How Social Networks Are Changing How We Do Business

Posted on September 28, 2010. Filed under: Business Strategy, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Clara Shih, author of The Facebook Era

When Clara Shih set out to write a second edition of her bestselling book, The Facebook Era, she had her hands full trying to keep up with all the changes happening in the social media sphere, especially among the big three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. So much so, Clara had to change the publish date of the new book just to keep current.

The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Market, Sell, and Innovate (2nd Edition) is finally here, and it’s well worth the wait.

Clara did more than just touch-up the first edition: She added case studies, new chapters and a bunch of guest-written expert opinion sidebars.

All About Using Social Networks for Business

It’s all geared to helping businesses and entrepreneurs learn how to tap into social networks to market, sell and innovate.

Clara has plenty of first-hand knowledge in this regard — she created the first business application on Facebook (Faceconnector), which integrates Facebook with Salesforce.com.  More recently, Clara started Hearsay Labs, a provider of social customer relationship management software.

I enjoyed both Facebook Era editions (yes, I read the second one cover to cover, too). And so it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to chat with Clara, to talk about her new book as well as the social media landscape in general.

Interview with Clara Shih, author of The Facebook Era: Part 1

We had a nice long conversation, enough that it makes for a nice two-parter on this blog.

Here in Part 1 we discuss how Facebook and other networks are altering fundamental social norms.

You used social media to help determine some of the content of the book. Can you elaborate on how that process worked out?

Clara: The innovation in social media is happening from the bottom up. It’s happening in the groundswell from these grassroots initiatives that people are taking for their organization and their companies and in their personal lives. I really wanted to source these ideas and these best practices directly from the innovators in the space. And so I used my Twitter handle and my Facebook page as well as my personal Facebook profile to ask people what their ideas were. What were the things they were living and experiencing themselves? And I had a phenomenal response. A lot of the best material in the book came from people that I interacted with on Facebook and Twitter.

Are these people you knew?

Clara: What does it mean to know someone these days? I mean, many of them I’ve never met — they’ve connected with me and they’re following me on Twitter and vice versa and now I feel like I do have a relationship.

The idea of what is a “friend” changes a lot in these contemporary times.

Clara: That’s really at the heart of everything that I write about. I mean, yes, there are a lot of business implications, but at the heart of it is human relationships and how we interact with each other and connect with each other. How we connect with our customers. And that drives all the business use cases and opportunities.

One of the reasons I was so enthusiastic about your first edition is that you really delved into a human part, the sociology, the social ethos — whatever you want to call it — and then applying that to social networks and the new social norms, as you refer to them in your second edition. You explain it so clearly. So how important is it understand these social norms when, as a business, you’re engaging in this context?

Clara: I think it’s the most important thing you can do.  Understanding human behavior and how your customers and clients think. What makes them happy? That’s really the key to success for any business. Regardless of what product or service you may have.

In the last 13 years the internet gave us tremendous efficiency between buyers and sellers and giving everyone access to information. But as Jim McCann [founder of 1-800-Flowers.com] writes about in the forward to this book, the efficiency came at a great price. Oftentimes what we sacrificed was human connection. The feeling that customers had that they were actually special and valued by your company.

The great thing about social networks is the idea that we can regain some of that connection, without losing any of the efficiency. We can still connect to large groups of people. We can still market to and prospect to large group of people. But because there’s more information about people and relationships and connections we can still have that bond and invest in that customer loyalty.

Right, and on the flip side, it humanizes a business, too. Companies can seem like monoliths, even if they’re small, if you don’t have any communication with what appears to be a real person.

Clara: Exactly. And there’s nothing like putting a human face around a big company. Especially if it’s one that people don’t traditionally find very sexy. That just changes the whole set of interactions. We’ve seen great examples like Frank [Eliason] at Comcast, to show someone who really cares and be the face of a large institutional brand.

So whether you’re working externally with your customers, or internally with your employees, it’s human nature to want to connect with people and facilitating that process makes way for better business.

In your book you talk about how seemingly non-important details —  for instance someone says they play soccer — can end up making a difference between how people interact with one another and possibly be a factor in how a business deal happens.

Clara: People are always looking for common ground. Especially when you meet someone new. You’re trying to figure out if this person is trustworthy and whether you want to do business with them. Whatever business you’re in, people always prefer to do business with people they know and like. And they refuse to do business with people they don’t trust. And so to the extent that Facebook can help you see similar interests, hobbies, and friends. That carries a lot of weight in being able to establish trust.

Right, but five years ago people didn’t have that ability and yet business still occurred. Do you think that it will change, such that it will be incumbent on someone to be participating in this way, even with business people, on this level? How do you see it evolving?

Clara: I think we’re seeing it already. Because before five years ago, it was 15 years ago where we didn’t have the internet. And certainly before there was online a lot of business got done for a long time… and we see these technology cycles: first the mainframe, then the personal computer, then the internet and now the social web, where it doesn’t happen all at once, but certainly for many industries, it can give you a huge leg up to understand this new communication and technology paradigm and use it as an additional way to get customer connection and loyalty.

Stay tuned for Part 2

There’s more, folks: My next post will be Part 2 of our conversation about The Facebook Era.

Meanwhile, if you want to social network with Clara, why not visit the Facebook Era’s Facebook page, or  follow her on Twitter at @clarashih

Related posts on this blog

Recommended Reading: The Facebook Era

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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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Facebook Privacy Policy: Beware Changes In The Fine Print

Posted on March 30, 2010. Filed under: Facebook | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

You’ve heard it’s important to read the fine print of a contract, right?

That’s where there’s a bunch of exceptions and other terms required in the interest of full disclosure, but you likely wouldn’t sign the contract if you read and understood them in full, hence the small print treatment.

It’s only when you have a problem you find out, whoops, there’s something in the fine print about that; and odds are, what it says is not in your favor.

More fine print to Facebook’s privacy policy

Recent revisions to the Facebook privacy policy, announced March 26, 2010, on the Facebook blog in the article Another Step In Open Site Governance, are of similar ilk.

The post’s title implies they’re being transparent. However, if the revised policy is written so that it’s difficult for users to determine the true implications, then it’s the digital equivalent of fine print.

A CYA tactic

The post begins by saying Facebook wants to publicize “all proposed changes to our governing documents before they go into effect and solicit feedback on these proposals from the people who use Facebook.”

FYI, they’re not doing this just to be nice. It’s to avoid another fiasco as happened with the site’s now-deceased Beacon system, which inspired angry member backlash, bad publicity and a lawsuit. In other words, it’s to protect their derrières.

The new policy is to share general data with “select” third parties

There are numerous proposed changes to the Facebook privacy policy, however, one that sticks out as, an “Uh oh, better take note of this” pertains to applications and third-party websites. It would appear Facebook, in language that is not exactly simple and/or direct, wants to share members’ general information — you and your friend’s names, connections, pictures, gender and any content where a privacy setting for sharing is “everyone” — with other websites.

Facebook says the change is being made “to offer a more personalized experience at the moment you visit the site.”

So no worries, it’s for your own good.

The changes are automatic opt-in. Should you prefer to keep general info private, you must make the effort to opt-out.

Member discontent over policy change

Based on comments to the blog post, it looks like this new policy is going over like a lead balloon.

That’s not surprising and is another reason the site is telling everyone what’s going to happen. It’s a common tactic: Let people vent so they can feel like they’re heard, and make the change anyway.

If the true beneficiaries of this revised policy are Facebook and its advertisers — well, that’s just how it goes. Facebook is free. If we don’t like it we can just leave, right?

Are the words privacy and web mutually exclusive?

Perhaps this is just another turn along the inevitable path leading to the point where the words privacy and web are mutually exclusive.

Maybe so, but we’re not quite there yet.

And even if it doesn’t ultimately change the outcome, should you care to voice an opinion on the matter to Facebook, feel free to add to the 2,000+ comments already left on the blog post announcing these impending changes.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think? Are Facebook’s latest privacy changes really the equivalent of fine print? Comments welcome.

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Recommended Reading: The Facebook Era

Posted on February 9, 2010. Filed under: Books, Facebook, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

It’s so easy to set up an account on Facebook or Twitter pretty much anyone can do it.

Knowing how to effectively use those sites for business purposes?  That’s more complicated.

Different social networking sites present different opportunities — and challenges.

You can try and figure it out through trial and error. Or, if you prefer to minimize mistakes, read The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Build Better Products, Reach New Audiences, and Sell More Stuff, by Clara Shih.

A cut above the rest & especially for business

Of course there’s an abundance of books about social media marketing. Why pick this one?

Well, few go at it so sharply from a corporate perspective, and fewer still are written by someone who has as much first-hand experience as Shih, who created a successful Facebook business application (Faceconnector). Her highly informative book goes deep with details, to include case studies and a plentitude of screen shots that help make things crystal clear.

It’s about more than Facebook

FYI, the book’s title tells but part of the tale. Sure, it’s full of tips on how to leverage Facebook — still, Shih delves into other social networks, too, as well as associated tools and applications. In fact, it’s an eye-opener in this regard.

Shih covers corporate-centric tools like Hoover’s Connect, which helps sales reps understand complex organizational structures, and Yammer, for intra-enterprise microblogging. Much attention is paid to salesforce.com offerings — Shih was working for the company when she wrote the book. If The Facebook Era sometimes feels like an ad for that company, well, so it goes.

The how and why of social networks

The book details how the online social graph — the world wide web of interconnected people — fundamentally changes ways we relate, both personally and professionally. It examines the intricacies of how and why social media works the way it does, including sociological factors that come into play. “We are moving from technology-centric applications to people-centric applications that conform to our relationships and identities,” Shih declares. ” It is the death of the anonymous Web.”

Building better business processes

Shih then breaks down how online networks can be a boon to the sales process. For instance, a sales rep can use LinkedIn to search out qualified leads and mine all kinds of information available on that site in order to prepare sale calls that are personal and relevant to individual prospects.

Other sections cover how to leverage social media for recruiting and product innovation, and again, Shih clues you into handy enterprise tools, like Connectbeam, a collaborative platform for building employee expertise profiles.

Step-by-step Facebook guide

When considering how online networks change the ways we receive information about brands, Shih writes, “The new mantra is don’t advertise to people, advertise between people.”

That’s the heart of the matter when it comes to social marketing. Here’s where Facebook takes center stage. Shih shines a bright spotlight on the site, via a step-by-step guide that digs into strategies, best practices, methods of interaction, hypertargeting and more.

Facebook applications get a fair amount of attention. “Apps are the new ads,” Shih writes. “The idea is people tend to spend more time on apps — such as playing games, looking through slideshows and taking surveys –than traditional advertising, so apps might provide more memorable and lasting interactions with your brand.”

Shih adds that creating your own app from scratch is risky business. You may be better off with sponsorship opportunities offered by existing apps that are popular with your target audiences. To help determine what these might be Shih conveniently lists Lookery — which provides a directory of ad network publishers, including Facebook apps, with analytics, demographics and other useful data.

This is mighty meaty material. Shih covers a tremendous amount of ground detailing how to power-up your business’ social media presence with a clear plan of action.

Now, if you want additional info, visit The Facebook Era’s Facebook page.

– Deni Kasrel

What are your thoughts on The Facebook Era? Have you read the book, too? If so, what’s your take on it? Comments welcome.

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Why You Should Make A New Year’s Social Networking Resolution

Posted on December 17, 2009. Filed under: Commentary, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Think back on this past year: What had the greatest positive impact on the way you pursue professional endeavors?

I’ll bet plenty of you say social networking. Of the ways people advanced their careers in 2009, it’s number one with a bullet.

Twitter rose like a rocket and was named word of the year. Facebook has in excess of 350 million members and LinkedIn is in the 50 million range.

It’s all about exponential growth: One member entices others to join, who in turn solicit even more people, and so it goes, and keeps going.

Engaging at a distance

Social networks offer many benefits; one of the biggies being the ability to reach any number of people who share similar interests. You tweet, join Facebook groups, get involved in LinkedIn discussions, and so forth, to engage with followers, friends and colleagues.

How very nice. You’re being social.

But it’s all at a distance.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Even so, I propose making a resolution for the coming year to get more social with cyber acquaintances. Have an honest to goodness conversation, and meet, in person, some of the people you’ve come to know online.

Connect in the real world

This thought came to mind after I had a nice long chat with a Twitter pal named Avi. We’ve been following our respective public tweets, retweeting one another and occasionally direct messaging. Avi lives in the Middle East, I’m in the U.S.A. We’re both into web 2.0/social/digital media strategy and technology in general. From just those 140-character messages it’s clear Avi is an insightful, warm and thoughtful person. Part of his Twitter profile reads “believe in giving and help,” so what does that tell you?

Our conversation occurred after I tweeted Avi to let him know I’m working on a post about communications trends for 2010. I asked if he had any thoughts on the topic. He quickly tweeted back; yes, he’d be happy to share, and did I have five minutes for Skype?

I was pleasantly surprised by the offer. Of course I’d love to talk to my faraway friend.

But first I had to get hooked up with Skype, which as it turns out, is quick and simple to do.

Soon we were chatting up a storm. About communications trends, how different our cultures are, and much more. It was immensely enjoyable.

We’re still far apart geographically. However, Avi and I now share a closer connection. He’s not simply a face I see in a photo, but rather a genuine person that I can, from time to time, speak to in real repartee.

Make a resolution to establish more personal engagement in 2010

Avi is one of several individuals I’ve originally encountered through social networks and have subsequently spoken to over the phone. I’ve also met some internet pals in person. It’s great fun and adds another dimension to our relationship.

I highly recommend reaching out to some of your digital acquaintances in 2010. If they’re an international call, check out Skype — as noted, it’s snap to use, not to mention free.

So how about a New Year’s resolution to make your networking even more social through authentic personal engagement?

– Deni Kasrel

Are you up for making this New Year’s resolution? Do you have a story to share about becoming more personally engaged with an online connection? Comments welcome.

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Rumor Has It Social Media Marketing Doesn’t Matter

Posted on November 19, 2009. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

A marketing manager told me his company doesn’t promote its brand on Facebook because, “That’s for personal stuff. People don’t want to be sold to there.”

Oh really?

Then how is it Coca-Cola, Target, Pizza Hut, Sears, Whole Foods, Microsoft, Best Buy, Starbucks, Procter & Gamble, Red Bull and a gaggle of other companies are building their brands via Facebook fan pages and groups?

The reality is, people are increasingly visiting Facebook, and other social media platforms, expecting to find favorite brands there. And if the brand is absent, it may have a negative effect.

Facebook, a friend indeed

A study by Performics and ROI Research, titled The Impact of Social Media: A deep dive on how consumers are adopting social networking sites and interacting with brands surveyed 3,000 U.S. consumers and found active Facebook users welcomed messages from marketers. After connecting with a brand on Facebook they were:

  • 44% more likely to purchase the product
  • 46% more likely to recommend the product
  • 46% more likely talk about the product
  • 27% more likely to post an ad for the product

In November, Razorfish issued Feed: The Digital Brand Experience Report 2009. Based on an in-depth poll of 1,000 “connected consumers,” its findings determined 40% of those surveyed have “friended” a brand on either Facebook or MySpace.  Akin to Performics’ results, that same group indicated befriending a brand plays into their decision to purchase and/or recommend a product.

Teens don’t tweet, right?

Have you heard teens don’t use Twitter?

This pearl of wisdom was largely fueled by a report titled How Teenagers Consume Media issued in July by Morgan Stanley. The “research” was conducted by a 15 year-old summer intern, who concluded that European teens are down on Twitter. Many media outlets jumped on this juicy nugget. Immediately, people started chirping the “teens don’t tweet” line.

If you bothered to actually read the report, however, you’d note in the second paragraph it states: “Without claiming representation or statistical accuracy, his piece provides one of the clearest and most thought provoking insights we have seen. So we published it.”

Excuse me? There’s no claim of statistical accuracy? So the findings are based on what? The opinions of this young bloke’s chums?

Meanwhile, in September, comScore, a provider of business intelligence that employs rigorous research practice, issued a survey that showed users in the 12-17 and 18-24 age groups are Twitter’s fastest growing audience segments.

Call me crazy, but I’m inclined to trust a company that has a certifiable methodology rather than a report based on anecdotal evidence.

It’s common knowledge (not)

My point is simple: Common knowledge about what kind of people do or do not use a particular social media platform, along with ideas about what type of experience is or is not acceptable on those networks, may be just that — ideas. As in, the “knowledge” can be inaccurate.

If you’re working on a communications plan do your due diligence. Seek out reliable market data. Don’t risk losing out on a great market opportunity by basing your strategy on hearsay.

Then again, maybe it’s not worth the trouble. It won’t make a difference. Everyone knows marketing is just a bunch of b.s.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think about the reliability of market research about social media? Do you know of other inaccuracies that are often cited as fact?

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Does Online Communication Lead To Offline Isolation?

Posted on November 11, 2009. Filed under: Commentary, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Figure in shadow (Big Stock Photo)Recently, while at a networking event, talk turned to whether social media and other means of online messaging actually makes us antisocial. That is, if we are so busy Tweeting, Facebooking, text messaging, and otherwise communicating through technology, are we then less eager to converse in person?

Does our ability to instantly send photos and videos to friends mean we are less likely to visit them in real life? Are Facebook family reunions in our future?

New technology, same old debate

The notion that technology leads to antisocial behavior is hardly new. It heated up when the internet and email caught fire. The same speculation happened when the telephone picked up in popularity — we didn’t have to visit our neighbors, or anyone else for that matter, to talk to them anymore; we could just give ‘em a ring.

The rise of social media — where a network aspect encourages a sense of community– intensifies the debate. We can feel as though we are all together even though we are all apart. We enjoy exchanges with friends and followers whom we never meet in person. Ever.

Does technology lead to social isolation?

Does our propensity to connect through technology imply we are more isolated as individuals?

According to a new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, the answer is no. Released last week, this report, titled Social Isolation and New Technology, notes:

“Today, the number of Americans who are truly isolated is no different, or at most is only slightly higher than what it was 30 years ago. Few people have no one with whom they can discuss important matters, and even fewer have no one who is especially significant in their lives. The more pronounced social change, since 1985, has occurred in the size and diversity of Americans’ core networks.”

Social media and diversity

Following up on that last sentence is where it really gets interesting. The study concludes that overall, the number and diversity of people with whom we discuss and confide important matters is declining. However, the opposite is true of those who socialize through technology. The study found:

  • People who upload and share photos online are 61% more likely to have discussion partners that cross political lines.
  • Frequent at-home internet users are 53% more likely to have a confidant of a different race.
  • The diversity of core networks tends to be 25% larger for mobile phone users and 15% larger for internet users.

Online we are more color-blind than in real-life. Perhaps having distance between one another makes us more tolerant of our differences.

Correlation between online communication and in-person interaction

As for the notion that communicating through technology leads to lower face-to-face social contact, the study indicates it ain’t necessarily so. Findings include:

  • Internet and mobile phone users are as likely as non-users to talk to their neighbors in-person at least once per month.
  • Internet users are 26% less likely to rely on their neighbors for help with small services, such as household chores, repairs, and lending tools, but they remain as likely to help their neighbors with the same activities.
  • Owners of a mobile phone, frequent internet users at work, and bloggers are more likely to belong to a local voluntary group, such as a neighborhood association, sports league, youth group, church, or social club.

Online community forums make us even more neighborly:

  • 60% of those who use an online neighborhood discussion forum know “all or most” of their neighbors, compared to 40% of Americans.
  • 79% who use an online neighborhood discussion forum talk with neighbors in person at least once a month, compared to 61% of the general population.
  • 43% of those on a neighborhood discussion forum talk to neighbors on the telephone at least once a month, compared to the average of 25%.

It really is social media

Technology is not a bogeyman turning us into isolated shut-ins. On the contrary, communication via the internet, cell phones and social media encourages in-person interaction. And it may make us more tolerant of our individual differences.

In other words, it really does make us more social.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of the Pew report on Social Isolation and New Technology? Do the findings surprise or confirm your own opinion on the topic? 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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Trend Watch: What is Lifestreaming?

Posted on September 29, 2009. Filed under: Social Media, Trends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

sky in window (Big Stock Photo image)There’s talk about how blogs are soon to be deceased in lieu of lifestreaming.

The Doomsdayers believe the blog scene might as well be hooked up to a respirator: With notable exceptions given to big-shot bloggers and major blog sites that are already heavily entrenched in their respective market niches.

I don’t buy it. I think the prognosis for the persistence of blogs, in general, is excellent.

It’s not an either/or proposition. Still, this business of lifestreaming is intriguing.

What is lifestreaming?

The precise definition of lifestreaming elicits different responses depending on whom you ask.

I favor easy-to-digest explanations; so let’s go with this one from lifestreamblog:

“In it’s simplest form it’s a chronological aggregated view of your life activities both online and offline. It is only limited by the content and sources that you use to define it.”

Well, that sure narrows it down.

Just like life, it’s a lot of things

Let’s start with lifestreaming as a “chronological aggregated view,” big giant window, or however else you choose to describe uploading a bunch of information, in one place, where others can see it.

Next, it’s only limited by “the content and sources that you use to define it.”

So… blog posts, updates to your various social media sites — LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, etc. — links, tidbits, social bookmarks, emails that you float into the stream – basically it’s like creating a single network for all your different online channels.

Lifestreaming can happen in real-time. Hence, you can send a live video feed of what you’re doing at a given time.

Depending on your outlook, lifestreaming can be really cool, or TMI; as in too much information.

The stream scheme

There are numerous avenues for getting your life into the stream of things — some are more robust than others. Popular lifestreaming applications include FriendFeed, Lifestrea.ms, Posterous, Profilactic and Tumblr.

One obvious advantage to lifesteaming is that your friends and followers don’t need to visit many different sites to see your Tweets, Facebook entries, photos, videos, slideshows and all the rest of it. Now there’s a one-stop shop.

Conversely, a lifestreamer need not go to all those same sites to upload, or respond to comments on, his/her posts.

In any event, convergence is increasing. Facebook did buy FriendFeed, after all. You can post to Facebook from Twitter.  You can import your blog and other applications to WordPress.

There’s surely more to come down this particular pike.

To stream, or not?

Inputting and viewing everything all in one place is not for everyone. The stream can look like too much disorganized clutter to certain eyes.

However, if you truly want your life to be an open book, this is an easy way to go for it.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of lifestreaming? Is it the next greatest thing, or way too much information? 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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