if your logo is recognized worldwide – Ford, Pepsi etc). It’s best to have a human face. Also, make sure your bio explains something about the people behind the account, not just the business and its interests.

3. Be patient: Think of your Twitter followers as acquaintances you’ve met once at a party; it’s likely they’re people you want to think well of you. So, if you’re too pushy or desperate for friends you’ll scare people away. How will they know you’re desperate? You will be following a lot more people than are following you. Need a guideline? Manage your Following/Follower ratio and try to keep the number of people you follow no higher than 10 percent above the number of followers you have.

4. Be selfless: Talk about something other than yourself, your products, your services or your business (at least most of the time). Just as you run from the self-promoting bore at a party you won’t stick around on Twitter to listen to someone who talks incessantly about themselves and their interests.

5. Be strategic: Do this by following appropriate accounts and not just anybody. If you follow random people on Twitter it sends a message that you’re more desperate for friends than you are for worthwhile relationships. (See No. 1 above.)

6. Be engaging: Join in conversations, answer questions and be helpful. This group of activities will separate your business Twitter account from the other 90 percent who are so busy being all about “pushing” their messages that they have forgotten that Twitter is a social medium.

7. Be interesting: This can be “easier said than done.” What is interesting? We all know uninteresting when we see it, but interesting can be harder to define. A good barometer is how your follower numbers grow and how often your tweets get retweeted. If you’re not getting new followers organically and few, if any, RTs it’s likely you are not very interesting to many people and you should reconsider what you’re saying on Twitter.

8. Be different: If you’re the 57th Twitter account to talk about search engine optimization tips, for example, you’re wasting your time. Use a Google search to see who else is tweeting on and around topics that interest you and then try to find your own niche and/or angle.

9. Be reliable: Tweet regularly. This can be on your own schedule as long as you can provide good content on some kind of schedule. Why? A Twitter account that is inactive for long periods of time sends the message that any activity is self-serving and only done when it serves the business exclusively.

10. Be human: This can be the hardest thing to do when you’re trying very hard to serve a business purpose on Twitter. One principle that should guide you: If you don’t feel you can be yourself and talk candidly you’re likely wasting your time on Twitter. Accounts that sound like the corporate PR department wrote each tweet will not get a following and will waste everyone’s time.

So, there you have it: 10 ideas for better use of Twitter for business purposes. Like all social media there really are no hard and fast rules, but these guidelines may prove useful. Now it’s your turn: What did I forget to include?

Possibly related posts:
10 Social Media Nos-Nos
Twetiquette: 10 basics for Twitter politeness

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How to Sniff Out Social Media Snake Oil

In my recent post Social Media Snake Oil I touched on some simple clues that your potential social media services provider is a snake oil salesman. Now I’d like to show you how you can confirm any suspicions.

Step 1: You need a list of questions for the “expert.” I’m a big fan of Ian Lurie’s Conversation Marketing blog and his 10 Questions to Evaluate a Social Media ‘Expert’. Between the original list and the great comments left by others there’s a ton of great fodder for questions.

Step 2: You will want to discover all their social media names so you can do research on them. Google and Yahoo searches should turn up most, if not all, of them. If a search on their name or their company name does not reveal very many social presences, run the other way.

Step 3: Try to visit their pages on the most-popular social platforms – in no particular order: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Fickr. Also find their blog (they do have a blog don’t they?). To do this go to one of these sites and enter their name and use the “refine search” function to narrow your search: Google blog search or Technorati blog search (at the top of the page).

Step 4: Based on what you see on all of these pages and social media sites you will want to look for:

  • Frequency of posting and engaging with others

  • The tone of their conversations

  • How they use these tools: Do they share valuable content and help people or … well, that’s what they should be doing

  • The numbers of people who follow, friend or connect with them (while not the most-important measure, it is part of what counts)

If anything in your research here just doesn’t seem like the work of an expert – run the other way.

Step 5: Use specific tools to assess their social media standing. For example on Twitter you can use Klout where you should pay attention to the True Reach. Influencer Of and overall score numbers. Other influence tools on Twitter can be found in my previous blog post 7 Tools to Find Who’s Big on Twitter.

And just for a laugh (and this video is not for the easily offended) you should watch The Social Media Guru – and if your potential vendor starts talking like this guy – you guessed it: Run the other way!

So what other tools would you recommend for digging into a “social media expert’s” credentials?

Related Post:
Social Media Snake Oil

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Social Media Snake Oil

Social media is a bit like the Wild West in many ways. One of the less-than-desirable ways is that it has its share of snake oil salesmen (there are a few women, but most of the unscrupulous characters are men).

Get-rich-quick offers and wild claims of expertise abound. So if you’re new to social media, or just looking at new opportunities in this fast-moving environment, how can you tell who’s selling snake oil and who has real expertise? Can you tell, just by looking at someone’s social media messages, status updates or tweets that they’re probably pitching snake oil? Maybe. Here are a few signs that may mean snake oil is the lubricant your “expert” prefers:

1. Makes claims that clearly over-promise: For example, a recent tweet on Twitter (of the type you’ll see hourly): “Wow! Whatever online business your (sic) in: Learn how to get positioned to at least semi-retire in 8-12 months."

2. Capitalized words in their messages: In Instant Messaging (IM) and email capitalized words represent shouting. The same is true in social media messages. And if they’re “shouting” it’s likely they’re selling to anyone who will listen. For example, from a Facebook status update: “WOW! This Is Addictive!! My Sites Are On PAGE ONE Of Google In 20 Minutes For FREE!!

3. Claims that seem too good to be true: This is where that old saying about instincts comes into play: “Your instinct is your accumulated life experiences trying to tell you something.” Would you click through using the link in this LinkedIn update? “This SHOCKING Underground Method That Generated $25956 In 1 Day After Just Seven Days Using The Secrets - http://www.xxxxxxxxxx.”

4. Constant talk of “selling,” “pushing” or “marketing”: Think about the way most people use social media – to be social. Now contrast that to this sales pitch on Twitter: “It has never been easier to get customers into your sales funnel. Check out my website for THE ANSWERS: http://www.xxxxxx”

5. They talk about social media as the new best way to make money: They’ll often reference a well-known platform and make a statement that links it to increased profitability (without a clear explanation of how the two things are related). This is from a site offering social media training for sales people: “Facebook offers you the opportunity to build and develop a following and have your followers engage in conversations to increase sales.”

6. Anyone who says social media is easy: Once you check out some of the websites of these trainers and service providers you are likely to find reassurances that all this social media stuff really doesn't take a lot of actual time and commitment. For example, from the website of someone offering social media as a “sales solution”: “We will share some ‘secrets’ to make your social media updates easy. (15 minutes a week)”

7. Anyone who says Social Media is mandatory: Yes, two-thirds of the world’s Internet users visit a social media site weekly (according to the 2009 – the most-recent – Nielsen report
Global Faces-Networked Places report), but that number is still dwarfed by the numbers of people using traditional media, texting on their cell phones or seeing messages on billboards, buses and trains. Should social media be a part of your marketing mix? Most likely, yes. But put all your eggs in the social media basket? Probably not.

8. Only providing well-known (and tired) national examples of social media success and not being able to show examples of their own success: Anyone can talk about the successes of online shoe retailer Zappos or Dell or JetBlue. But it’s unlikely you represent a comparably sized company. What has the individual achieved on their own?

9. Someone who won’t share references: You’d check references with any other service provider, so why not in social media? If they do good work and have happy clients they should be happy to refer you to this clients for a reference. Be sure to check the legitimacy of the references too: Are they people or companies you know or have heard of?

10. Someone who talks a lot/plans a lot without asking a lot of questions: For social media to work it has to fit into your overall goals and that likely won’t happen if you hire someone who doesn’t ask a lot of questions about your goals and other plans. Be wary if they simply want to ”teach” you some social media tricks before quickly saddling up and riding away before any results, good or otherwise, show up.

11. Someone whose own social media presences are underwhelming: If the supposed expert has relatively few friends on Facebook and does not interact there very much, that’s a warning sign. Another: The person who promises to teach you the ”Insider Secrets of Twitter Power!”—but who has barely been on Twitter except for the two weeks leading up to his training session.

12. Someone whose social media presences seem to be on autopilot. This can be a little harder to detect, but easier to check up on. Send the “expert” a message via a social media platform they’re on and see how long it takes for them to respond.

So now you have a few ways to detect snake-oil. What other signs tip you off to someone selling social media snake oil?

My next post will offer more comprehensive tips and tools to assess your “social media expert” before you spend a lot of money with them.

Possibly related posts
Social Media Expertise is Hard to Find
Twitter ‘Twit’ or Twitter ‘Expert’?

- With special thanks to Mark Frisk for his help on this topic.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Why Twitter Should Be In Focus For Marketers

Twitter can be a marketer’s best friend. In 140 characters or less and across multiple tweets marketers have the opportunity to build relationships with customers, potential customers and new business partners. These relationships have the potential to be more genuine and worthwhile … and therefore more profitable.

Twitter is a marketing tool worth focusing on because it’s a place to:

1. Learn (about customers, and their needs and wants)

It doesn’t take a lot of time (although more is always better) to notice what your customers and potential customers need or want or what they are talking about.

When you’re on Twitter with the intention of marketing a good rule of thumb in the early days is to spend 80 percent of your time simply watching and listening.

These three free tools can help:

Twitter Search - Advanced: Here you can run highly refined searches on your brand, your products, your customers and then further refine that search by time and geography.

Topsy - Advanced Search: Here you select “Tweets only” under “Search a Specific Type.” You can get all results or trending topics. Perhaps the most useful features are being able to search within a specific internet domain or by a specific Twitter user (useful for competitive intelligence).

Twilert: Here you set up alerts that come via email whenever your brand, product, service or key people get mentioned on Twitter. Your Twilerts can be aggregated and sent via email at a time of your choosing. You can even turn individual Twilerts on and off as your needs change (helpful if you have a lot of them).

2. Add value (share great content)

In social media and especially Twitter: It is always better to give than to receive.

Therefore find a way to gather and share great content on Twitter. Be sure that the content you share is relevant to you and your business niche.

Places to find great content worth sharing include:

Google News: This was always a great place to search on your industry relevant keywords, but the recent changes to Google News that make it kick back results that are increasingly relevant based on your search history raise it to a whole new level.

Yahoo News: It’s an OK news feed that’s searchable. Perhaps more interesting and timely might be the new Yahoo News blog The Upshot where news is determined by the popularity of search queries. In other words you get a sense of what a lot of other people are interested in.

Another great source of good tweetable material is blogs. Two great places to find blogs in the areas you’re interested in are:

Blog Search Engine: This site uses Google custom search to index the blogosphere and has a helpful Categories list on the lower left side.

Technorati: The granddaddy of blog aggregators still finds and indexes hundreds of blogs per day. Here you’re bound to almost be overwhelmed by the number of good blogs on a given topic.

3. Show your personality

What you tweet, how you phrase your tweets and how you interact on Twitter tells the world a lot about your personality. As a marketer this transparency is invaluable and can show people who you are. This likely will lead to more people wanting to follow you on Twitter. Of course, if you’re a jerk in real life, showing off your personality may not be such a good idea!

4. Provide customer service

If you take a little time to respond to questions and concerns about your brand, goods and services you’ll quickly find the power of Twitter: one to one conversation. In these conversations you can solve customer problems, thank your fans and reach out to future customers to meet their needs.

So, how do you track who is talking about you and your company? See Twilert above or try these two free services:

Tweetbeep: This service is like Google alerts for Twitter and can send you an email summary of mentions of your brand, products and people.

Monitter: This service allows you to monitor, track and search tweets in real-time. You can enter up to three keywords and watch as the tweets roll in.

5. Promote sales

Last, but not least, marketers can use Twitter to alert customers and potential customers to special deals, new products and changes to products, and other customer-centric information.

A big caution here is to be sure that the information you’re sharing on Twitter will be seen as valuable by your followers. That means offering real value and making genuinely newsworthy announcements and not, to quote the saying, just “putting lipstick on the pig.”

So, are you convinced Twitter can be a great marketing tool? What other ways can it be used for building viable relationships between marketers and consumers?

Possibly related posts:

Twetiquette: 10 Basics for Twitter Politeness

10 Reasons I Won’t Follow You on Twitter

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pardon the Phrase, But You Need to Avoid the Social Media ‘Quickie’

You glance across the crowded room and there he/she is: Surrounded by adoring fans, looking fabulous and giving you – yes you! – a sly look. This tempter/temptress glides your way and before you know it you’re leaving the party for a brief, perhaps rapturous encounter with your new best friend.

At some point we have all fallen to the temptation of a “quickie” – perhaps not of the sexual kind, but perhaps of the eating kind (that fast food burger when real food would have been a smarter choice) or the entertainment kind (that episode of The Real Housewives of New York when a far more informative and useful episode of Nova was on the local PBS station).

But if there is one place businesses and individuals should stay clear of the “quickie” it is social media. Trust me on this: No good can come of it.

So let’s acknowledge: Yes it can be exciting to jump into the metaphorical social media bed with a few well-known social networking apps. But businesses especially need to stop and ask: “How will I feel in the morning?’

Yes those apps that everybody seems to be drawn to – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube can look very attractive and easy to conquer. The makeup is just so, the curves/muscles are just in the right place and, well, you’ve been hearing so much about social media that at this point you may be wearing the virtual “beer goggles” and blind to some of the potential problems.

So how to avoid the social media morning-after regrets? Try asking yourself these four questions:

1. Should you think twice before jumping into bed with someone you haven’t built a relationship with?

2. Are you prepared to become deeply involved and ready to deal with the long-term commitment and consequences?

3. Is this something you have time for at this point in your life? Your business? Your career?

4. Can this new relationship fit into your existing relationships or will the old ones suffer because of the new?

Answer “No” to any of these and you likely are not ready for social media. As in life social media relationships take work.

What other relationship questions would you ask yourself before deciding to jump into a particular social medium?

Possibly related post:
10 Ideas to Help Business Navigate Social Media

Monday, May 31, 2010

Facebook And You: Is There Still Love?

Before deciding if you’ll join the Quit Facebook Day over concerns about how Facebook treats the privacy of its users’ information you may want more information. Here’s a short collection of recent web posts that may help:

PC World (May 27)Facebook's Privacy Changes: Are You Satisfied? Excerpt: “It's a given that these tweaks won't satisfy every unhappy camper …”

The Tech Chronicles (May 28) Study: Mass exodus over Facebook privacy flap won't happen Excerpt: “Privacy issues won't cause a mass exodus from Facebook on May 31, but people are being more careful about how they use the popular social network, a new poll said.”

The Washington Post (May 29)What sites such as Facebook and Google know and whom they tell Excerpt: “Many online service providers over the past few years have been building huge dossiers with minute details of each user's online activities - a practice that isn't usually mentioned in privacy policies.”

PC World (May 29)Facebook's Privacy Reboot: Is That all You've Got for Us? Excerpt: “Making privacy easy while providing lots of control is a fundamentally thorny challenge. If Facebook has failed to nail it, it's not because the company is stupid, evil, or careless -- it's because this stuff is hard.”

Wikipedia Criticism of Facebook page. Excerpt: “Several web sites concerned with social networking have criticized the lack of information that users get when they share data.”

So what do you think? Should you stay on Facebook?

Related post:
Poem: Facebook – Have I Trusted You One-Too-Many-Times?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Facebook: Have I trusted you one-too-many times?

By Mike Johansson

Facebook, where people come to share and post
Has been the place with users most
Five hundred million some say are there
Giving personal info they’re happy to share
The Zuckerberg? He smiles with glee
The more the merrier, says he
From early days in a college dorm
His social platform is now a global norm

And yet, all is not well in FB land
As the masses suspect a hidden hand
The rumors of Zuck and FB secretly sharing
Their personal data leaves them fearing
And reminds them of the days gone by
When FB privacy was changed on the fly
Users discovered that Facebook’s data keepers
Had opened everything up … even to creepers

So now the Zuckerberg is all a-flutter
The FB reputation: May be headed to the gutter
Has trust been broken just one too many times?
Why … questions are even being asked in rhymes!
So have Zuck and Facebook earned a chance
To keep us around for the social media dance?
Or will May 31 find many of us – even most
Leave to find a more trustworthy host?

So, will you stick with Facebook?

Monday, April 26, 2010

How do you cook up a new name?

One of the biggest challenges for a public relations professional can be helping a business find a name for a new product, a new service or even a new company.

Add to this the complication of trying to come up with a name that works across all media, including social media and, well, you can see how the dream of the new can quickly become a nightmare.

I was working at a startup six years ago and it wasn’t the financing, the staffing, the office space, the suppliers, the distribution or any one of countless other problems that took the most time. No, it was the name of the new product.

Even though I was working with some incredibly creative types (including the great Rob Westcott -
@robtnowes) it took days and days to get to the name.

So, in a nutshell, here is the four-step recipe I’ve since practiced each time I need to cook up a new name:

Step 1: Creative thinking

Start by writing a list of words that relate to your new product, new service or new business.

Now mix up those words in interesting ways – using Scrabble tiles, index cards or a whiteboard/chalkboard can help.

Are there words you can combine in playful and intriguing ways?

Are there words that can have multiple meanings?

Are there words you MUST use?

Always keep track of all the names you come up with. Some that don’t click right now might click tomorrow with just a small tweak.

Now write out a dozen or so potential company names and move on to …

Step 2: A pinch of luck

Take some time to look over this list:

  • Are any of the names distinctive?

  • Do some of the names resonate more than others?

  • Can some be taken in a bad way?

  • Which are easy to spell … consistently?

  • Which are pronounceable?

  • Are any incomprehensible?

    Run your favorite(s) by a few people:

  • Do the names sound pleasant to their ears?

  • Do they instantly get the meaning?

  • Do they have a favorite?

  • Do they reject any of them outright?

    If you eliminate any names here, go back to Step 1 and come up with more. The key is to have many that you can test when you move on to …

    Step 3: The secret ingredient … fun!

    OK, so you have several names. Are they fun?

    The real secret to a great name is one that is memorable. The shortest route to “memorable” is being fun.

    Are their words or word parts you can switch to add a smile? Are there letters you can replace with other letters (“y” for “i” for example) or numbers you can use to replace word parts (“2” instead of “to” or “4” instead of “for”).

    Step 4: Finding a URL

    A business name that does not work on the Web is a name that has no use.

    By using one of the free web tools to check (two I like are
    Who Is and Go Daddy) you can find out which of your favorites is available.

    If a name you like is available as a URL, great! If not, will some small adjustment make it work? If not, do you need to go back to Step 1?

    Like all good recipes, this one can always be adjusted to suit your needs. Happy (and creative) cooking as you come up with the name for your next social media business.

    Was this post helpful? What did I miss?

    Related reading:
    Where do creative ideas come from?

  • Thursday, April 22, 2010

    9 Ways to Learn at Twitter University

    A recent post by Jeff Bullas called Twitter Reveals 11 New Facts on its Traffic and Usage reminded me what it is that I love about Twitter: It’s one heck of a place to learn.

    There are some great stats there. I think they reinforce what I believe is the greatest value of Twitter – it's just hands down the best ready source of information you didn't know you needed to know.

    I call it the University of Twitter and my only regret is that I don' have three or four hours a day to devote to learning from it!

    And I’m often surprised that more people don’t take advantage of this great resource for learning and sharing.

    So how can you learn from this free “university”? Let me count the ways:

    1. Follow people like you: Easy right? Not so fast Slick! You’re have more than a one dimension so be sure to follow people who tweet about ALL the things that interest you. You never know when the person you follow because they also like Siamese cats will tweet out a link to an interesting site on football great “Mean Joe” Greene.

    2. Follow people who are nothing like you: Likewise find a few followers of people you follow who seem to be 180 degrees from anything you know or care about. Follow them for a while and you may be surprised what you learn. And remember, it’s Twitter, so if you change your mind you can always unfollow them.

    3. Follow smart people: Some tweets just make you see things differently … they make you think. This is reason enough for me to check out the sender’s Tweetstream and if I like what I see I follow them.

    4. Follow funny people: And for Pete’s sake have some fun. It’s as true on Twitter as it is anywhere: All work and no play can make you pretty dull. For example: You’ve likely heard of
    @shitmydadsays and @badbanana , but do you know @funnyoneliners and @CinderellaJoey?

    5. Organize the people you track/follow: Use the Lists feature to keep track of a few different types of Twitterers without committing to following them. If you like what you learn then you can follow them.

    6. Use search: Go to and type in any word related to something you want to know about and voila you get tweets galore (many with useful links). This kind of search always yields material you likely would not have found any other way.

    7. Track trends: The scrolling trending topics bar on the Twitter home page can sometimes also lead to interesting tweets. Although the continuing fascination with
    Justin Bieber escapes me.

    8. Follow hashtags: Keep an eye out for interesting
    hashtags (the “#” before a word, for the uninitiated). Click on one and see what a bunch of folks are tweeting about. You may be surprised where following hashtags can take you but you’ll often find interesting tweets.

    9. Try randomness: Sometimes you should follow links “just because.” The caution here: Beware of spammers and those who might be trying to spread computer viruses via tweets or Direct Messages. How can you be safe? Never click on DM links and before following a link in a regular tweet check out the sender’s tweetstream. A lot of duplicate or similar tweets indicates a spammer (at best) and a virus spreader (at worst).

    Did I forget anything? Are there other ways to learn at the University of Twitter?

    Possibly related post:

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    Beware the Social Media ‘Cone of Silence’

    Can social media suck you into believing you know everything? Absolutely.

    I call this phenomenon the Social Media Cone of Silence … and it could be deadly for you and your business.

    The “cone” is that space where you are so surrounded by online input that it feels like you’re on top of everything: You’re following the best blogs in your industry. You follow the smartest people on Twitter. You are involved in the deepest discussions on relevant LinkedIn groups. In a nutshell you’re so plugged in you’re the go-to person for what’s hot, what’s new and what’s over the horizon.

    But this “cone” of information is a trap … and you need to see it for what it is. It has taken your attention away from some more basic information sources and can lull any business into a false sense of security.

    So who are you likely ignoring (or at least not paying enough attention to)?

    Sales people:What’s the word from sales? What are they hearing and seeing that you aren’t? They’re in the trenches day-in and day-out and they literally hear from customers all the time. What are they hearing? Is what they hear changing?

    But don’t stop there. What do they know about competitors and how competitors are perceived in the marketplace? What opportunities are sales folks seeing? Given the chance to change one thing about your business or your product what would they suggest?

    Sales people have your goals too, listen to them.

    CRM specialists: Your customer relations specialists likely have obvious and not-so-obvious responsibilities. But the one thing they all have is a gut feeling about what is going on and what should be getting more attention.

    Find these people throughout your organization … and look hard. For example the front-desk security guard or the delivery driver may not seem like customer relations types but they are. The handle customers every single day and because of this they know a lot of stuff that you don’t. Find them and listen to them.

    Carol: This person may have another name in your organization, but in the first newsroom I worked in many years ago Carol was the secretary and receptionist. That is to say she was the smartest, most community connected person in the room. If Carol said something was a big deal the reporters and editors would always come to regret not following up on her ideas. Who are the Carols in your organization? Get to know them. Listen to them.

    Can social media provide you with a lot of real-time business intelligence? Yes. But don’t forget to mix it in with a heaping helping of smarts from the real people around you. Who will you go talk to today?

    Possibly related posts
    Just How Big is Social Media?
    10 Commandments for Social Media

    Friday, April 16, 2010

    Be The Giraffe With Social Media

    “It’s a jungle out there!”

    No matter what business you’re in or what your purpose in social media you already understand that it’s increasingly hard to stand out from the crowd.

    So if it is “a jungle out there” why not be the giraffe? And literally stand head, neck and shoulders above the rest of the ecosystem?

    Here’s how to stand out by using social media:

    Be “everywhere”: Not literally. But to the casual observer it should seem as though they encounter your name (and possibly your avatar) everywhere they go in social media.

    Start a list today on the places people can find you: From social networking to your blog to your personal website to your business card (yes, your business card). Be sure all those places link or point to each other.

    Now Google your name: Are you dominating the first pages of results? If not, you need more online (probably social) presences.

    Be “all things”: You never want to be in social media for one purpose. And you especially don’t want to be there just to “take” or “sell.”

    Review how you’re likely to be perceived in social media. Are you helpful? Are you a connector? Do you share freely? In the “Giver vs. Taker” equation would you be perceived as more of the former or the latter? If you can’t answer these questions have a disinterested outsider tell you (and return the favor for them).

    Now that you know how you are being received decide if that is how you want to be seen or whether you need to make changes.

    Be “the best”: Set a goal of being the best at something in social media. Achieving the goal is less important than having it and continually striving for it.

    For example, you might want the reputation for being one of the smartest people in personal finance. Now ask yourself: Does most of what I say and do in social media align with that goal? If not, why not?

    By having the goal and sticking to it your time in social media will be more focused and one day, just maybe, you will be seen as the best.

    Be “the most …”: Can you literally be the “best” at something in the social world? You can. But it will take a little luck and one more thing: A concerted effort to work harder, be more reliable, be more of a connector or be more of something than most everyone else in your area.

    Ultimately what will set you apart is your willingness to put in more effort than others.

    Can you “be the giraffe” by using social media? Absolutely. The question is, will you?

    Possibly related posts:
    7 Ways to Tell How You’re Doing in Social Media
    10 Ideas to Help Business Navigate Social Media

    Sunday, March 28, 2010

    Are You ‘Living’ or ‘Existing’ in Social Media?

    For all the time and effort many businesses put into setting up in social media it is surprising that many could not answer to the question: “What next?”

    For some, the answer is: “We’re here and that’s good enough.” To overcome that notion I’d suggest it’s important to know the difference between “existing” in social media and “living” in social media in four key ways:

    1. Planning

    Existing: The plan is simply to set up on various social media platforms just to be found. This “set up an outpost” thinking is all about making sure that when people do find you on a site such as Facebook or Twitter that they are “driven” to your own website.

    Living: This type of planning takes into account where your customers, employees and suppliers already hang out in social media. It carefully chooses and prioritizes which platforms make sense for your business. It takes a long-term view.

    2. Presences

    Existing: These businesses on social media have one-dimensional pages on Facebook or Twitter accounts that have a schedule of broadcast messages about your company, your products or your clients. Even the avatar is a company logo or a product. These pages don’t feel like they are run by human beings you’d want to interact with – they’re not and you wouldn’t.

    Living: These accounts are run by people … people who make it clear that while they work for a business they are also willing to engage with fans and followers. The messaging from these pages/accounts feels genuine. Visitors asking questions here will get a response.

    3. Commitment

    Existing: Businesses spend just enough time and resources to set up and maintain their presences. The employee who’s doing the work on behalf of the enterprises has had social media added to their list of responsibilities and likely has had little or no training.

    Living: Companies who commit to social media start with a solid plan, follow through with professional training and alter work assignments to create time for daily social media participation. The expectation from the C-Suite down is that social media is as important, if not more important, to the company’s future than traditional marketing, sales and customer-relations efforts.

    4. Relationships

    Existing: What relationships? Seriously, businesses who are only in social media for what they can get out of it don’t really want to relate to the “unwashed masses” … they just want their money.

    Living: The biggest reward for businesses living in social media will be the relationships they build – relationships with customers, employees, clients and, yes, even competitors. Relationship-building is what puts the “social” into social media. Businesses here will monitor social sentiment and profusely thank their promoters and work with their detractors to resolve issues. Ultimately this leads to others becoming your company’s biggest promoters.

    So, are you merely “existing” in social media or are you “living” there? And what other ways would you suggest businesses get more from and put more in to social media?

    Possibly related posts:
    10 Commandments for Social Media
    Just How Big Is Social Media?

    Sunday, March 21, 2010

    PR crisis management in the ‘Twitter Age’

    “In the Twitter age” is a term I heard this past week from a slightly frustrated public relations professional talking about how he’s been forced to modify his crisis management plan.

    And change he must. The best-laid crisis management plan will quickly unravel when information – true, untrue or even malicious – starts spreading on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

    So how do PR professionals get from
    “being there” in social media to modifying their crisis management plan in the “Twitter age”?

    Engagement: More than ever it’s important that solid social relationships are being built before a crisis breaks.
    Doing the basics on social platforms is a start; being fully engaged with social audiences will help save your reputation at a time of crisis.

    Resources: If you don’t have someone on social media fulltime then you need to have them on it most of the time. Look at how your organization currently spends time. How much effort is still going into maintaining relationships with a few traditional media types? The ratio of time devoted to traditional media vs. social media needs to be flipped … even if slowly at first.

    Listening: From basic free tools such as
    Google Alerts to paid services such as Alterian’s SM2 or Radian6 you can’t afford to NOT be monitoring conversations in social media around your products, your organization and your key people. You don’t know what you’re missing – literally. And that should be a very frightening prospect.

    Black pages: If your news web pages don’t have “black pages” (pages designed to go live in response to various issues) you need to prepare them now. Every organization can predict certain types of issues that are likely to arise. Having a landing page that answers some likely first questions and that can go up on your website at a moment’s notice is smart planning.

    First responders: You’ve already assigned responsibilities during a crisis, but whose job is it to manage social media messages and to respond to any inaccurate messaging? What is on that person’s checklist? Not responding is no longer an option … if it ever was. In the social world silence can equal acknowledgement that things are bad. Your social media first responder needs to understand this and the critical role they are playing in social messaging.

    Prioritizing: Which social media platforms need the most attention? Without a doubt Twitter is an instant news service and deserves the most attention. Don’t be fooled by the numbers of Twitter users in your organization, your industry or your community. Twitter users are some of the most-educated, most-active and, possibly worst for you in a crisis, most-likely to spread what they see on Twitter via word-of-mouth. In other words their broad influence should be of great concern. Facebook is also a default communication platform by people who are concerned. Be sure to message there too and note that once the heat of the moment dies down the conversation around the crisis will likely linger longer on Facebook.

    Follow-up: Once the crisis has passed don’t ignore social media. Find a way to post a reassuring video message from the CEO on YouTube or have someone in authority blog about the event and its successful outcome … load it up with photographs. Be sure to reach out to those who were most active during the crisis to alert them to this follow-up.

    Can PR professionals control messaging on social media platforms during a crisis? No. But they can be there, be engaged and can quickly tamp down the small sparks of inaccuracy before they become damaging firestorms of bad information. Social media is changing the PR professionals’ job description, what else about crisis management did I leave out?

    Possibly related posts:
    10 Ideas to Help Business Navigate Social Media
    Just How Big is Social Media?

    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    5 Things Basketball and March Madness Teach About Social Media

    In offices all across America TVs are going to be on during the work day this week and next as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament cranks up. If you need an “excuse” to keep watching March Madness games when you should be working tell the boss that basketball and the tournament can give everyone a few simple pointers on social media. For example:

    1. Anyone can, and sometimes will, win: At the start of the tournament or the start of a game everyone is a potential winner. The same is true in social media where customers and the people trying to earn their business have never been on more equal terms. The same goes for businesses competing with other businesses in social media. Fail to recognize this new dynamic and, for business at least, the game will soon be over.

    2. At the start it’s a toss-up: Who wins the jump ball at the start of the play can set the tone for the rest of that game. Does your business have a strategy to both grab that ball and then quickly score before the other guys know what hit them? Will your business seize early opportunities and turn them into points on the board?

    3. Individual effort is great; team play wins games: If everyone understands the game plan and sticks to it the chances of your business winning its own version of Social Media March Madness are much greater. Too much solo hot-dogging or a lack of team effort will lead to lost games or a blown tournament.

    4. Creative plays are game winners: Of course you must play by the rules if they’re there. But to win a game you often need to come up with a play or two no one has seen before. A creative move that takes your opponents by surprise gives you the competitive advantage.

    5. Winning is 90 percent hard work, 10 percent luck: Even the best coach can’t control that last 10 percent, but a great social media strategist can help monitor the other 90 percent to ensure that the hard work is sustained and that despite any setbacks it is maintained.

    Remember the start of a basketball game is always a toss-up, but he result of the game and your social media efforts don't have to be.

    What other parallels are there between basketball in general and March Madness in particular and social media? Please let me know if I missed some.

    Possibly related posts:
    5 strategies to get the Boss into Social Media
    Questions Are a Recipe for Social Media Success

    Sunday, March 14, 2010

    10 Ideas to Help Business Navigate Social Media

    Almost a year ago I wrote a post called 5 Reasons Social Media is Like Sailing that was well-perceived. It’s time to update that post.

    Since then I’ve come up with more reasons sailors might just have the right approach to social media for business. Even if you aren’t into sailing you might try these approaches to see if they don’t make your time in social media more positive and more productive.

    Here then are 10 Ideas to Keep Biz Sailing Smoothly in Social Media:

    1. Pick your boat carefully: Not every craft is right for every sailor just as in social media not every platform is right for every individual. Pick a platform that suits you. Work with one at a time and see what works.

    2. Start slowly: Nobody goes from pond sailing to open-ocean sailing in a day, weeks or even years. Learn your own capabilities, learn from others and be willing to get dunked a few times along the way.

    3. Find an old-salt/mentor: Every top sailor was at some point helped along by an experience hand. So it should be in social media: Find someone who literally knows the ropes and can help you navigate your early days. They’ll also be there to stop you from drowning when you inevitably get wet a few times.

    4. Learn to be ease in the environment: Just as being on the water can be a somewhat unnatural state for many beginning sailors, so can a newbie feel that their first days, weeks and months in social media can be slightly uncomfortable. Relax. Once you realize that the very worst that can happen is you may get a little wet once in a while then you’ll soon be loving every moment in social media.

    5. The quickest route is NOT always a straight line: Like sailing, businesses in the social media space must navigate all kinds of challenges to get to their goals. Along the way there are likely to be winds (customer feedback) and currents (the business climate) that challenge a business trying to get to its port (goals). The best-laid social media plans include contingencies to deal with these. Although the course may be less than perfectly straight, the well-planned business will reach its goals ahead of its competitors.

    6. You can’t control the wind: But you can control the trim of your sails and heading of your boat. The winds at the intersection of social media and business can be unpredictable and are constantly swirling. As a business you need to monitor the breezes of public opinion so that if they should suddenly turn into a squall of bad publicity you can react appropriately.

    7. When bad weather hits: You, your vessel and your crew had better be prepared. Having a well-trained crew/staff and a solid social media plan will help a business react in its best interests. The plan allows the captain/boss to sleep well at night knowing that his boat is ready for anything.

    8. An efficient sailboat is the sum of its working parts: A combination of hull shape, sails, masts and rigging keep a sailboat moving forward. A business operating in social media is also about the right combination of components to keep it moving forward. A social media plan will assess existing strengths, competitive threats and business goals to come up with the correct combination to keep you moving forward.

    9. You WILL find yourself becalmed: It’s not something to fear. A thorough social media plan includes a list of “To Do” items that are not pressing, but certainly help make the enterprise if not stronger at least better able to make the most of the next breeze (opportunity). Remember that the “calm usually comes right before the storm.” Using it to get your business ready is just smart sailing!

    10. Sail away from the safe harbor: You should take a few chances. This great quote from Mark Twain (sent to me by the helpful and smart Marita Roebkes) says it best: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

    So, are you and your business ready to sail off and explore social media? I hope so. What other tips would you recommend for social media sailors?

    Image is of The Man at the Wheel – the Gloucester Fishermen's Memorial Cenotaph, a tribute to local fishermen who have died at sea, in Gloucester, Mass. From FreePhoto

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