Location-based apps make sense!

Don’t get me wrong. I love the social component of social media, including location based apps. But I’ve always taken a bit of a hard line on any app that tells the world exactly how far from home you are. It seems to me like it’s just inviting trouble.

But Four-square redeemed itself in my eyes this week. In the midst of an evacuation of a highly populated area, the Wall Street Journal used Four Square to notify people in the vicinity to evacuate.

It’s creative solutionizing such as this that could turn social media from a fun frivolity and potential revenue stream, into a serious component to contribute to critical operations at the business and public level. It helps that the evacuation was in Times Square, smack in the middle of NYC, which boasts the highest concentration of Four Square users.

Still, think about the implications for disaster preparedness and emergency response. This is just the type of thing I love to see.

Why Twitter Trumps Facebook

I have to give a hat tip to Jess at PRBreakfast Club for this one. As it turns out, Facebook has some great features, like inexpensive, highly targeted ads, but when it comes to business usability, a Twitter profile is much more useful than Facebook, or even LinkedIn.

The key to Twitter is networking – building relationships (often across multiple accounts, in this business) through tweets, conversations, and spreadin’ the news (cue cheesy music). And since your cousin and your granddad and your next-door neighbor are more likely to follow you on Facebook than on Twitter, tweets give you the business legitimacy unspoiled by cutesy comments from the peanut gallery, or Aunt Hilda’s bone spurs. You know what I mean, don’t you?

So do your research. Follow people in your industry or auxiliary industries. Interact. Converse. Share beneficial information. And don’t bother searching for your high school buddies. Save that for Facebook.

When Twitter is counter-productive

Twitter - to use or not to use?There are tons of folks out there who shout from the rooftops that anyone who’s anyone must have a twitter account. They counsel every business, government entity, and individual to get off their tails and start tweeting. Good advice? I think not. Just like anything else, if you’re not going to do it well, it might be best to stay away. Here’s what’s involved in tweeting well:

  • Time. Yours, your staff’s, someone’s. If you don’t have the time to devote to it or the funds to pay someone else to, you don’t have a chance of succeeding in it. Sure, there are books that promise you can do it in 10 minutes a day. But that doesn’t mean you’ll do it well in 1o minutes a day. Tweeting well mean establishing relationships and sharing valuable content – and both of those things require time.
  • Authenticity. Honesty. Integrity. Personality. If you aren’t willing to share yours online, step away from the keyboard. Sure, you could post an endless string of links to someone else’s content. That requires no authenticity or personality. But do you know what image it gives you? That of a person (or business) with no personality. No authenticity. And in the world of ‘life-casting’ and micro-blogging, your followers want to see a human being with character.
  • Value. There’s plenty of ‘noise’ out there already coming from people who think they must have a Twitter account or they’ll just wither up. Do you really want to be just another twitterer creating noise?

A Twitter account used well can establish you as an authority, help you connect with people – staff, clients, colleagues, or constituents, and help you drive traffic to sites with greater content. When used poorly they can establish you as a dolt. So what’s it gonna be? When in doubt, listen (or read), and decide if you’re willing to invest and weigh in.

Anti blogging cliques

Dear bloggers,

Please disable the “must be registered to comment” function of your blog. It pretty much guarantees that I won’t interact with you. And it throws me right off your site – off to engage with someone else. See, I have no problem with inputting my name and contact information in the contact form. I don’t even mind the annoying captcha box. But if I have to login and create a password for your site in order to comment, I won’t do it. And that means I read your post, had something brilliant to say about it, and then kept my thoughts to myself, walking away frustrated.

anti-discussion blog

Here’s the deal. Do you really think you’re so important that I want to be a member of your blog community? That I want to add your blog login information to my ridiculously long list of login authentications? And when it comes down to it, how secure is your community? Since most people use the same login information for their banks as they do for less secure sites, what happens when there’s a data breach?

When it comes down to it, people will only participate if it’s convenient, unobtrusive, and easy. Make it easy to comment and you’ll be surprised how many people start to engage with you. That’s what builds community, and that’s what makes it interesting. (Unless, of course, you’re looking for a place to exercise the art of the monologue, speaking into the void.)

The moral of the story is: Unless you’re a megalopolis of an online community that adds some huge value to entice me to join your exclusive community, disable the required registration function. I don’t want to be one of your clique-buddies. I just want join the discussion you started.

Righting business wrongs

Studies show that customers tend to be even more dissatisfied with a business after their complaint has been handled. That’s because most businesses do exactly what customers don’t want – they make excuses and shift the blame. Studies also show that when a complaint is handled properly (no blame-shift, no excuses), customers are likely to be more satisfied and more loyal than they were before they were allegedly ‘wronged.’

As businesses, we can’t float on the assumption that we’ll never make mistakes, and we certainly can’t deal with complaints in a ‘by the seat of your pants’ laissez faire manner. Complaints are a gift because they give us the opportunity to correct, build loyalty, and serve our clients well. The majority of complaints will go unspoken, unheard – or heard only in the peanut gallery without a chance to resolve. So when they come to the source, it is our duty to our clients to thank them and resolve the issue – quickly, and to the client’s satisfaction.

I can’t tell you better how to do it than this post at the Open Forum called The Art of Mea Culpa. Check it out. Not only does it tell you how it’s done right, it gives a concrete example of it being done right – via Twitter. To summarize the principles,

  1. Apoologize
  2. Admit fault
  3. Fix it
  4. Acknowledge what’s broken (trust, in this case) and work to fix it
  5. Do it quickly
  6. Do it publicly

And we’d add one to that – End it with a smile and a thank you. Appreciate your client’s (or colleague’s) willingness to take the time to offer a complaint. They probably pointed out something you didn’t know about. Or at least, they had the honor to come to you about it instead of gossiping or just walking away. They deserve some appreciation.

First amendment writes

I get giddy when I hear about government using social media. See, there’s this concept installed in my mind that government is some type of closed society – all the red tape makes it hard to get information, connect with representatives… You know what I mean. Social media is all the things government isn’t – convenient, social, authentic, informative. (Should I stop here and apologize to my dad, who is a member of local government? Sorry dad, I know you’re not all thugs.)

At the same time, I’m enthralled by anyone who uses social media for reasons outside the norm. The norm, in this case, includes connecting with an established network of friends and colleagues, marketing, and customer service. Anytime organizations use social media to accomplish more I get impressed.

So naturally, when I read this post about government responding to citizens via social media, I got excited. See, they’re using Twitter, YouTube, and blogging to educate the public about a recent salmonella outbreak. See? That’s clever. It kind of reminds me of when the CDC monitored blogs to locate flu outbreaks. Cool stuff, right?

I love the idea of real people representing ‘the powers that be’ connecting with us mere mortals with tools that are already developed. I love the idea of being able to access information – or access someone who can access information. I’m looking forward to engaging with representatives of local government and beyond. I can’t wait to see new ways of stimulating efficiency with communication enhanced by social media. How about you?

If you’re into this as much as I am, you may want to check out GovLive Tweets – a feed that tracks tweets from 540 different public entities.

Confidential leaks in social media

Apparently there have been some data leaks via Twitter and Facebook from the Ministry of Defense in the UK. We thought this might be a good time to brief everyone on acceptable communication on social media sites.

Things that are acceptable to Tweet (that means “post on Twitter,” for the newbies)

  • Tonight’s dinner plans
  • Your reaction to the day’s news
  • Where you spotted Paris Hilton incognito
  • Your reaction to “Pants on the Ground”
  • Your boss’s reaction to “Pants on the Ground”
  • What you think about Conan O’Brien
  • A link to an interesting article or development in your field of expertise
  • A picture of something scandalous written in “clean” on the back of a dirty truck
  • What your husband said in his sleep

Things that are unacceptable to Tweet

  • Names of secret agents
  • Passwords to access confidential government data
  • Troop movements – planned or actual
  • Where the President, Prime Minister, or Queen will be tomorrow at 9:14
  • How to gain access to limited-access government buildings
  • Credit card numbers – yours or someone else’s
  • Trade secrets
  • Compromising pictures of your boss (unless of course, you’re trying to get fired)
  • What your wife calls your ‘man parts’ – you might not get fired for it, but you’ll probably end up on the couch
  • Unpublicized names of nominees for a government position
  • Anything else confidential, related to national security, or requiring top secret clearance

So, that’s about it folks. Hopefully this was nothing new to anyone. If it was, please call someone for help – it doesn’t need to be me. Call up the nearest college student – they’ll get you sorted.

Posting on Postling

A discussion on LinkedIn clued me in to Postling, a free online service that helps people like me manage multiple social profile accounts. I registered my free account at Postling a few weeks ago and have used it on and off to tweet, blog, and engage on multiple sites. Here’s the nitty gritty of it.

Interface

Maybe it means that I’m getting old (or, shall we say, more sophisticated… wiser…), but I love the large print and text entry boxes in their site design. It’s inviting, clean, and highly user-friendly.

Ease of Use

Postling makes it easy-schmeasy to switch between different account for blogging, tweeting, and more. What Postling supports: WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, SquareSpace, Tumblr, Drupal, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr.

What they don’t support: Everything else. Of concern to me is Posterous, LinkedIn, link sharing sites like Digg and Delicious, and other photosharing sites like TwitPic and what-not.

If your primary accounts are in the the list of what Postling supports, you’ll likely be pleased with the functionality and ease of it all. Postling allows you to create separate brands and manage your accounts under those brands – perfect for someone like me who manages social media for several different companies. But it would be just as great for a stay at home mom who wants to manage her personal blog separately from her Etsy business, for example.

Click to publish and scheduled posting are great. And, might I add, you can schedule Twitter posts too. I can’t get over that! I just love to know that I can schedule an important tweet to publish while I’m sitting in the dentist’s chair or doing something else that keeps me offline. Love it.

The interface for blogging is similar to the major blog services – text editing and WYSIWYG. If HTML is your thing, you can hit the little “source” button to edit that way.

Did you know that it also has its own blog capability? Yep. It gives you your own Postling page with a blog and a sidebar that includes links to your other accounts.

Cons

So, it’s pretty. It’s clean. It’s easy to manage multiple accounts and brands. In fact, it’s so easy my mom could do it. (Not that she’s tried, but I’m pretty sure she could if she was into that kind of thing…)

But…

I can’t listen. I have to go to a blog reader or Twitter client to listen. So I go back and forth between Postling and Google Reader and TweetDeck. And let’s face it. It’s easier to participate and engage from TweetDeck directly – I mean I can retweet or reply to someone just by hovering over their picture. In Postling I’d have to type in their name. I know – I’m lazy. But convenience is big when you’re managing multiple accounts on multiple platforms.

Since social media is all about being, well, social, I need to be able to listen. After all, a one-sided conversation isn’t a conversation – it’s a monologue.

If there was a way to incorporate a feed reader, I’d have to call it perfect. And spend my days hovering – 24-7.

So I suppose my family should be happy that isn’t possible. Time will tell if I’ll continue to use it. I still spend time on my WordPress dashboards playing with plugins and widgets. So it doesn’t make sense to head over to Postling when I’m already in a dashboard I can post from. And it doesn’t make sense to leave TweetDeck.

Conclusion

Overall, it’s easy on the eyes. And easy to use. If you’re looking for a way to post to multiple sites simultaneously, or schedule your Tweets – Postling is perfect. Unfortunately it isn’t quite perfect for me. I spend more time listening than talking, which makes listening (or reading) paramount. So there it is. Postling is a great place to wax lyrical and switch voices as much as you’d like. But you’ll have to get your feedback and response (and your fodder) someplace else.

Nice start, Postling. You do what you do very well. Now if I could just get you expand your functionality a bit.

Update: From @Postling: Thanks, it’s coming soon! In the mean time, we do offer tracking of Twitter mentions and FB Wall Posts under the “tracking” tab.

I’ve enabled tracking in my Postling account, which apparently is free only for a limited time. It will eventually be a premium service (there has to be a revenue stream to make the investors happy, right?) Only problem I see is that tweet above from Postling appeared in my TweetDeck immediately. 10 minutes later it still hadn’t shown up on my Postling tracking page. Er, fellas?

How to Hire a Social Media Rock Star – Part 2

Let’s just say that you have a company (or organization) that is ready to hire someone to run social media. And let’s say you’ve already taken care of your strategy (part 1).  Now, how do you find the right person? How do you evaluate the candidates? And how do you find out if it’s really the appropriate person for your vacancy?

A big part of it depends on your strategy for social media – broadcasting to get your name out there and win followers requires a different person than engaging an industry through a corporate blog that shares significant insight. But, assuming that you’ve evaluated how social media will fit into the big picture, you’ll need to check into candidates’ profiles and comfort level with the mediums you plan to use to achieve your goals. So here it is, folks. Evaluating your candidates’ profiles.

Twitter

  1. Number of followers and follows. The numbers should be close – that means this person uses what we’ll call twense, or common sense for Twitter. Proper etiquette and sound knowledge of how Twitter works.
  2. Lists – they should be listed (especially in lists made by someone else) and most likely following a few lists.
  3. Consider recent posts:
    • Frequency (how many updates per day/week);
    • Balance of new content with RT’s – retweets, which means spreading content from someone else;
    • Directed tweets (you’ll see updates reading @someone’sname – they’re contacting someone either for conversation or to get attention).
    • A strong Twitter account will have new content, retweets, and directed tweets, with consistent frequency.
  4. Page design – is it at least mildly attractive? Anyone can login to Twitter with a generic look to it. But someone who knows the platform can make it look sweet. Check out @juliaroy, @pistachio, or @gwenbell. See? It doesn’t have to be boring, but it also doesn’t have to be hideous.
  5. Ratings. If you don’t know the difference between a good Twitter account and a bad one, check it out with a Twitter ratings system. Twitter Grader is great, and Klout will give even better diagnostics if the person’s registered (and what social media rock star isn’t?). On Grader look for scores at least in the mid-80s.

Facebook

  1. Pages. A general Facebook profile often tells you very little about what the person can do. Ask about pages they administer, ad campaigns they’ve run.
  2. If they haven’t done that, check into their personal profile. If it’s full of mindless applications giving away hearts and farmville animals, you may be looking at someone who uses it for pure entertainment and wants a cushie job that pays them to play games with their friends. If their profile is more oriented towards conversations that engage their community or social circles, you’re more likely to find success with them.
  3. Ask them how Facebook can be most useful for business purposes. If they tell you that any single thing is more important than Facebook Pages or ads directing traffic to Facebook Pages (as opposed to causes, company profiles, or apps), keep looking. Anyone who’s been around social media for business knows that Facebook pages bring greater return than profiles, causes, and such.

Blogs

  1. How many blogs does the person maintain? More isn’t always, well, more. Check out their blog(s). It should be:
    • Easy on the eyes
    • Consistently updated
    • Tasteful (if (s)he’s talking about things that would make you blush, looking for someone else)
    • Useful – maybe not to you, but to someone.
    • Interactive: Look for comments on posts, and author replies to the comments.
  2. If you aren’t so sure how to evaluate a blog, check it out at Social Mention. You can see scores for passion, sentiment, reach, and strength, but then you can also scroll down to “postrank” to see how content ranks.

The ‘Big’ Others - The ideal social media candidate will be active in several of these, and the key here is to be ‘active’ – not just sitting on an account. You want to see in their account that they are actually social in their interactions.

  • Flickr
  • YouTube
  • Digg
  • Delicious
  • MySpace and/or Friendster
  • LinkedIn

The ‘Niche’ Others If your candidate has active accounts on these sites, it’s an indication that (s)he is not afraid of new things, on top of developments in the field, and willing to experiment.

  • Posterous or Tumblr
  • FourSquare or Yelp
  • Google Wave

In all of this, what you’re really looking for is reason to believe that your candidate is openly broadcasting and listening – interacting with others in a way that has personality, is useful, and forms relationships. A social media person has to have a certain personality – be willing to put himself or herself ‘out there’ in proverbial cyberspace, and do it with a tone that resonates with your organization. That’s what it boils down to. All the other stuff- the HTML and CSS coding, the accounts on various platforms – it can be learned.

How to Hire a Social Media Rock Star – Part 1

So, your organization is ready to hire someone to manage social media. But how do you make sure your choice to fill the vacancy is the right one? The first thing to do – even before you start looking – is to define your strategy.

What will you do with your social media accounts and how do they fit into your overall business strategy?

Advertise/Market: Gain a following, advertise products and services, advertise company, increase market share.

This involves generating content with a high interest level and engagement. Harnessing word of mouth is your best bet, which means you’ll need an intensive engagement strategy to build a groundswell. Ford’s CMO, James Farley, says “You can’t just say it. You have to get the people to say it to each other.” That’s what social media is all about.

Customer Service touchpoint: Gauge the barometer of what people are saying about you, monitor and respond to your customers and users.

Search tools can help you monitor what people are saying about your company and products. Responding immediately gives your customers the instant gratification we all love. Besides, studies show that a complaint handled well is likely to bring repeat business. Use social media to connect with users, especially after a bad experience or to help them troubleshoot, and you’re likely to see some major returns.

Operational functionality: Using social media can help people connect across your business – employees, customers – vertically and horizontally.

Staff training combined with an innovative integration of technology can streamline business processes. Resolving issues before they become problems, facilitating communication, and collecting data are all ways to use social media to improve operational functionality.

Once you have your goals in mind, you’ll want to build your strategy around 3 basic factors:

  1. Be authentic to build trust.
  2. Be social to build relationships.
  3. Be useful to build value.

Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow.

Credit: Ross Dawson Blog

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