Archive for marketing

something worth listening to

There is a quite a bit of chatter about how companies should engage with online consumers within the social media space – including suggested service etiquette, rules of engagement, and how to simply listen effectively.

Social media has enabled a new channel for customer feedback. It’s more than just a one-way feedback opportunity, but rather the start of a two-way dialogue where the change process can be witnessed and the outcome quickly implemented. As a customer, how do we maximize this channel and these new dialogues to foster a valuable outcome?

Well, we could moan and vent about our frustrations via Twitter, Facebook or even Yelp, but does that offer workable substance. How is that productive? I mentioned in an old post that just because you have the means to tweet or voice your opinion online (and have a potential product/service grievance), doesn’t mean you should do so carelessly or without some thought to your desired resolution.

Samantha Ogborn wrote a great post, Social Media Karma: Why Your Voice Reigns that offers insight into how you (as a consumer) can effectively leverage and increase the value of your social media voice.

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attack of the “social media expert”!

An expert [noun]: a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area. [adjective]: having or involving such knowledge or skill.

Cute MonsterThere seems to be a number of self-proclaimed social media experts. The result is strategic confusion. Sadly, people and organizations in need are falling victim to misinformation. Sometimes unintentionally, and sometimes not.

Market your skill set honestly. I by no means would consider myself an expert really in anything at this stage in my career – still far too much to learn, experiences to be had and mistakes to be made. I believe I have a responsibility, which is to appropriately, and honestly, communicate my abilities, skills and knowledge. I’d like to believe we all have such a code.

I’m not here to point fingers. In fact, the responsibility is twofold. As entrepreneurs, small business owners, or large organizations it our responsibility to select the best candidate or candidates for the job. Typically our goal is to address knowledge gaps and fill areas of need that are perhaps beyond our own scope of experience.

Arm yourself with information. Just like with any employee hire or consultant contract make sure you take the time to better understand your candidate options. Don’t fall victim to buzzwords. Just because someone may know how to talk in social media speak doesn’t mean they are necessarily an expert.

Know your organization’s needs. Do you really need a social media expert? Do your homework ahead of time. Maybe the need is deeper than that. As an organization have you clearly mapped your goals, objectives and/or strategy? If not, then social media isn’t where you need to start.

There are people who I would consider experts. Individuals who are respected, offer wisdom by way of experiences and have the results to back it all up. More often than not I find that they are incredibly modest. They are busy doing rather than boasting or bragging. Instead the communities around them are helping them to build a credible reputation infused with collective confidence.

Expertise takes time to cultivate. Be willing, open and patient to learn from others.

Image: monster in a bag courtesy of arimoore, Flickr

i’m sorry, your audience isn’t here to play

If you’re reading this post, then you probably came here via Twitter. You’re on Twitter, I’m on Twitter, but who isn’t on Twitter – or who’s on Twitter, but not really here (meaning inactive). This (slightly snarky) thought process was sparked by reading, 80%+ Twitter accounts inactive, but core users more committed, courtesy of dirkthecow via Social Media Today.

3514087519_f9c5aa9a88_mWhat about me. Twitter can be a great communications tool. It’s been great for me personally and professionally. Caveat: knowing that everyone’s not using Twitter. Knowing who’s using a tool is equally as important as knowing who’s not. Don’t forget who isn’t here to contribute to the conversation – they may have something amazing to contribute, but are voiceless.

And it’s not just Twitter. There are plenty of platforms and tools where folks are missing. For instance, Facebook, yes, there are millions upon millions of users, but who’s missing. For example, me. I don’t have a Facebook account (…really, I don’t). I might have something valuable to say.

Aligning audience and means of communication. Are there voices being left out of the conversation that could add exponential value to your organization, goal or community? Twitter can be used in the execution of a portfolio of communication means to tap into a range of audiences, but that should only happen once audiences have been identified. Have you taken a moment to determine who your audience is – and where they are?

Who’s making the decision. What happens when you don’t take the time to identify where your audience plays, well, you miss an opportunity. Someone misses the message, the chance to be engaged or an invitation to participate (either physically or virtually). Case and point, my ten year high school reunion, the reunion invitation was only sent via Facebook. As I said earlier, I’m not on Facebook. Meaning, I found out about the reunion only after it took place. The point isn’t that I missed the reunion, it’s that I never got a chance to decide for myself if I wanted to attend or not. The means of communication decided for me.

Take the time, do the work. Don’t let voices go unheard or leave communities ignored just because you missed the mark. Take time to understand your audience and then communicate to them in the space where they play. Why should they come to you? If they are that important, then you should go to them. In time, that may reverse, but you have to reach out and cultivate the relationship first.

Tools are going to change, audiences will change too – and where they intersect is going to change. What shouldn’t change is critical thinking around how best to link the two.

Remember, 80% of Twitter accounts are inactive. That’s whole a lot of people not paying attention to those thoughtful, value-filled, community building tweets you’re spending hours crafting. Make sure your audience is where you’re focusing your attention, before you start trying to get the attention of an audience that may not even be there in the first place.

[Image: The empty playground #1 courtesy of soulholder, Flickr]

sequence of execution and the development of a social media strategy

Sometimes time completely escapes me – and posts or items that I had every intention of sharing completely get missed. This is one such case. A couple of months ago I wrapped up a project for an outstanding nonprofit organization, Freedom States Alliance (FSA). Like many nonprofits, they were trying to navigate social media options and establish the best way to integrate it into their organization.

social media bandwagonThe result was the realization that social media was only one component of a much larger picture, a much greater need. The question that surfaced was where does social media fit within the organization’s strategy? Was it appropriate to develop a social media strategy, if other critical strategies hadn’t yet been pursued?

Sequence of Execution. Sequence of execution is an approach to strategy development that leads organizations through a hierarchy of strategy development. The result: a more successful and sustaining implementation. Furthermore, it puts social media into context. Meaning that it ensures that any social media strategy is integrated and derives its purpose from the organizations larger mission and goals.

Sequence of strategy execution:

  • Develop your organizational mission
  • Develop and align your marketing communications strategy/plan
  • Develop primary messaging to go across all channels
  • Identify your target audience or audiences
  • Develop a social media strategy that supports the mar/comm strategy

Social media strategy is a powerful opportunity for an organization, but only when it’s been implemented in the right order. I am increasingly convinced that social media is not intended to live inside a vacuum, but rather as a piece of a much larger ecosystem. How can an organization implement social media tools, like Twitter and Facebook, if they don’t have a social media, communications, or organizational strategy to drive the success use of such platforms?

The actual deliverable offered to the FSA was a comprehensive presentation that included an in-depth needs assessment, recommended actions, training documentation, and best practices in communication and more specifically social media. Most importantly, the guide started with a step-by-step review of how to best develop an appropriate and effective strategy for the organization given their intended mission, audience, and goals – and later concluded with a look at social media integration.

Recently, Colin and I transformed the outcome of that project and took this same ideology to create something that could benefit an even greater community of nonprofits. The following presentation is the marriage of that work (no pun intended), which Colin offered to Cambridge area nonprofit organizations last week.


Learn more about Cambridge Community Television (CCTV)
Additional CCTV workshops: Social Media Workshop for Cambridge Organizations
View more presentations from Cambridge Community Television

[Image: Jump on the social media bandwagon courtesy of matthamm, Flickr]

what social media means to me.

I was recently asked a series of questions by a friend and classmate:

  • What Web 2.0 applications do you use? Use the most?
  • What do you see as the benefits (personal, professional) of using Web 2.0?
  • What are the challenges. restrictions, downsides to Web 2.0?
  • Where do you think Web 2.0 is headed?
  • How would you recommend a business make use of Web 2.0?

The exercise of responding was cathartic. It was reminiscent of one of those “What the 4th of July Means to Me” essays that were so popular in fifth grade. Oh you know the ones – with complimentary drawing that used a haphazard mix of crayon colors [usually whatever hadn’t yet been snatched up] to depict stick figure families, hot dogs and fireworks.

The point being that everyone drew the same picture – they all wrote the same thing.

They created what was expected – what they thought they were supposed to draw. To me, it sounds all too familiar. Web 2.0 or social media [whichever is your preferred term] is being depicted in a similar fashion. By now, most folks are working diligently to create what looks like the same picture perfect social media strategy. Facebook fan pages, check, Twitter, check, digital video, check, …

Too much thought is going into what appears to represent a “good” social media strategy. It’s not coming back to the audience. Yes, I’ll be the first to tell you that you should not ignore social media, but it can’t be hastily implemented in a disconnected, tool centric fashion.

Get social. Get messy. Don’t give them what you think they want or expect from you. Listen. Wait. Participate. Then give them what they ask for – in innovative new ways. If there was ever an opportunity to color outside the lines this is it.

Heck, break out the finger paints!

Create your own way. Definitions, frameworks and rules aside. Remain mindful of the fundamentals, but be creative and innovative. Time is precious – for both the creator and the audience. It should be fun. As a creator you want to be challenged to provide value in new, unique ways. As part of the audience, we want our attention grabbed. We don’t want the same templated execution, but rather something that doesn’t fit the model – provide bright excitement and raw honesty.

What Social Media Means to Me – by Vanessa Rhinesmith
Please note: this is raw and unedited [grammatical savvy is out with this one]

What Web 2.0 applications do you use? Use the most?
Right now, Twitter, my blog [WordPress] and I’m a HUGE fan of Delicious [social bookmarking is far from dead for me]

What do you see as the benefits (personal, professional) of using Web 2.0?
This is a loaded question. It depends on the company and/or the person. Either way it can be a great way to connect and collaborate with others – remember it’s about collaboration.

What are the challenges. restrictions, downsides to Web 2.0?
The challenges and restrictions are human centric – not everyone wants to listen or participate in the conversation – nor do folks have the means. Remember that not everyone has a computer or access to the internet. The additional downside, is too much hype around Web 2.0 – people aren’t thinking it through they are too wrapped up in the buzz word…[I'll get off my soapbox now].

Where do you think Web 2.0 is headed?
It will become Web3.0, Web4.0…until it’s replaced with a new word. Seriously though, Web3.0 – it’s going mobile and don’t think that virtual is dead. It’s not, oh, and cloud computing.

How would you recommend a business make use of Web 2.0?
First ask, are they ready to LISTEN to their customers and/or employees. Secondly, are they ready to JOIN the conversation in a transparent and collaborative way? Can’t even bring in the tools if you don’t know the actions.

Box of crayons photo courtesy of turbojoe via flickr