Posts tagged: communication

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.

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?

NY Times biting themselves in the patooty?

The New York Times will start charging for content on a metered scale starting in 2011. That means you can access a certain number of articles for free, and then they’ll start charging when you reach a predetermined quota.

That means they’re treating their website much like they treat their hard copy newspaper. You can read a few articles for free if you go to your local library, but you might not get the most up-to-date issue, and you probably won’t have time to read it cover to cover. If you want all that, you have to subscribe or purchase your own copy from your favorite newspaper vendor.

The same concept, applied to their website means you can read a few things, but then either pay up or – what I think is more likely – search for the same content on another news outlet. With the decline of newspaper and magazine subscriptions, I’ve been wondering when this would happen, but I’m afraid it’s following the wrong logic.

Old logic says charge the advertisers, charge the readers. That’s the logic that reigned prior to the digital age. As the media landscape changes the logic behind business models has to change too.

Paid content means fewer readers/visitors. Less activity means less return for advertisers. And since the bulk of revenue likely comes from ads, less returns will significantly impact turnover.

So what? How are dailies and monthlies to get their readers to pay for content, or at least generate another income stream in addition to advertising? What about subscription-based apps? Subscription-based RSS feeds? Let’s say I want to know anytime media in the US runs a story about corruption in Moldova. I’d be willing to pay $0.02/article, or so. For the convenience of delivery to my mobile phone – I’d pay for that. But content on the website when I want to read about the day’s events? Not a chance. I’ll take my business elsewhere – and chances are, so will most. When it comes down to it, I’m likely to get so used to not using sites that have metered rates for content that they’ll lose my participation altogether. I’ll go from being a regular user to an infrequent user, to abandoning it completely.

Update 1/21/10: TechDirt posted a nice article along the same lines, noting that NY Times is going to be caught in a dispute between 2 competing business models.

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.

Earned media

We’re seeing more and more traction from the term “earned media,” referring to fan-generated publicity at no cost to the advertiser. Sean Corcoran of Forrester developed this chart to elucidate the different types of advertising:

The role of paid advertising is rapidly changing from the forefront of company marketing strategies to the last addition, and often used to contribute to successful earned media and owned media. As the way people perceive information and make decisions changes, so must the way we reach them – true both for advertising agencies and the companies that employ them.

According to the CMO of Ford, James Farley, “You can’t just say it. You have to get the people to say it to each other.” That is the heart of earned media, of social media, and it should be at the heart of our company’s strategies for growth.

5 things to make or break your strategy

marketing strategy

Interactive marketing strategy. Market penetration strategy. Social media strategy. Here at Engage Them we develop these things for our clients to ensure that we meet their short term and long term goals effectively. But when it comes down to it, everyone uses strategy for different purposes in different venues.  That got us thinking. What are the common denominators that make a successful strategy? Here’s what we think it boils down to. Feel free to jump in to the discussion below.

  1. Long-term vision with short-term application. Your strategy needs to see where your business is heading in 5 years and in 10 years. And that vision for the future needs to have immediate applications in what you do today. A pie-in-the-sky dream of expansion into new markets will never be realized until you start taking steps to make it happen. On the other hand, acting on short-term goals with only a vague guess about what’s next is like a brand new driver who only looks at the road directly in front of his car. He veers all over the road because his focus is too short.
  2. Know your market. A narrowly defined target audience will keep your strategy focused, avoiding waste of time and effort on inefficient goals or advertising. Target everything in your strategy to your target market – from behaviors to benchmarks.
  3. Resource analysis. What do we have? Think of talent, time, budget, materials, technical skills, facilities… What do you already have that you can work with? What resources can you obtain creatively – through networking, barter agreements? And how will you obtain the other resources you need?
  4. Competitor analysis. You know what they say, “keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.” Know who you’re up against and know how you can beat them. Maybe you can’t offer a better price, or maybe your raw materials aren’t as good as theirs. But figure out where you can better them, and maximize on that. If you can beat them hands down on customer service, do it well, and don’t apologize for the aspects you can’t compete on.
  5. Re-evaluation. A strategy is only as good as its keeper. Consistent re-visiting of the strategy and fearless modification when necessary will keep it relevant and useful. A strategy that sits in the back of the filing cabinet is of no use to anyone. Use it to bring continuity to your business. Use it as a yard stick when evaluating options. Redesign it as the market ebbs and flows.

That’s our 5. What works for you?

Girly pics

Thanks to Guy Kawasaki at AllTop for alerting us to this study.

It would seem that every night is ladies night on social networks. And that it’s all in the pictures!  It would seem that people like to see pictures on social networking – it’s what keeps them interested. A full 70% of applications are photo apps. And it just so happens that pictures of women get more views than anything else – everyone is looking at the ladies – even the ladies.

faces women

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