Category: Web2.0

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.

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.

NPR Does it Right!

NPR recently did a listener survey about social media. Honestly? I didn’t know about it until it was finished – I believe they did it on their weekend edition, and I’m purely a Monday-Friday listener. Still. Over 7,000 listeners participated and volunteered valuable information about how they use social media.

According to the article at NPR’s site, NPR learned that their listeners are becoming more social media savvy, they enjoy the ‘behind the scenes’ look at their favorite broadcasters, and that even the newbies in social media are enthusiastic about the returns.

Want to know what else they learned (and why we like their approach)? They learned where to engage their audience, and how. They learned to engage online and offline in a cooperative relationship. They grew their number of followers on social media – probably by thousands. And they most likely gained some valuable information that will contribute to their next drive for support. So, one survey online did all this:

  1. Brought a greater following of interactive fans
  2. Taught NPR what their fans value in social media engagement
  3. Helped their broadcasting personalities connect with fans directly
  4. Provided stimulus for a funds campaign
  5. Increased awareness of their social media strategy
  6. Gave fans what they most want – voice.

We have to give NPR a virtual high-five on this one. And one more thing. Right before writing this article we became following fans of several NPR broadcasters. Success.

P.S. – Hey NPR, Robert Siegel and Michele Norris from All Things Considered? They need Twitter accounts. Thanks for listening.

Why your business MUST be on Facebook

This morning Social Media Examiner posted 11 reasons your business must be on Facebook. Go. Read it. I’ll wait.

Read it? Back now? Thanks.

What we thought was really intuitive about this post was not just the tips for making Facebook pages more effective (like, by adding video and photos; making it useful to fans). It was the customized news feed and the real-time search. Do you realize that these things are game-changers in the way we interact online?

Customized news feed means that Faceb0ok is effectively analyzing what I (or you, or your target customer) reads and likes, and – not unlike Aunt Maddie – targets what they show them. If Facebook thinks I like fair trade coffee (I’d have to say, it’d be right on there), it’s likely to show me things related to that. Fair trade tea, aluminum thermos, news about Nicaraguan coffee farmers. Wow. Now, if it would just stop showing me Cousin Betsy’s Farmville progress.

What’s more? This is really exciting. I googled my favorite salsa the other day and do you know what came up? The typical list of links, but woven into that list were some subsections – related blogs and social media postings. That’s huge. That means that when someone googles my business they might get reactions (good or bad) from clients, former clients, blog posts about us – and the same goes for someone googling any of our clients. The picture below is from search results on Google for “Haiti.” Do you see the scroll bar on the side? That’s because it’s a hot trending topic and as I spent mere seconds on the search page that field was constantly updated with Twitter results, blogs, news, and yes – Facebook status updates.

Soon we’ll get to a point where if I google (or bing, I guess) a local restaurant it’ll show me not just what ‘people’ have to say about it, but what my personal network has to say. Wow – word of mouth gone crazy!

So how about your business? Are you on Facebook?

Stages of engagement

Have you ever wondered how companies make it from that first, often awkward, posting on Twitter to active, operational and customer service oriented social media networking? Digital Marketing strategist Brian Solis describes the process in an article for Mashable, and it really isn’t horribly complicated.

He describes it in a 10-step process that makes a lot of sense. The most important step, we think, and one that’s often forgotten, is listening. It can be easy to engage in a noise-creating medium, delivering white noise or random chatter. But listening actively, analyzing findings, and responding to trends is what will make or break a strategy.

Thanks, Brian, for the formula. It’s a handy tool, and enlightening for businesses.

5 best ways to reach people online

According to the US Census Bureau, 3 out of 5 American households have a computer at home with internet access. A full 77% of Americans know how to use the internet and 73% use it at least daily. So the question remains, what are the best ways to reach them when they’re online? Let’s look at usage first.

58% of internet users are reading or sending email
50% are using search
38% are getting news
38% are online just to pass the time or for fun
27% are using social networking sites

It would seem from the numbers that the best way to reach people is via email, right? Well, how many of your unsolicited emails do you read? Especially if they come from a stranger? If you’re like me, very few. Let’s look at a different set of data. This is online influence on consumers for 2009 holiday purchases in the first week of December, put together by comScore:

28% were influenced by social media
21% were influenced by discounts or click-throughs on Facebook or Twitter
13% were influenced by consumer-generated reviews
12% were influenced by expert reviews

Now, if you’re trying to sell something to the 73% of Americans who are using the internet daily, what are your best bets?

  1. Consumer generated reviews. Sites like amazon.com and epinion.com allow users to rate and comment on their experience with your product. Bloggers (non-sponsored and unpaid) have a great deal of clout as well. These methods work great because the 50% of Americans using the internet for searching will likely stumble onto reviews in the course of their search. Additionally, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter can link to reviews of your product creating more clout.
  2. Expert generated reviews. Let’s face it. Some people prefer to follow what the experts do. And if someone like cnet says your product is better than competitors’ you’re likely to generate good sales. Again, that review will appear in search engines and can be linked to on social media sites, garnering even more popularity.
  3. Discount it! You don’t want to give away the farm, but we’re seeing more and more people clicking on bargain offers while trying to save some cash. When those discounts are given on social media sites returns will be amplified, reaching the 28% who are influenced by social media as well as the 21% who click through links on Facebook and Twitter.
  4. Place ads on Facebook and popular games. When people are logged in to a popular game like Mafia Wars you have a captive audience. When they’re scanning Facebook for friends’ status updates, videos, and pictures, you have the same phenomenon. Facebook also generates highly targeted ads for a very low cost. Companies are noticing that returns on Facebook ads are much better than returns on other online ads, and often much better than returns on traditional media ads.
  5. Make a video. Videos are targeted well by search engines and they play a large role in social media engagement. Upload a video to YouTube, Vimeo, or Google Video and start sharing it on Facebook and Twitter. Make it catchy, unexpected, and end it with a transaction-minded call to action. Videos can be viral, when they’re done well. Why not give it shot now?

Why businesses need blogs

Thanks to Social Media Examiner for pointing out the September study by McKinsey that polled global companies about their experience with Web2.0 (or Social media).

More than one-half of respondents (52%) said Web 2.0 tools increased marketing effectiveness, while 43% reported higher customer satisfaction and 38% reduced marketing costs.

Companies cannot simply adopt these technologies and expect their customers to use them en masse, however. Among firms reporting measurable benefits from Web 2.0, 74% said it was important to integrate the tools with other forms of customer interaction, and 52% said marketing the Web 2.0 initiatives themselves was a best practice.

Let’s take a look at how blogs, specifically, can be helpful.

  1. Internal communication with employees and staff. Blogs foster cross-functional knowledge sharing and collaboration between departments. They reinforce key company messages like vision and mission, and help the company turn its people into evangelists. The more the message is communicated, the more the staff will know how to communicate it to others.
  2. Customer-related purposes. Blogs are an ideal place to make yourself useful to customers, clients, and users. It’s a medium to share information about your product or service as well as complimentary products and services. For instance, a blog for a residential maid service might post articles on how to ensure your housekeeper is efficient, how to maintain a level of clean between service, and how to reduce clutter and organize well. It’s brilliant. Give your customers something useful and they’ll return to your site often. Any marketer knows that the more time a client spends in your store (and your website is your online real estate), the more money they’re likely to spend with you.
  3. Working with external partners/suppliers. What happens when you become known online as an authority in your industry (which is exactly what happens when you blog well)? You get attention. You get attention from resellers, industry publications, vendors, and all sorts of people and companies that you can partner with to raise your company’s brand.

The study above shows that 51% of companies polled worldwide are experiencing measurable return from their blog. We’ve just given 3 reasons why blogs are successful. In our experience we’ve seen blogs raise company websites to the number 1 link on popular search engines. We’ve seen blogs draw customer support for the brand and entice attention from industry experts. Does your company have a blog? If not, why not start one now?

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