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What do you want to accomplish? What resources you have available to you? What is your experience and understanding digital marketing and social media?
The answers to these questions can help you understand exactly what level of social media help would enable you to reach your business goals in the most efficient and effective way.
For more about what you can expect from social media and how to decide what help you need, read my post on Linkedin, What Kind of Social Media Help Do You Need?
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Lots of stories are being posted about the downfall of society with social media to blame.
It is not the platform that is to blame but how we have decided to use them. In my article, How Social Media Became its Own Worse Enemy – and How to Improve It, I discuss what we might be doing wrong, what the fallout could look like, and how we can get real again.
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Are you allocating enough money, time, and talent to run a successful social media effort?
Social Media does not need to be costly, but just like everything else, you do need to put the right amount of investment in to get the result you are seeking.
In my article, Calculating the Cost of Social Media I outline what resources need to be considered for various levels of effort.
Social Media is an ever-changing, overwhelming sea of possibilities. For most people, the biggest challenge is figuring out where to get started with social media.
We all have heard the familiar and sound advice to start by listening. Listen to your customers, listen to the community, listen, listen, listen.
Everyone says to listen! Listen to what?
The reality is that there is so much information or noise being generated every second that you could spend an entire career listening and never do anything else.
The trick is to not just listen but to participate, as well as be able to adapt the voice of authority.
Think back to being a kid on a playground, or go visit a busy playground and observe for a while. What you will notice first is that it is a noisy place. There are little girls having secret conversations in one corner, groups of boys raiding each other on the equipment, and a group of boys and girls building castles at yet another section of the playground. Each of them is living in their own world and are tuned into their own activities, but the call of an authoritative voice raises their attention and will cause all activities to change directions.
How does this relate to developing your own social media listening program? The social media world is very similar to a child’s playground (in oh so many ways!)
When a child arrives at the playground they will first glance around to see what is going on and who they know. I relate this to casting a wide net to gather a high-level insight into conversations that are happening related to:
- Your Brand
- Your Competitors
- Your Services
- Problems you Solve
Once we understand the landscape and ecosystem of all the activities going on, we will begin to focus in on what we know best and where we feel most comfortable. On the playground, this would be equivalent to saying hi to our friends and checking in on what they are doing. In the social media world, it is very much the same thing. We will check in on our customers, prospects, and people who know us that we should get to know.
As we play we begin to learn the rules of the playground. Who is in charge of which activities and which children are committed to those activities as well as which children are just exploring various areas. In social media, we call the leaders of certain circles influencers. Social media influencers, like the children leading various playground activities, were never appointed as leaders and they have no real authority, but they have a personality that entices others to follow along. As we play with them we strengthen existing relationship bonds as well as make new friends.
In business, this would be equivalent to understanding the context of each conversation, the sentiment within each community and the connections among different social ties. Look for who is the center of influence within your market.
The child who wants to lead his own little tribe will be successful only if he or she has tapped into areas of play that children are most drawn to and storylines that they want to act out. Similar to the business person who needs to create messages that resonate with their customer’s needs and desires and to attract an audience who are willing and able to respond to various calls to action.
Once you are not only part of the community, your community also becomes part of the ecosystem and you will be tapped into new opportunities as well as potential threats to your playground enterprise. You will be able to respond to these opportunities and threats to the best of your ability.
However, there is always the inevitable call from the voice of authority that changes the game. On the playground it is the voice of the parent saying it is time for your best friend to leave, thus shaking up the connections within your group. Online it is the voice of a social networking site enticing your community members away from your chosen channels with the promise of better tools, friendly user interfaces, or more efficient ways to track the enormous amount of information we are all keeping track of. The child must be prepared to rebuild or move on, as does any business investing in social media.
However, to keep up with it all, you have to continuously be listening.
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I have noticed the word community is being tossed around inappropriately lately. It seems many people are trying to make online community analogous to social media. Perhaps the holiday season is a good time to explain the difference.
You know how you walk down the street in your neighborhood? Hopefully, you live in a neighborhood where you see your neighbors on the front porch or in the front yard. If not, think of a show, like Sesame Street, where people run into their neighbors every time they walk out of their door. That may feel like a community, but it’s not. It is a group of people in similar proximity who have the ability to socialize. That is social media in the real world.
Social media is a set of technical tools that enable people to express themselves, “house” their personalities, and socialize with each other.
Now, raise your hand if you were invited to a holiday party, game night, or to help a friend move over the weekend. If you raised your hand then you were invited to be part of a community; People who get together to enjoy each other’s company, share ideas and help each other out. Online this is most similar to communities that have existed for years, inhabited by the members who share information, ideas, and solutions to problems.
Today there are many other wonderful online communities of people who share information about their hobbies, interests, and struggles. Within these communities, each person knows and supports each other and more often than not there is no real defined leader or sponsor within the group.
Most of the time online communities such as these are spontaneous, people who are searching for connections find each other, but it is possible for a brand to “orchestrate” such a place. To do so a brand might want to think of themselves as an HOA where they meet and listen to the community members, set the rules for the community, and find ways to connect and support each member within the community. This definitely takes time and commitment, beyond just creating content that is generated and pushed through social tools such as Facebook and Twitter.
To reiterate, social media is for people you say hi to as you pass them by, a community is for staying connected to and supporting the people you care about. So the next time someone refers to their online community ask them questions about what they know about the people they supposedly care about.
Not long ago I was watching History of Rock & Roll. As I watched the progression from Chuck Berry to 80’s Hair bands, I noticed a few common themes about the rise and fall of artists. I realized that these themes are lessons that business communicators can learn from.
The Message Has to Resonate
Musicians and songwriters might write songs about their lives, stories, and experiences, but the songs that become hits are the ones that their FANS can relate to. The songs that seem to be written about their lives, stories, and experiences. The songs that are about the common human conditions are often timeless.
The same is true for business communications. Your message needs to resonate deeply with your audience. They need to hear what you are about and say…” wow! you know me so well.”
The paparazzi exist because people want to know about the lives of the people behind the music. Although we are attracted to the music that speaks to our heart we also want to know the heart of the artists behind the music.
The same is true for business communications. We have so many reasons not to trust businesses lately, that they only way to gain our trust is by letting us know who you are.
You Can’t Fake It
Shall I say more? Well if you have no idea who the two guys above are, you can look it up here.
It seems, that yes…more needs to be said. Once Rock & Roll became popular, an industry was born. From that industry, many fakes have been born. They rise and fall fast. The same is true when you try to outsource your communications as opposed to create a process to be real to your fans, the attention you attract will rise and fall fast. You cannot fake it and make it.
What I learned by watching The History of Rock & Roll is that the best way to be a Rock Star Business is to sincerely have the right stuff to be a Rock Star and to be real and accessible enough to let your fans rock with you.
This question comes up in almost half the presentations I give. It is a great question and one that I would like to explore a bit.
People are so busy.
Between work and life and all the demands to be in so many different places both on and offline that it is a struggle to capture a person’s attention enough to show them the benefits of paying attention or socializing with you and your organization. There is a perception that it is noisier online, and that the social web is not as personal, therefore, more difficult to build quality relationships.
I have found that the opposite is true. The demands of our offline world limit us to the people that are in our geographic proximity (work, school, spiritual centers, and so forth). We can not seek out a person who has similar taste as us in music, or a closet writer, or game enthusiast by typing in search terms at a local event. We spend our time bouncing from person to person making small talk about work, the weather, sports, and what our kids are up to.
People are spending more and more time socializing online because there you can pause, read a journal someone has chosen to share, explore and learn from each other, discover other people within the group, all before introducing yourself.
How does this affect our personal interactions with each other? Well just look at a blogger’s enthusiastic expression when they tell you they got to meet their friend that they have known online for some time, notice the trend of all the conferences popping up just so these new found friends can meet each other in person. They already know each other and they already know that the time and money invested in attending an offline event will be well worth it.
Sensei Project worked with the Atlanta Convention Visitors Bureau organizing an event (SITSum) for social media influencers who write about travel, food, family, and entertainment. The event was organized to empower peer-to-peer learning. The event was a success in a variety of ways, but what made it special is people who knew each other online met in person and the people who traveled from various parts of the world to meet new friends get to stay in touch long after the event was over.
My take is that online communities are helping us to slow down a bit to get to know each other again. It is not a substitute for personal contact, it is enhancing the need and desire for such contact.
Want to learn more about the Social Influencer Travel Summit? Download the report.
What do you need to run a successful social media campaign? Time and money.
You need time to research the web, get to know the people you want to connect with, develop your message, and build relationships based on mutual trust and values.
You need money for advertising, landing pages, applications, multimedia, and any other flashy gizmos.
There are very few organizations that have very much time or money to dedicate to a social media campaign. Oftentimes they will contribute what resources they can, watch their campaign flap around like a fish out of water and then declare defeat.
If you have little time and money, it is best to double up on one and go little to none on the other. There are many free sites and
tools available and most campaigns can be run without spending money on advertising, landing pages and so forth. However, you will need to double or maybe triple the time you spend creating content, engaging in dialog, and promoting your efforts throughout social networks. You will also need to allocate time upfront to develop realistic goals and milestones that map to your actions and results on a weekly basis.
If your boss knocks on your door and tells you there is an event happening next week that he wants you to promote via social media, and you do not already have an engaged community you can work with, ask for a big check. You can be successful in social media within a short period of time if you are able to buy some attention. This is more than buying advertising space, you will need to get some creative folks involved as well.
If you find yourself without time or money and with a demanding boss who wants to see this social media stuff work, no need to fret. Set up appropriate expectations. What can you get done in a week and how does the value of what you accomplish relate to the ROI of traditional communications. For example, can you find the right people are twitter to mention your initiative? Can you align with a partner who has a large Facebook fan base? Can you make your initiative newsworthy and get the attention of the media? When it comes time to report your results, highlight how social media outperformed the expected results of traditional communications. For example, your Cost Per Impression in social media vs traditional advertising might be much lower. Also, explain how social media efforts can be even more successful give more time or more money.
However, if you start spending the time upfront to build and nurture your community the majority of your work will be done when your boss asks you to work miracles without a wand.
“To be prepared is half the victory.”
– Miguel de Cervantes
The person who initially introduced me to social media in 2005 just announced that he is quitting Facebook.
He is not the first person I know who has expressed that the sugar high of social media has crashed. In fact, for the past couple of years, I have been going through my own highs and lows. Considering I made social media my career choice I could not just quit. Instead, I have been forced to think through what is going on in me, in society, and in business and what I want to do about it.
During a business meeting a couple of years ago I was asked what my contingency plan was after social media peaked. I tried to explain that I was anxiously waiting for that day to come so we can get down to the real business of social media.
You see, the creation of social media is very much like the discovery of how to make fire. Stay with me here.
I can imagine the first man who figured out how to make fire. To everyone around him, and probably to him, it seemed like magic. Very quickly his tribe recognized that the ability to create fire would change everything. I bet the “fire makers” of the tribe were highly compensated. I can also imagine there were people in the tribe who were afraid of the fire and thought that people should not use fire.
I can imagine the many experiments the tribes attempted with fire. I wonder how many people were burned, and how many fires spread beyond the control of the tribe. It must have been an exciting and dangerous time.
As time passed, more and more people learned how to create fire and fire became no big deal anymore. Everyone moved on. But did humanity stop using fire? Of course not. We just use fire now when it makes sense to. Are there still fire specialists? Yes! They blow beautiful glass creations, cook wonderful meals, or save our property from being destroyed.
Just like fire no longer seems like magic, many of us are no longer thrilled with the magic of social media. But that does not mean social media is going away. No. We are just going to use the tools that help us do what we want to do instead of expecting the tools to do magic for us.
So where does that leave me as a social media consultant? Well, there are still many people who are just learning what all these tools are and I expect that will continue to be the case for at least a couple of years. However, when I show people these tools I get the most joy from seeing their creativity unleashed, new relationships discovered, and newfound courage developed.
I love empowering people and that is how I will continue to use social media and the ever-growing number of digital tools. Just like a glass blower uses fire to shape glass I will use social media to help people shape their dreams.