Don’t Chase What’s “Hot,” Use What Works For You

originally posted on Concept Hub

This past week my schedule was filled with networking meetings with a few of the smartest people I know.

The title of this post comes from a slide of one such meeting that was being presented by Michael Kogon of Definition 6 at the Institute for Enterprise and Innovation.

Michael demonstrated how some of the technologies that are “on the horizon” are lowering the barriers for people to start and build their own companies. He highlighted how much start up and operational costs were for him in the late nineties and compared those cost to today. He specifically demonstrated what was available from Google and Microsoft and touched briefly on blogs and wikis.

With so many tools available for the entrepreneur, I was happy to see the warning “don’t chase what’s ‘hot,’ use what works for you” and I asked Michael if I could use that as this week’s blog post title.

Social media can be quite overwhelming. I had the great privilege to be involved with two panels this week with Dan Greenfield, and he often tells people “this stuff is hard.” At the AECF panel, “Collective Intelligence, Collaboration, and User Generated Content,” Dan mentioned how he had recently posted a blog about Twitter and felt as though he was a month behind the curve. That is how fast innovations are being introduced and adopted in the social media world. However, for the majority of those starting or running a business, it is not necessary to keep up with the hottest tool, but it is necessary to improve efficiency, effectively market your product or service, and stay competitive. In the social media world, here are some of the tools I feel are ‘must haves’, ‘nice to haves’, and “interesting ideas to keep an eye on.”

Must Haves

RSS

It’s time to get an RSS reader if you do not already have one. I tell people that RSS is like the math equation that you have to learn and become comfortable with before you can move any further in class. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and has been best explained in a blog post titled “How to Explain RSS the Oprah Way.” With so much buzz about podcast and video and blogs, the question is always asked, how do you keep up with all this information. The answer is RSS, a way to opt-in to receive that information that is most relevant to you as opposed to searching for information or going from site to site checking to see if the information as been updated.

However, as more and more people become accustomed to having sites come to them as oppose to going to the sites, the information you would like your clients, prospects and partners to receive better start becoming RSS enabled or your information will be overlooked or lost.

Del.icio.us

One of the most important things that a business owner and their team needs to do is to keep up with the news and important issues relevant to their industry. Often times there is  a network of friends, partners, and vendors in place looking out for each other and sharing relevant information that they feel would be interesting and/or helpful knowledge. Del.icio.us is a way to connect your network on one platform to not only share information, but to also find others that have similar interest and subscribe to certain tags, or pages (that’s right, via RSS). It is  a way to expand your network of relevant peers to evaluate all the information flowing around as well as to see what people are paying attention to.

Social Meter

Go to www.socialmeter.com and type in your company URL or latest press link. You will be able to see who is paying attention to you on the web. Now go to a competitor’s site or someone else within your industry from a different region, such as California. How much attention are they getting. Are they getting more attention, is that the kind of attention you want or should expect to eventually happen to you as the web becomes more and more of a meeting place for conversations. Even if you are not ready to participate in the conversations, you should be aware of what is being said.

I used social meter and a variety of other tools once when a client was receiving some very negative press and was heading to court. The PR team was struggling to get an idea of what their perception was in the real world (they knew what the press thought of them). They were happy to learn that the media was making a much bigger deal over something that the community could care less about.

Nice to Haves

Enhanced Media

Many of the people who work in creative communications will give you every reason why it is important to have things such as well produced videos, podcasts, flash presentations, metrics on every click and move your audience makes. I would not argue with a single one of them. Each of those things are nice to have and provide a tremendous value to your communication mix. The key is to know what you are communicating, what you want achieved from that communication, placement and goals for such forms of communication, what needs to be measured to make sure you are reaching the top objectives, and the overall cost – benefit of each choice that is available to you. When Michael Kogon said “Don’t Chase What’s ‘Hot,’ Use What Works For You,” this was what I immediately thought of. I can not tell you how many people ask me about podcasts because they recently read it was the hottest way to communicate to their audience. But after a little Q&A  it turns out that podcasting is rarely the answer to what they need, or most likely only one of the pieces of a giant puzzle of a communication strategy that they are seeking.

Social Networks

Most people think of MySpace when they hear Social Networks. But Social Networks include things such as email lists, LinkedIn, Blogs, Del.icio.us and many more. It is a place where collaboration can take place and introductions can be made. It is basically the idea of networking online the same way business people network offline, but with a much broader reach and at more convenient times.

Wikis

Wikis are HOT HOT HOT. The beauty of a wiki is that it is a place for people to go and collaborate on ideas, share their knowledge, and ensure that everyone is on the same page .  However, what if everyone is not on the same page when you launch the wiki? It could cause chaos or simply be ignored. Another great quote from Dan Greenfield this week was, “Know your company’s DNA before you launch into social media.”

Interesting Ideas to Keep and Eye On

Virtual Worlds and Avatars

Ahhh, Second Life has hit mainstream awareness now and has become a part of every presentation I have attended the past few months. However, when I was on the PRSA panel this past week I asked the group of about 100 PR professionals how many were in Second Life and two people raised their hands. I have an avatar. She is stuck in an adult area that I accidentally flew into and do not know how to get out. She still does not look even close to how I would like her to look, and she (I) keeps forgetting how to do simple things like sit down and move items. Kaneva has developed a virtual world that is supposed to be easier to navigate in and does not take as much computing power. Coke has developed a virtual world, my son has an avatar in Nicktropolis.So, virtual worlds are definitely in our future and something to keep an eye on.

All the world is a Twitter

I was an early Twitter (er). Twitter is basically mass instant messaging – to all your Twitter friends or to the world. People can follow your messages and receive them on their computer or mobile device. After less than a week of using Twitter, I decided there might be some applications for it, but  overall my life was too boring to Twitter about, so I quit. One day I jumped back on just to see what my friends had been Twittering about and I found myself twittering again. Timothy Moenk has been alerted to a speaking gig that he was able to volunteer for, Earthlink has used Twitter to announce press releases, last night Grayson Daughters let us know about a video promotion for a worthy cause via Twitter, and my favorite of them all is Amber and Rusty of the GA Podcast Network recorded a podcast of them answering questions that came to them from their Twitter friends.

Social Media Press Release

This is something I just heard about the past week, however I heard about it twice at two different locations, and have just been asked to speak about it. Shift Communications has created the first social media press release which changes the format of how press releases are typically presented to the media and has added sections for multimedia presentations, social bookmarking features, and RSS (there’s that math equation again). At the PRSA panel Marlon Manuel, assistant features editor, Atlanta Journal-Constitution endorsed the value of such a presentation. I wanted to take it one step further. I asked him if a press release such as this was presented along with links to a number of bloggers who had already picked up the story, would it be a more compelling story to look into. Indeed, he felt it just might be. So, where do you get your media and who is paying attention?

My final thought on the PRSA panel was that although it seems like these tools are coming at us at lightening speed (they are) and it feels like we need to understand how to use each of them, (you will) the best way to embrace this is to start using such tools for fun. Explore the online communities that you are interested in and share your knowledge as well as learn with others. That is what social networking is all about, both online and offline.