Best practices

Clara Shih On Ambient Intimacy and Appvertising

Posted on October 5, 2010. Filed under: Best practices, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Book Cover_The Facebook Era by Clara ShihIf you want to know how tapping into social networks can help your business, then touch base with Clara Shih. After all, she wrote The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Market, Sell, and Innovate (2nd Edition), which is chock full of case studies and practical information for creating strategies and tactics to help you succeed in the new world of social business.

I recently enjoyed a conversation with Clara. My prior post, How Social Networks Are Changing How We Do Business, features Part 1 of our conversation, and here’s Part 2, where we get into things like ambient intimacy, appvertising and how Clara wisely decided not to go with the book title originally suggested by her publisher.

Interview with Clara Shih, author of The Facebook Era, Part 2:

Much your book talks about how businesses can use social networks to gain more information about customers or prospects, and their connections. But it can also work in the other direction. Customers may use social networks to decide whether they want to do business with you. They may want you or your business to have a referral or a seal of approval from someone they know.

Clara: Yeah, I see it going in that direction. It happens to me all the time, with people that haven’t bought my book, they’ll go to my page and they’ll see two of their friends are already a fan of the page and it helps them make up their mind… It’s really interesting.

That’s the most important thing to keep in mind for understanding social media. Because once you get this then everything else is easy. All the tactics you can pick up, and they’re changing all the time because Facebook and Twitter are always changing. But this is a fundamental paradigm shift that’s changing and creating these new business practices.

If you were to encapsulate the paradigm shift how you describe it?

Clara: It’s the idea of ambient intimacy. People sharing more about themselves than they ever have before. There are implications for business development, marketing and targeted advertising.

One of big challenges many businesses have with social media is that it’s 24/7, but most businesses don’t operate 24/7. So they run up against issues with time resource allocation and providing an adequate response. Do you have suggestions to help a business manage its social media presence?

Clara: Well the first thing to consider is that people are talking about your company 24/7 whether or not you’re on social media or not. So better to be there and to be monitoring than be in blissful ignorance.

Beyond that I think in terms of setting the expectation of timeliness. And I’ve seen this — companies will have something on their Twitter or Facebook page that says, if we don’t get back to you in 72 hours or whatever the timeframe is — put out what to expect, so everyone is on the same page.

You hear a lot about how in social media you can’t do the hard sell, you have to do the soft sell. But people know why you’re on there — your purpose is ultimately to sell, if you’re a business.

Clara: It is ultimately to sell. And that’s OK if you acknowledge it. But it’s also to show that you care about people.

Right you can vicariously create tighter connections. Still, a customer can always write an email if they want to get in touch with a company  Yet there’s something different about expressing yourself through social media.

Clara: It’s very subtle psychological things — like seeing your profile picture next to a comment you made on a businesses page… it makes you feel important. Like you have a voice. And I think people really resonate with that and people are drawn to that. Because you feel heard. Your comment is public. People can link back to your profile and possibly interact with you and like or comment on your comment.

In your book you talk about appvertising. I don’t know how many companies are aware of it, or the benefits. Would you mind giving a brief overview how companies can be smart with it?

Clara: Sure. Appvertising came about when Facebook started opening their platform to other developers to create applications on Facebook. And the idea is that with traditional advertising you get only that split second to interact with the audience. People basically see your ad and they decide to click or they don’t.

With Facebook apps, instead of giving people a onetime offer, you’re engaging them with a game or some sort of other application that they would want to come back to again and again. You can brand those games. You can sponsor applications, or you can build your own applications that really touch upon your core business and be able to deepen your relationship with a customer and engage with a customer over a longer period of time than you would with traditional advertising.

How do you do it so you’re not just creating a commercial that just happens to be a game? Even though that is essentially what appvertising is.

Clara: The key part is the branding is more subtle. One of my favorite examples is, there’s a General Mills brand called Cacadian Farms, where they promote organic foods. If you play Farmville you can buy blueberry seeds from Cascadian Farms that are all organic, non-genetically modified blueberries. That’s a fun way to engage; people are getting exposed to the Cascadian brand, and it’s good for the players because it’s good for their farm.

Still, companies must be careful about what apps they’re in and how they choose to be in that space, right?

Clara: It’s very important to find out with the apps, are they really reaching the core audience that they want to reach? There was a big controversy about a year back where Offerpal partnered with Netflix. The idea was if you were playing Texas HoldEm inside of Facebook you could throw out an offer for a 30-day trial to Netflix in exchange for chips. They got a ton of response because that’s a really popular application and people wanted the virtual chips. The problem was the end-value to Netflix was ultimately very low, because these people all cancelled within a few days. They weren’t interested in Netflix; they just wanted the chips.

As an advertiser and as a business you really have to think about are you achieving the goal that you want to achieve? How much will this interest last? Is it a short-term win or is it really a long-term gain where you can acquire these users?

OK, last question: Why call your book The Facebook Era; even the first edition is about a lot more than just Facebook.

Clara: I’ll tell you something funny; my publisher wanted me to call it the MySpace Era, because at the time MySpace was significantly bigger. I just thought there was something about Facebook that was different.  It was really the first social network that encouraged us and supported us in reflecting and extending our real world networks, versus trying to replace those real-world relationships. There’s something that’s just much more lasting and more inherently valuable about basing it on true identity and true relationships.

And we continue to call it The Facebook Era because Facebook is still the largest and fastest growing social network, not only here in the U.S., but worldwide… I believe that no matter where you are in the world you want to be connected, and often times that includes people in your county and beyond, and that’s the deal with Facebook.

Thanks, Clara

Many thanks to Clara for being so generous with her time and thoughts. She gives us plenty to ponder.

Now, if you want to get social with Clara, visit the Facebook Era’s Facebook page, or  follow her on Twitter at @clarashih

– Deni Kasrel

Related post

Recommended Reading: The Facebook Era

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Business Podcasting Tips From Toby Bloomberg of Diva Marketing Talks

Posted on August 9, 2010. Filed under: Best practices, Marketing and Public Relations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

RSS symbol with podcast headphone and microphonePodcasting offers an easy way to be heard in the marketplace.

It’s on-demand subscription-based audio content that lets you grab someone’s ear.

Of course holding onto that ear takes finesse.

Just spouting marketing messages doesn’t cut it. Then it’s an infomercial, and who’s going to subscribe to that?

You must make it worth someone’s while to pay attention to what you have to say.

Interview with Toby Bloomberg, host of the podcast series Diva Marketing Talks

It takes skill to pull off a successful podcast, and one person does it well is marketing maven Toby Bloomberg, host of Diva Marketing Talks, a podcast series about social media marketing.

Toby recently shared some of her podcasting tips with me, about the art of being a good moderator and how to create podcasts that reach out and touch customers in a meaningful way. Here are excerpts from our conversation:

Can you describe your concept for Diva Marketing Talks?

Toby: My concept is that since social media is a conversation, I don’t want to have to interview people. And the one-on-one thing, to me, is an interview. So I always have a least two guests, sometimes three.

What do you think makes for a good podcast moderator?

Toby: There are a few things that make for a good moderator. One is making sure you have a guest on who will share information and talk. Because the worst thing is to have someone on who just doesn’t talk. And you want to have someone who understands, in social media, they’re giving value-added information, not pitching their own company.

The second thing is to create an environment and atmosphere where they feel comfortable to talk.

And the third thing is to prep your guests for the show… I put questions together. I put concepts together and I give them to the guests and say, “Here’s our content direction. Whether or not we follow it depends on where the conversation goes, but here are the issues we’ll talk about.”

When it’s time for the show I’ll start off with a question and see where it goes. Sometimes it does turn into a real conversation. I will encourage people to talk to the other guests and to ask questions of me, so it has the feel of a conversation, instead of me interviewing two people.

What are some reasons a company might consider doing a podcast series?

Toby: A podcast is no different than an audio file that’s on the web. What makes it unique is that it has an RSS feed that gives you the ability to dump it into an MP3 player. And that little technology changes everything. It gives you the ability to do what people call “time transfer.” You can put it into your video or MP3 player — into your iPod your iPhone and iTunes — and listen to it whenever you want.

So that’s what makes podcasting so different and valuable. It’s that people aren’t tied to their computers any longer. They can listen to it wherever they want.

You can use podcasts to create thought leadership to build greater understanding and awareness of an organization or a topic. But it can also be used in other ways. For instance it can be used to train a sales force. You can do a podcast on product development, new product features, whatever. Give MP3 players to your sales force and they can listen whenever they want.

Another thing is take a cheap MP3 player — we’re not talking about iPods — load it up and give it away at trade shows.

What would be on those trade show podcasts — product information?

Toby: It can be product information. But it always has to be value-add. Because who’s going to listen to something about your new features or your latest widget? You can position it however you want. You can do a little show.

Is there any type of business that either does or doesn’t lend itself to podcasting?

Toby: You’re disseminating information. So if your target audience is comfortable listening to information in a given format, it will work. It really goes back to who your customers are… I think today we’re not looking at technology as much as information.

How can a business know what kind of information is of interest to their target audiences?  How should they define their podcast strategy?

Toby: You just ask your customers what they want. Tell them you’re thinking of doing a podcast series and ask, “Is this something that you might want?” They’ll let you know. And they’ll tell you what they want to hear.

Especially in a B2B environment, where relationships are so critical, even more than B2C, it gives you a wonderful opportunity to touch base with customers that perhaps you haven’t talked to in a while.

So pick up the phone… Take a look at the customers that you’ve been wanting to develop stronger relationships with, or people you just missed closing a deal on. It would be great to go out to prospects and say, “We haven’t talked to you in a long time. This is what we’re thinking of doing. What would you like to hear?” It gives you an opportunity to open doors.

You can build a whole strategy behind that. Why not tag the podcast with “Thanks to Tom Jones at XYZ company for giving his input on this topic.” Thanking people in a public forum is always a nice thing to do. You don’t have to mention if they’re a client or not.

In your e-book Social Media Marketing GPS you note how podcasts can bring out your personality and create intimacy between the people behind a brand and its customers. How does that happen and why is that important?

Toby: Voice and tone add another dimension than text. Even if your company has a blog, or a Facebook page, or is tweeting, it brings you a little bit closer… And audio gives you the opportunity to add a different type of information.

When you write, and when you speak, your words come out differently. I think a good podcast forces you to talk in a conversational manner. So if you’re taking in a conversational manner people tend to relate to you as a person rather than as a company. The bottom line is people like to do business with people they like and this is one more way for somebody to get to know you.

Say a business makes a product that does not seem to present itself as being all that interesting. It’s some kind of widget. How do you make something that is not inherently fascinating into a podcast series?

Toby: You don’t, if it’s something that’s inherently boring. Like if it’s a widget that goes into another widget.

It’s like Intel Inside. Think of how brilliantly they positioned themselves. They knew that nobody wanted to talk about this little technology piece that went into computers, they positioned it as Intel Inside — this is what makes everything work. So perhaps isn’t going to be about the widget, because how much can you talk about the widget? Maybe it’s about trends in the industry.

What about allowing people to call into the show? Why might a company want to do that?

It gives people an opportunity to get information that they may not be able to have any other way. It gives you an opportunity to interact with potential customers. And if somebody has a really deep question, you can say, “Let’s take this offline and I’m happy to make sure you get the information.”

It’s one of those things that could go wild, depending on the company and the questions. If you’re doing it where you can tape the show you have the opportunity to edit. If you’re doing it live, obviously you don’t have that, so I think it takes a very skillful host. Because then you’re not only in the world of social media, really what it amounts to is you’re in the world of public radio.

OK, final question: If you were to give only one tip for businesses about podcasts, what would it be?

Toby: Make sure you understand the type of content your audience finds interesting and work around that. It’s Marketing 101.

But with any kind of social media we’re really diving outside of traditional marketing… It’s a sidestep. Sometimes it doesn’t necessarily relate to you product or service directly, but rather, tangentially.

That’s where I see a lot of companies miss the mark. When some people think being in social media means not being sales oriented, they think it means a softer sales pitch. But more than not, it means not even going in the sales direction, but making sure you have information that can support your customers in your particular industry… It is different than any other kind of marketing because it’s built on value-add.

Thanks, Toby

Many thanks to Toby Bloomberg for sharing her insights. If you want to keep up with Toby’s thoughts on a regular basis, subscribe to her Diva Marketing Blog, or follow her on Twitter at @tobydiva.

Meanwhile, other posts I’ve written that relate to Toby include:

Social Media Marketing GPS: A Creative Social Media Guide

Wonder Gals of Web 2.0

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of Toby’s ideas about podcasting? Do you have more thoughts on the topic? Please share. Comments welcome.

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Nestle Facebook Lesson In Social Media Disengagement

Posted on April 22, 2010. Filed under: Best practices, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The two-way street of social media offers a more personable way to engage with audiences than traditional marketing avenues.

People can leave comments on your blog, Facebook fan page or Twitter account and you can respond in kind.

It’s a great way to build brand affinity. Consumers have a voice in your online space. This sends a message their opinion matters. You gain valuable feedback, too.

However, beware — the street can be pocked with potholes.

Watch for road hazards on the two-way street of social media

Case in point: Nestle’s recent kerfluffle on Facebook.

The genesis of this fiasco began when the environmental awareness group Greenpeace called Nestle out for obtaining palm oil from “companies that are trashing Indonesian rainforests, threatening the livelihoods of local people and pushing orangutans towards extinction.” Greenpeace created a video and website campaign to denounce Nestle. The campaign featured a disparaging version of the logo for Nestle’s Kit Kat candy bar with the word “Killer” on it.

The Killer logo and others equally offensive to the company started circulating in cyberspace, prompting Nestle to post not once, but twice, a statement on its Facebook page that they were not going to stand for anyone messing with their stuff.

How NOT to moderate a Facebook page

Nestle soon found itself in one fine mess. Facebook fans took Nestle to task, telling the company they were free to do as they pleased. Here’s the start of the thread to the post:

That’s not even the half of it. Comments came pouring in, fast and furious, a few in favor of Nestle’s stance, but the vast majority taking up verbal arms against the arrogance of the Nestle spokesperson who basically flipped the bird to Facebook fans.

I suspect it goes without saying this is not a good thing to do on a platform that is open to the entire world. Indeed, the spat got picked up by media outlets across the globe.

You can’t control what others say about your brand (and this is not new)

Clearly Nestle missed the memo about how you can’t control what people say about you, and, if you need to respond to negative comments, it’s best to do so in a way that does not alienate or otherwise insult people.

Now lest you think this phenomenon of consumers being able to mess with your brand arose from the openness of social media, rest assured, word of mouth, good or bad, has been around as long as we humans have been talking to one another. There’s also a long history for alteration of corporate logos  — MAD magazine loves to do this sort of thing, and you’ve likely seen t-shirts with spoof versions of popular logos, too.

Social media just makes the whole thing a lot more public and a lot more viral.

What can you learn from this?

This is one for the books: Count on the incident being used in case studies about how not to engage in social media. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of how to do it wrong.

Meanwhile, there are lessons to be learned here. Such as:

Make sure you understand the ways of social media before you engage in this space. There are lots of do’s and don’ts and if you need some learnin’ here I suggest reading either The New Community Rules, by Tamar Weinberg, or Six Pixels of Separation, by Mitch Joel.

Make sure the person you assign to handle social media tasks knows how to properly interact with the public. Good manners and knowledge of how to appropriately respond to comments of all kinds is imperative.

Be prepared for negative feedback. No matter how wonderful you are, someone somewhere can have a bone to pick. Realize it may wind up in your social space.

If a crises does arise, be quick to put out the fire. Admit your mea culpa.

Don’t let one bad experience sour you on social media. See what you can learn and do it better the next time.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think? Comments welcome.

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Maximize Your SEO: Grab It By The Long Tail

Posted on February 22, 2010. Filed under: Best practices, Search Engine Optimization | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

If you’re hip to search engine optimization (SEO) then you know the importance keywords play in the process.

You think about things like keyword density – a ratio representing total number of words on a page divided by the number of times a given keyword (a word or phrase someone types into a search box) appears on that same page.

You want to strike a balance between strategically including keywords enough times that search engines see your page as relevant to the term you want to rank for, while keeping in mind the content needs to be useful and enjoyable to the reader.

Along with website text, it’s important to include keywords in page titles, navigational links, meta tags, meta description tags and ALT image tags.

This is basic SEO.

Length of the average search query is getting longer

One thing even those who know SEO can fail to take into account is the need to incorporate terms of three, four or even eight words. Then you’re really capitalizing on how people search online.

A survey by Hitwise shows there’s a nice amount action to be had with longer keyword phrases.

Longer queries bring more targeted results

Based on my own experience this is surely so. I use longer search queries because they tend to bring up more relevant results. This makes sense, of course – I’m giving the search engine more specific details about what I’m looking for.

Also, if I look at the statistics for this blog, The Communications Strategist, I see a fair amount of traffic comes from queries of between four and six words.

Bottom line: If you want to maximize SEO take advantage of the multiple keyword factor.

This is what’s known as catching the long tail — meaning you’re going for precise phrases, sometimes referred to as problem/solution specific keywords, that individually make up a small volume of search activity, yet when added together generate a sizable chunk of web traffic.

For example, if someone is interested in business financing, a short tail search term could be “business loan” while on the long tail there’s something like, “how to get a small business loan with bad credit.” It’s a more targeted type of search.

One size does not fit all

Then too, you need to take into account where your audience is located. Apparently, Americans are wordier with search terms than people in Canada or the U.K. Take a look at this chart, also from Hitwise:

So fine-tune your keyword strategy to suit your target audience. Keep in mind global differences. With certain locales on this good earth the more particular the better, while for other places less is more.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think? Do your online search habits reinforce the research cited in this post? Have you used longer keywords as part of an SEO program? Please share your stories. Comments welcome.

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Should Employers Ban Personal Use of Social Media While On the Job?

Posted on October 22, 2009. Filed under: Best practices, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Not Approved sign (Big Stock Photo)Did you know more companies are banning employees from using social networks while on the job?

Oh, really? Not one tweet, or a single Facebook comment all the live-long workday? Surely some folks will go into withdrawal. That stuff is addictive, you know.

Meantime, Iran tried to ban use of social media, and that didn’t work, so what chance does an employer have of making the rule stick?

Yet more businesses are adopting a no-if-ands-or-buts stance on the matter.

Outright prohibition

Robert Half Technology, an agency providing information technology professionals for both part-time and full-time needs recently polled 1,400 CIOs regarding company policy on worker’s visiting social media sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter while at work. Here are the results:

54% Prohibited completely

19% Permitted for business purposes only

16% Permitted for limited personal use

10% Permitted for any type of personal use

1%   Don’t know/no answer

A press release about the survey notes Robert Half Executive Director Dave Willmer’s sensitivity to employers: “Using social networking sites may divert employees’ attention away from more pressing priorities, so it’s understandable that some companies limit access.”

Willmer goes on to state, “For some professions, however, these sites can be leveraged as effective business tools, which may be why about one in five companies allows their use for work-related purposes.”

Why single it out?

Social networking for personal purposes is a diversion from work responsibilities. So is making a personal phone call, replying to personal email, engaging in small talk around the office coffee pot, taking a cigarette break, surfing the Net, and any number of other ways that individuals may not be 100% on the job while on the company clock.

And let’s get real; outright prohibition is impossible to enforce given the prevalence of smartphones, which offer ready access to the Internet, and hence all those social sites.

The trend is only going up

Social media is undeniably an ever-growing mode of communication. For many, it’s as familiar a way to converse and share information as the telephone and email. That goes for personal and business use.

Risks are real

Companies are wise to be cognizant of social media — to promote their own purposes, and as pertains to the potential for it to turn into a time suck on employee productivity.  Even if someone intends to jump on just for a quick jolt, it’s easy to get entranced on these platforms.

There are reputation risks. Workers may post comments that reflect badly on their employer, and perhaps themselves. Anyone can do the same offline. Bad judgment isn’t limited to the social media sphere.

Establish a policy

When change happens fast, and with force, it can be difficult to know how to handle the disruption.  That’s what’s going on here. Two years ago Twitter’s audience was limited — now, it’s where major news breaks. Facebook has in excess of 300 million users.

Companies do need to devise ways to deal with all that comes with this new circumstance.

But a ban? Well, that’s just plain crazy talk.

The sensible thing to do is to create and publicize a policy that establishes reasonable practical parameters for employee use of, and behavior on, these networks. I wrote a post about this in August. It spells things out nice and simple.

For additional resources and actual examples of social media policies, hit these two links:

Social Media Governance: Online database of social media policies

List of 40 Social Media Staff Guidelines (from blog of Laurel Papworth)

Companies are made up of people, not robots.

Bottom line: Organizations must be mindful about what is a realistic solution here.

Employees may be resources, but they are human resources.

– Deni Kasrel

Related post:

How To Create A Winning Corporate Social Media Policy

Do you think employers should prohibit personal use of social networks while on the job? Is it even possible to enforce such a policy? What do you think? Comments welcome.

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Book Review: The New Community Rules, Marketing On The Social Web

Posted on September 18, 2009. Filed under: Best practices, Books, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

There’s debate about whether anyone can be deemed a social media expert because the field is relatively new, and continues to evolve so rapidly, that it’s too soon for anyone to claim that label.

Well, if you go by what’s currently happening in the social media sphere, Tamar Weinberg is an expert.

Book cover to The New Community Rules:Marketing On The Social Web

Steeped in social media

Weinberg proudly proclaims that she’s “a member of just about every social network that has a name.” Along with being a prolific blogger, she’s the Director of Community for Mashable and is an independent social media consultant.

She’s steeped in social media.

This comes through loud and clear in The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web, where she proffers observations that could only come from someone who understands the real intricacies of scores of social media outlets.

Acute insight

Wienberg’s expertise is trenchant. When discussing the topic of return on investment for social media (an oft-cited sticky widget) she reinforces and elaborates upon a comment by Social Media Explorer Jason Falls about how “The problem with trying to determine ROI for social media is you are trying to put numeric quantities around human interactions and conversations, which are not quantifiable.”

She covers how to properly engage in social media — the ol’ it’s a dialogue not a monologue — then digs deeper with knowledge and tips that provide true keys to success.

Throughout the book she drills home crucial aspects of effective social media practice, such as recommendations and the numerable ways these may occur, along with the unspoken rule that you need to discuss issues not only of your own interest, but also those of the community at-large. “Altruism rules above all,” she wisely writes.

Weinberg consistently explains how various elements relate to search engine optimization; the outcome of which can play a big role in the visibility of your web site and provide a powerful tool for reputation management, if you know how to work it right.

Delving under the radar

Discussion of blogs, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, videos and podcasts are to be expected in a book of this title. Though again, Weinberg’s perceptions are a cut above the rest.

With Twitter she advises not to dive in head first and instead begin by listening to conversations going on about your particular industry, to include seeing what your competitors are up to. She tells how Twitter is great for tapping into prospects and influencers and calls out tools to search for topics, trends and people.

Her attention to the assorted platforms includes outlining specific advantages; the “why should I care” proposition. With Twitter, she says, “One of the biggest benefits of using the service is the ability to get people to answer questions quickly.” She shows how it can be like an instantaneous focus group, not to mention an invaluable customer service tool.

More added value of this text comes in Weinberg’s coverage of topics that are somewhat under the radar. She delves deep into the bookmarking services StumbleUpon and delicious. She calls attention to Mahalo, a not so well known site that’s good to get a handle on because its results can achieve high rank on search engine results pages.

Her discussion of how social news sites operate — digg, mixx, reddit, Slashdot, sphinn, Tip’d, Yahoo! Buzz, and others — is a true revelation. Here’s an area gaining in adoption that can make a significant difference in attention to your brand. However, it’s tricky business: There’s a boatload of do’s and don’ts that can make the difference between wasting your time or having a big hit.

Injecting case studies to illuminate certain points, Weinberg covers a tremendous amount of ground. So much so that you might want to devour the material in bites.

Weinberg stresses that “social media marketing is a comprehensive effort,” and the same goes for this book.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of The New Community Rules? Have you also read it? What’s your take on the book? Comments welcome.

Related post:

Wonder Gals of Web 2.0

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How To Create A Winning Corporate Social Media Policy

Posted on August 26, 2009. Filed under: Best practices, Blogs/Blogging, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Nearly every day there’s another research report raving about how corporations are getting into social media. One study — Social Media: Embracing the Opportunities, Averting the Risk — dares to be different.referee signaling a touchdown- image by bigstockphoto

Yes, it includes those juicy numbers that gets everyone all exercised about the speed at which social media acceptance is accelerating. But then it pokes under the covers to reveal how deep-down, many executives think social media is risky business.

The biggest fear factors concern how use of social media while on the clock diminishes productivity as well as increases an IT infrastructure’s odds of being hit with computer viruses, and that corporate reputation can be damaged based on what employees post to their personal online accounts.

The report, prepared by Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law, notes that the majority of these leery leaders are apt to visit social media sites to suss out what’s being said about their business — by outsiders and staffers alike — or to check out the competition.

Source: Russell Herder/Ethos Law, Social Media: Embracing the Opportunities, Averting the Risk, August 2009

Source: Russell Herder/Ethos Law, Social Media: Embracing the Opportunities, Averting the Risk, August 2009

Meanwhile, only 13 percent have included social media as part of the organization’s crises communications plans.

All defense and no offense

It’s wise to be concerned about chatter a company is instigating in cyberspace. Monitoring should be ongoing, findings analyzed and replies registered when warranted.

However, to trot out a familiar sports analogy, engaging with social media strictly to see what others are doing is akin to having a defense and no offense. You’re not being proactive and are at risk of enabling the competition to succeed at your expense.

Plus, if a crisis does occur, isn’t it better to know from experience how the game is played rather than sitting on the sidelines and then trying to figure it out under pressure, on the fly?

A better game plan

You can’t play the social media game from a distance. It’s imperative to get involved to advance your goals.

Here’s where the report really shines by spelling out best practices of good corporate social media policy. These include:

Maintain a consistent attitude

Social media guidelines should reflect the general corporate culture. For example, if your credo is all about being flexible and open-minded, then continue that mindset with social media.

Set rules and be sure everyone knows what they are

Because it’s an informal means of communication social media can be an easy if accidental conduit for exposing confidential information. Ensure it’s understood that any existing regulations regarding the disclosure of proprietary information also pertain to social media.

Be clear about when players can wear uniforms

Employees have professional and personal identities. A business may not go so far as to try and regulate the personal part, but it can establish what’s in or out of bounds. If employees makes personal posts that blast a political party should they be allowed to identify their business title and the company they work for? Is it okay for employees to list their work email address when making personal comments on controversial blogs? Good policy addresses potentially contentious issues and defines what’s prohibited.

Focus on performance

Engagement with social media can impact productivity. But a total prohibition of its use during work hours is not only impossible to enforce but also onerous. It’s okay to set restrictions, such as saying employees can only post to personal sites during a lunch break. Whatever the procedure, the focus should be on job performance rather taking a hard line about “company time.”

Be transparent

Companies that spy on employee usage of social media should let it be known that they are doing so. Disciplinary actions that can result as a breach of protocol should be clearly spelled out.

Run a training camp

Guidelines are all well and good, but risks are mitigated and compliance better achieved by clearly stating the rules of the game. Create a comprehensive training plan to let everyone know the playbook.

Get in the game

The best way to succeed with social media is to be a player. Establish a scheme to meet your objectives. Then grab the ball and run with it.

– Deni Kasrel

What type of social media game plan do YOU think a company should have? Comments welcome.

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Report Reveals How Top Brands Succeed With Social Media

Posted on July 26, 2009. Filed under: Best practices, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

It’s easy to get in the social media game. Set up an account, post some content, and there you go.

Sure, it’s more complicated than that. Still, ultimately, the big question many companies what to know is if the investment into social media has a real impact on its brand and does that impact lead to profits.

Engagementdb Report coverA new study by Wetpaint and the Altimeter Group, in a joint effort known as Engagementdb, attempts to answer this question in a report titled “The World’s Most Valuable Brands: Who’s Most Engaged?” The report analyzes the social media activities of the 100 most valuable brands, evaluates how that correlates to revenue and profit, and presents examples of best practices for making the most of social media.

The findings indicate the top ten most socially engaged companies are: Starbucks, Dell, eBay, Google, Microsoft, Thompson Reuters, Nike, Amazon, SAP, and there’s a tie in 10th place between Yahoo and Intel.

Big names all; still there are plenty of big name brands, so how come these rise to the top? To make that assessment the report examined several factors including how many channels are used, in what manner are these channels used, and who in the company participates: CEO, marketing, everyone?

Not surprisingly, those that are the most engaged fared the best. According to the study, companies with the greatest breadth and depth in social media increased revenues by 18 percent over the last 12 months. Conversely, companies with the least amount of engagement experienced a 6 percent drop in revenue during that same time period.

But there are nuances regarding what constitutes being engaged. Simply having a presence on one or more platforms is not a social media strategy.

The study offers several case studies detailing how companies in the top-tier engage, and these are certainly worth reading (the full report is downloadable for free at the Engagementdb web site). Meantime, here’s a quickie super-simplified summary of certain key findings that are good to know if you want to follow the leaders:

Be social
This one sounds obvious, after all it’s called social media. However, it cannot be overstated—you must have a dialogue. The idea here is to develop a relationship with your customer. Don’t just post material and monitor comments. Respond to the comments you receive in an open and honest fashion.

Know thy channel
Different channels offer different value propositions and methods of interaction. How you engage on Twitter is likely different than on Facebook. Understand how users of the various platforms interact with one another and what kind of information and/or promotional offer is best suited to each specific channel.

Don’t start something you can’t finish
Setting up an account then rarely making posts is bad practice. So is starting a blog only to be told by higher powers that they don’t want the company to have an online exchange with customers. Make sure you have the resources and support to maintain on ongoing stream of fresh content and that you can keep up your end of the conversation.

It can pay to be selective
It may not make sense to be in a lot of channels. In certain cases, less is more. Deep engagement in a few channels is better than shallow engagement in many channels.

Spread the socializing around
Companies that are the most engaged, and consequently derive the greatest benefit and profit from social media, have more open policies regarding who can contribute to different channels. Rather than keep a tight lid on things let many people contribute in areas where it makes the most sense and where they have appropriate expertise.

– Deni Kasrel

What do You think of this post? Comments welcome.

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