Recommended Reading: Real-Time Marketing & PR

Posted on December 13, 2010. Filed under: Books, Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Real-Time Marketing & PR - book coverYou know how they say time is money? Well, these days it’s your reputation, too.

With an always-on 24/7 internet, if you’re in the news in a negative way, you must respond immediately.

There’s little time to plod though a carefully measured crises communications plan while a story races across the web — where videos go viral and Twitter unleashes a torrent of messages in mere seconds.

It’s time for your marketing and PR to get real

If that thought puts you on edge, or you doubt it’s true, then you could be in for a rude awakening. Or, you can get up to speed by reading Real-Time Marketing and PR, the latest book by marketing maven, A-list blogger, David Meerman Scott.

Just as he did in his groundbreaking The New Rules of Marketing and PR, Scott’s new book helps you see how certain long-held practices are not merely obsolete, but dangerous to your livelihood.

How NOT to engage in real-time PR

Anyone with access to the web can publish content. This so-easy-anyone-can-do-it circumstance sets up a scenario where, Scott says, “consumers set the pace. Left to their own devices, they imagine all sorts of things. They take unpredictable initiatives.”

One example of an imaginative consumer initiative is seen in a tale Scott recounts about Dave Carroll, a musician whose guitar got busted up by United Airlines baggage carriers. Carroll tried to get United to own up to the misdeed, but the company wouldn’t budge. So Carroll took to the web, with a video he created called United Breaks Guitars. The video went viral, news outlets and the blogosphere jumped on the story and Carroll’s plight attracted international attention.

United took a huge public relations hit, all because it would not properly respond to one customer.

Scott gives a blow-by-blow run-down of how the whole thing played out. He fills in all kinds of side details and breaks down the trajectory of the various ways the story shot across the mediaverse.

Monitoring, mobile, and real-time guidelines

United got it wrong, however the book also provides ample examples of companies that got it right by thoughtfully engaging in real-time communications. Time and again, Scott reinforces how paying attention pays off.

photo of girl holding hand to her earOf course, you can’t react in real-time unless you readily know what’s being said. For that to happen you must monitor and analyze media outlets all across the web. With so many venues, in both traditional and ever-increasing new media spheres, this can be daunting. Scott clues you in on how to turn it into a manageable task and offers a handy list of free tools such as Google Alerts, Blogpulse, Technorati and Twingly, and service providers like Attentio, Brandwatch, Cision, Radian6, Sysomos and Visible Technologies.

There’s advice for how to leverage the fastest growing real-time market: mobile, where location-based services such as Foursquare, Layar, and Mobile Spinach enable you to provide customers with instant gratification exactly where and when they want it.

There are tips on how to engage on Twitter (the big-time in real-time), ideas for how to integrate real-time tactics into your sales and customer service efforts,  plus an in-depth section on how to develop effective real-time communications policies—also known as social media guidelines.

An insider tells it like it is

All of this comes from a guy who spent most of his career in the online news business. This is an insider, telling it like it is, in lively, and sometimes good-humored, fashion.

It’s all downright practical. When delving into how to responsibly respond to online stories and social chatter about your company, Scott says: “Some people are plain crazy, and you don’t want to get dragged into dialogue with a psycho.”

Even in the real-time world, you must exercise good judgment. Scott’s book provides plenty of ideas for how your good judgment can help grow your business. Now.

– Deni Kasrel

Comments anyone? Please share your thoughts.

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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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Social Media Marketing GPS: A Creative Social Media Guide

Posted on June 8, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Toby Bloomberg's ebook, Social Media Marketing GPS, is specially formatted for e-readers

Twitter is a powerful publishing platform. But when messages are limited to 140 characters it has its limits, right?

Well, less than you might think — if you’re as resourceful as Toby Bloomberg. She recently published an ebook based on interviews conducted via Twitter.

A guide to social media, one tweet at a time

As Toby explains in the introduction to her free ebook, titled Social Media Marketing GPS:

“The goal was to create a comprehensive body of knowledge that could serve as a roadmap (GPS) for developing a strategic social media plan. My thoughts were if this could be accomplished in a series of 140 character tweets it might help ease the apprehension for people new to social media, while at the same time, providing a review and offering some interesting ideas for those more experienced.”

Toby admits the whole thing was conceived as an experiment.

Based on the result, I’d say it’s a success. Social Media Marketing GPS is a shining example of the power of communication conveyed through social media.

Featuring advice from 40 marketing pros

The book features tweets from 40 professional marketers, all of whom are avid practitioners of social media.

Some handle social media for corporations or agencies, while others are solopreneurs. Contributors include Paul Chaney, Mack Collier, Roxanne Darling, Ann Handley, Beth Harte, Neville Hobson, Tim Jackson, John Maley, Scott Monty, B.L. Ochman, Connie Reece, David Meerman Scott and Liz Strauss.

Certain of those names are well known; still, I like that Toby didn’t simply turn to the uber-darling “usual suspects” of social media to create her book.

Not that there’s anything wrong with superstar power. It’s just nice to hear from others who are in the trenches, blogging, vlogging, podcasting, Facebooking, Tweeting, branding, and otherwise successfully engaged in social media marketing.

That, of course, is part of the beauty of social media: It helps level the playing field for who has a voice (and impact) in the marketplace.

Big ideas presented in bite-size nuggets

Each chapter of Social Media Marketing GPS features useful ideas and opinions regarding social media strategies and tactics. Topics covers tools and platforms, ethics, metrics, branding, blogger relations and more — all presented in bite-size nuggets.

In a way its presentation strikes me as being akin to how you might use a yellow marker when reading, to highlight essential details. Only in this instance, the content is strictly the highlights.

Toby is the consummate conversationalist

Toby — who, in case you did not know, is a popular blogger and marketing maven in her own right —  serves as ringleader, instigating interviews with a leadoff question. She embellishes each chapter with concise introductions and summaries of key concepts, and then closes out with questions to consider when creating a social media marketing plan.

These questions also invite you to think about each topic — on your own — which enables Toby to create a kind of conversation between the ebook and its readers.

Of course, if anyone knows how to generate stimulating conversation — virtual or otherwise — it’s Toby. She does it all the time on Diva Marketing Talks, her podcast series featuring chats with experts about all things social media. Those familiar with the series may note a considerable overlap between her guests on Diva Marketing Talks and the individuals featured in Social Media Marketing GPS.

Useful to both new and experienced marketers

Meanwhile, Toby does succeed in her goal of creating a book of value to both newbies and those experienced in social media. Wherever you may fall on that spectrum, I recommend you give it a read.

And by the way, if you happen to have an e-reader, the book is specially formatted for this handy gadget.

– Deni Kasrel

Have you read Social Media Marketing GPS? What do you think of it? Comments welcome.

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Communications Trends For 2010 (Part 2)

Posted on January 19, 2010. Filed under: Communications Strategy, Trends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

January is prime time for crystal ball gazing. You know, looking into the future.

And while we can’t predict all that’s yet to come, we can expect exciting times ahead.

My previous post, Communications Trends For 2010 (Part 1), featured forecasts from several individuals whose ideas and opinions I greatly admire. They’re all deep thinkers who understand communications on many different levels.

A couple other pals were kind enough to offer their two-cents regarding where communications are headed in the coming year, and because these seers sent in lengthier responses, they warrant a separate post.

Here it is, part two of Communications Trends For 2010:

On social media, mobile technology and transparency

From: Jason Spector, a creative and crowdsourcing consultant standing at the crossroads of user experience, community, design and social media. Blog: Jason Spector. Twitter @JasonSpector

Dashboard tools accelerate social media usage

“We’re going to see a more seamless integration of the various communication channels. Going forward, I see a standard communication tool like email or social dashboard providing much of this information pulling from the various sites, like a social/communication profile dashboard. Web clients will probably come first followed by desktop apps. This will lead to a wider acceptance and usage of social media overall.”

Social media permeates the business space

“Businesses of all sizes will get serious about social media. Companies that are still ignoring it are going to be driven into it or truly left behind. Companies that are already involved with it are going to dedicate resources, plan for it and attach an ROI. It’s going to become a major part of marketing and customer engagement initiatives (if they’re not already) and not as much of a secondary effort.”

Mobile plays a much bigger role

“This is an obvious one, but I think the software and hardware of upcoming mobile devices will focus even more on communications, such as AR [augmented reality], gaming, photo, video, file viewing/sharing, conferencing and collaboration. Businesses are also going to focus more on mobile as a viable interactive device for their branding and marketing, such as virtual promotions.”

Transparency is no longer optional

“Consumers are going to demand more transparency from the companies they engage with. They have a huge amount of tools at their fingertips to learn about a company, talk about them and communication with them. It’s no longer just user reviews on sites. Social tools allow for instant support or criticism. The businesses that are honest and open will be accepted (and promoted) while ones perceived as “hiding something” will be seen negatively whether it’s true or not.”

Real-time, Twitter and the ideal integrity profile

From: Autom Tagsa, business communicator, web marketer, corporate specialist and pensive technophile. Blog: autom8. Twitter @autom8

The push for real-time will add complexity but drive other opportunities

“We’ve seen this wave engulf the online stream throughout the latter half of this year. As Google, Microsoft and other major players fiercely compete to secure market share in real-time search, it leaves one wondering just how this flurry of immediacy impacts the day-to-day user: How are they expected to (a) understand/appreciate the technological advancement, and, if they don’t care, how are they (b) expected to effectively filter the barrage of information. Also, as other leading start ups introduce more sophisticated tools that aim to better monetize online ads in real-time, this may well create opportunities that the online advertising industry sorely needs.”

Twitter’s broader penetration will bring us to the next level

“Twitter-r-us. Need I say more? I have long postulated that Twitter will be the driving force that reshapes certain existing and traditional forms of communications. Beyond democratization and paving level playing fields, it is fast becoming a recognized, universal channel (not necessarily for accurate nor meaningful info) but nonetheless ‘the go-to channel’. I’ve already seen ‘follow me on twitter’ embedded as a standard icon on many a communicator’s or company’s online vehicle. Why not on press releases, biz cards, signs, ads, etc. — “follow me” is the new calling card. As I have said many times before ‘Twitter is the iconic face of social media so it’s certainly become prime time and will be more so in 2010 as it begins to penetrate the business environment with upcoming biz-oriented tools.”

Synthesis of the corporate and personal brand will be a market differentiator

“What’s become apparent this year is how loud and clear we all heard chatter surrounding integrity, transparency and one’s corporate or organizational face online. Many struggle to reconcile with the notion of personal brand versus corporate brand, ghost writing/tweeting, etc. as discussions surrounding both ethical and best practice implications begin to colour what we perceive as effective communication versus credible communication and why the “ideal integrity profile” really ought to embody both aspects.

The ones who will secure a trusted following and an attentive audience are those who are able to successfully meld their personal brand with their corporate identity. It will give them a kind of passionate voice behind a stoic product or service. This is purely a visceral interpretation on my part but I think it merits closer attention. We’ll see more and more of that synthesis happening.”

And in conclusion…

All that sure gives us plenty to ponder, eh? Jason and Autom, thanks so much for your two-cents; although I really think your thoughts are worth a lot more.

And readers, follow these gents on Twitter to keep up with what’s on their minds in real-time.

– Deni Kasrel

What do you think of Jason and Autom’s trend predictions for 2010? Have some of ideas your own? Please share. 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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2009’s Word of the Year Is…

Posted on December 16, 2009. Filed under: Social Media, Twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Can you guess what word in the English language was used more than any other in 2009?

Hint: It begins with “T” and ends with “R.”

Figured it out?

Yep: Twitter wins this year’s word popularity contest.

So says The Global Language Monitor, which recently declared that Twitter rose to the top of the most-favored word heap, where also-rans include Obama, stimulus, 2.0, deficit, healthcare, transparency and foreclosure.

Making the most of strict limitation

In an announcement about this finding, GLS President Paul Payack is quoted as saying:

“In a year dominated by world-shaking political events, a pandemic, the after effects of a financial tsunami and the death of a revered pop icon, the word Twitter stands above all the other words.  Twitter represents a new form of social interaction, where all communication is reduced to 140 characters. Being limited to strict formats did wonders for the sonnet and haiku.  One wonders where this highly impractical word-limit will lead as the future unfolds.”

Impractical, eh? Tell that to the reputed 44.5 million people who use Twitter to send an estimated 27.3 million messages per day.

Less is more

There are times when I might like to have more characters per tweet (and in fact there are services that enable you to send longer messages via Twitter). However, there is something to be said for the ingenuity required to craft a compelling message constrained to 140 characters. It can be challenging to construct such a brief missive that grabs attention. You have to be sharp. Concise. Precise.

There’s an art to writing an effective tweet. And there are even books to help you acquire this special skill; such as 140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form by Dom Sagolla.  The self-described Elements of Style for social media messaging, claims to be the “first writing guide specifically dedicated to communicating with the succinctness and clarity that the Internet age demands.”

Back when I went to school, it was imperative to learn how to write essays. Nowadays, it’s critical to understand how to pick and choose a few well-chosen words for effective articulate communication.

If not a sonnet or haiku a Tweet may perchance be considered Shakespearean. After all, the great Bard of Avon wrote, “brevity is the soul of wit.”

FYI, in Shakespeare’s day, wit primarily referred to intelligence — as in getting by on one’s wits.

So here’s to Twitter, 2009’s Word Of The Year and a new barometer for the essence of acumen.

– Deni Kasrel

What are your thoughts on Twitter being named 2009 Word Of The Year? 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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Recommended Reading: Six Pixels of Separation

Posted on November 7, 2009. Filed under: Books, Business Strategy, Communications Strategy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Six Pixels of Separation (book cover) In Six Pixels of Separation: Everyone Is Connected. Connect Your Business to Everyone. Mitch Joel recounts the tale of how in the 1500s the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez captained 11 ships carrying more than 500 soldiers to Mexico on a mission to conquer the Aztecs. Many fell ill along the way and others were intimidated while in foreign surroundings. When worried soldiers asked their leader about his plan for returning home Cortez responded by burning the ships. There was no going back.

New channels, new ways

Today, entrepreneurs and business marketers must contend with foreign territory, in the form of new channels, new platforms and new audiences that are upending old ways. Mitch Joel believes you can either cling to the past (a surefire route to eventual failure) or you can burn the ships and learn how survive in the new world.

There is no going back

YouTube, Twitter, podcasts, blogs, user reviews and other online options enable anyone to create content that can be seen by everyone.

The challenge is for marketers to connect with consumers in these channels in ways that are honest and meaningful and that enable businesses to monetize their efforts.

Losing control is a good thing

Change occurs so rapidly in the digital era we can’t know where it’s all headed.

While uncertainty unnerves some, Joel adopts a seize-the-day attitude.

He believes a world where anyone can say whatever they want about your brand or business is a good thing. After all, he declares, “You will see and hear the types of insights and comments you never normally have access to.”

Convert consumers into marketers (for your brand)

Brands have many options for building communities and Joel stresses that in the end it’s the quality not the quantity of the relationships that matter. Focus on creating an engaged community rather than simply going for heavy traffic.

Successful communities instigate word-of-mouth that builds exponentially through the power of networks. This scares executives who are afraid of losing control of their brand.

Joel argues that while you can’t control the conversation “You can control whether or not you take part. You can control whether you will encourage your consumers to be so passionate they actually start marketing your company for you.”

Dare to be bold: Open up your brand assets

One of Joel’s suggestions for how to instill passion in consumers is sure to raise eyebrows from old-school brand managers — he advises to openly provide “the tools they need to change your brand.” This includes access to logos, text, audio and video.

The old way is to control all those assets. It’s dangerous to let consumers have at your brand willy-nilly. Joel reckons consumers are going to do whatever they want with your brand anyway, so you might as well be a part of the process. By freely giving your assets you send a message that you stand behind your brand.

Mitch Joel walks the talk

New market dynamics shift communications from mass media to mass content. Joel’s view on how to create effective content that clicks with consumers is spot on.

That’s no surprise considering he writes a successful blog and has a popular podcast series, both of which are also titled Six Pixels of Separation (and of which I am a fan).

With those digital avenues, and with this book, Joel is an astute observer of human behavior. He understands how people think and react and knows how you can connect and contribute in order to get people to care about the same things you do.

Joel also runs a marketing agency called Twist Image. He’s an enterprising entrepreneur and a fair portion of his book offers insights into how self-starters can become their own media channel; and not just in the obvious ways, like starting a blog (though he does cover that). He explains how to create a credible personal brand, and how you can make that brand come alive in the real world by leading offline activities, like a PodCamp, a kind of self-organizing “unconference.”

Engage with a spirit of adventure

Six Pixels of Separation helps you recognize how moving from mass media to mass content is like exploring a new world rife with opportunity. It helps you gain the confidence to evolve with a spirit of adventure.

It’s inspiring, and yes, contagious.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of the ideas presented in Six Pixels of Separation? Do you agree with Joel’s burn the ships attitude? Maybe you have your own example of how you created a successful community and/or a personal brand. Please share. Comments welcome.

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Is Twitter Down, Or Is It Just You?

Posted on October 29, 2009. Filed under: Social Media, Twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

twitter fail whale (full)The last couple of weeks have been extra busy for Twitter. Its temporary outage message, a.k.a. the “fail whale” has gotten a workout.

This past Tuesday morning when I tried to get on Twitter, to no avail, the fail whale was nowhere in sight. All I got in my Firefox browser was a spinning icon that indicates a page is trying to load.

Twitter crashes can occur when the service is maxed out due to activity generated by big news. For instance, when Barack Obama won the Nobel Prize, and Michael Jackson’s death.

On Tuesday I couldn’t discern any crashworthy events.

There are other reasons for Twitter failure, to include database kerfluffles, an application programming interface (API)  gone awry, and distributed denial-of-service attacks (like the one that happened in August).

Whatever the reason, it’s frustrating to be shut out. You wonder whether the glitch is with Twitter or your end of the connection.

Websites that tell you what’s up (or down)

Enter a useful website that tells you which end is up:

Also, handy:

  • isthisdown gives the status of any web address you plug into it.
  • downrightnow monitors a variety of heavily trafficked sites including Twitter, Facebook, Ning, Gmail, Hotmail. Yahoo Mail, Blogger, LiveJournal and Typepad, plus, it’s got an RSS feed to keep you up-to-date on service issues.

So check one or more of the above the next time you want to know what’s up (or down) with Twitter and other favorite web sites.

– Deni Kasrel

Do you know of other sites that let you know what’s up or down on the web?  Please let us know about it. Comments welcome.

Related post:

Curious Consequences of the Twitter Outage

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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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