Navigating the social media currents, together in NH

When working with any emerging approaches to business (and technologies), understanding what’s working for people and where things are going is a constant challenge. There are self-professed experts willing to sell you a “package solution” to get you up to speed. I’ll skip getting into a discussion of the pitfalls and ethical questions people raise about some of those offerings to focus on the alternatives instead.

In this age of social, there’s no better way to learn than socially.  There are events all over the country (and around the world) where people are meeting, expanding their networks, and learning from each other.  Some events, like Social Media Breakfast brings people together monthly to meet and learn from speakers. Others, keeping with the heart of the social web, are “unconferences” where you have the opportunity to connect, learn, and teach without the rigid structure (or incredibly high costs) of a traditional conference.

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Here in NH we have the second PodCamp NH coming up the weekend of October 23-24 in beautiful Portsmouth, NH.  Last year I met many incredible people from all over the region, some I learned from, others I helped. Most important, I had time to spend, in person, getting to know more people. I always see a shift in the quality of the online relationship when I’ve had a chance to spend quality time face to face, “in real life”.

I’ll be at PodCamp NH again this year, offering some sessions and trying to catch as many others as I can. If you have any questions about PodCamp NH or if you’re planning to go, let me know. I’m looking forward to meeting you (or seeing you again)!

Rule #3: Be The Gatekeeper

When you’re engaging with anyone online, rule #3 is “Be The Gatekeeper”

You should never be a roadblock. Give customers a clear path. Just being there isn’t enough. Communication has to go both ways. You now have access to incredible feedback you used to have to pay a lot of money for. Lead customers to where they need to be, and listen to what they have to say.

(if you missed it, see Rule #2: Address The Need)

Rule #2: Address The Need

When you’re engaging with anyone online, rule #2 is “Address The Need”.

Everyone needs something.  We listen, we may even understand what we’re being asked — but it that what they really need?  If you’re engaging online, make sure you’re actually addressing the need.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently after a discussion with a support rep.  A customer on Twitter asked if the upload timeout could be increased.  The rep very diligently found the answer to her question — “Unfortunately, no.”  I asked the rep why the customer was asking for this.  A little investigation showed that the customer was trying to upload a file and it was failing.  Was file size the issue?  No, it wasn’t.  So she really didn’t need someone to increase the timeout, she needed someone to figure out why the upload was failing for her.  Armed with that, the rep was able to work on addressing what the customer needed, not just what she asked for.

(if you missed it, see Rule #1: Be Real)

Social media: swarm vs. strategy?

So you’ve listened and maybe engaged in social media, now what?

It’s important to be there since the conversations are already happening, but have you integrated that work into your overall strategy?  I was on a call Friday with a PR firm talking about social media strategy.  When I think about what many of us often do (and yes, I’m including myself in this), I can’t help but think of a children’s soccer game.

We may have passion and focus, but we’re usually just chasing the ball.


Many of us get so caught up in the tactical execution, we forget to look at the overall strategy.  Two great posts to get you thinking about this more are Leslie Poston on Social Media Curves and Shannon Paul on The Missing Ingredient in Most Social Media Strategies.   Leslie discuses working from front end goals to setting “appropriate expectations” on the back end.  Shannon gets to the heart of the biggest problem, that most social media strategies are missing “actual strategy.”

We’re often substituting tactics for strategy.  One of the questions I discussed with the PR team on my call is “what are we trying to get out of this social media engagement?”  Shannon offers five “Steps to Defining the Strategy in Your Social Media Strategy” in The Missing Ingredient in Most Social Media Strategies:

  1. Push for clarity around the overall business strategy
  2. Push for clarity around the strategies you feel social media should be in direct alignment with; i.e. marketing, communications, customer service, human resources, etc.
  3. Ask yourself, how will you extend this strategic alignment to the social web? *hint, do not list tactics to answer this question, but rather focus on guiding principles or rules of engagement.
  4. Ask what experience/reaction do you want people to come away with when they interact with your brand/company online.
  5. Is your strategy proactive or reactive? Will you actively seek people out, wait for them to find you/mention you?
If you look at a children’s soccer game, the children typically chase the ball where ever it goes.  There’s very little understanding of positions team members should play and why they are important.  As the children learn to play assign roles, the nature of the game changes.  We move from swarm to more structured strategy.
Are you playing with a strategy? Or still chasing the ball?

When is it ok to ignore a comment, tweet, etc?

No peeking, via Flickr (Dave Rutt)There’s a ton of advice out there that you ignore social media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) at your own peril.  I’m having a difficult time finding best practices on when you may need to use ignoring as an approach — or is it something you should never do?

I’d love to know how you feel on this.  Is it ok?  If yes, when? Feel free to comment below, send me a tweet (@kevinmic), or email me directly.

Thanks!

-k

Personal fulfillment through effective communication.

Communicating your organization’s message, whether that message pertains to a sales, marketing or support function should always take your audiences needs into consideration. The problem tends to be that professionals write professionally. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a place for technical jargon, buzzwords and catch phrases – but unless your message is specific to a technical or niche market, your audience may be more inclined to walk away and choose other options. This has the potential to damage your brand image and bottom line.

Clearly defining your goals and understanding that your audience’s goals and your organization’s goals need to be in tune with one another is very important, yet the needs of your audience are more than just ‘widget A’ or ‘concept B’, they are driven by issues of belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization.

Photo Courtesy of Peter Samis via Flickr

Creating a sense of belonging makes your audience feel valued.

Enabling deeper and more personal relationships with your audience has the potential to make them active participants in the defining and creative processes of products, services and solutions. Setting clear standards for your ‘Brand Personality’ and simple directions for your employees and co-workers, if done with your audience’s perspective in mind, allows your organization to develop brand trust and customers to develop brand affinity.

When your audience is looking for assistance with finding a solution or resolving an issue, the last thing that they need is someone communicating in language that is technical or using language that implies a lack of knowledge or experience. Though this tends to go both ways, using language your customers don’t understand may turn them off to your brand, but simplifying the language too much may wind up insulting them. Conversational language beats jargon any day!

Creating avenues for your audience to respond and communicate in a perceived real-time way develops a sense of ownership and true brand trust. This empowers your audience to:

  • understand and embrace the realities of your products, services and brand
  • spontaneously contribute to conversations with the organization and other potential audience members
  • proactively find answers to problems and openly share their stories and experiences about your brand

In the end, your audience is depending on you. They are looking to you for solutions, support and recognition – yet they are also looking to find a home for their personal fulfillment, even if only on a professional level.

Are you encouraging or discouraging online communication?

When I was studying interpersonal communication at Ithaca College in the early 90s, one of the concepts we looked at was whether your environment encouraged or discouraged communication.  The terms I learned were: sociopetal (environment encourages communication) and sociofugal (environment discourages communication.)

Happy Chairs (via Flickr) from Lars Ploughmann

Sociofugal Environment

Sociopedal Environment

Determining if a physical environment encourages or discourages communication is a pretty straightforward process.  You may look at how the chairs are arranged in a room or where the food stations are placed at a party.  Evaluating how we’re encouraging/discouraging communication online can be more challenging.  It’s obvious that a blog post with comments closed discourages communication.  But what if your goal is for blog commenters to interact with each other?  Does it make more sense to have threaded comments so it’s clear which comment someone is replying to?

When designing your blog/community/site/app, you need to know your goals to determine if you’re getting what you need.  Are you looking to encourage discussion among your customers?  To encourage conversation directly with you?

A form to rate content and submit comments that doesn’t show previous ratings or comments like in Microsoft support articles (at bottom of article) will encourage communication with you directly, but not among customers.  While an approach like Amazon customer reviews, encourages some interaction among customers.

It’s worth stepping back (or getting someone with fresh eyes) to look at how you’ve designed your blog/community/site/app.  Are you encouraging or discouraging communication?

Kev’s Rules–3 Rules for Online Community Engagement

For the September, 2009 Social Media Breakfast NH (#smbnh) at the Manchester, NH Public Library I gave this talk about my rules for community.  I call it ‘Kev’s Rules for Community’.

I try to live these rules every day–whether I’m engaging online via twitter, blogs, or any other tools.  The rules are simple:

  1. Be Real (don’t be a bot)
  2. Address the Need (not just the explicit ones)
  3. Be the Gatekeeper (never be the roadblock)

These rules are part of a project I’m working on to get the Dimdim support team on Twitter, directly engaging with customers.  My goal was to go beyond just teaching the tools.  Anyone can create a Twitter account and jump into the conversation.  I wanted to make sure we are consistent in our approach.

I personally have a hard time following rules if there are too many to remember.  What are your rules?  Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@kevinmic)

-k

[Special thanks to Matt Turner (@onmatt, www.onmatt.com) for helping to pull all the examples together for this talk, and Leslie Poston (@geechee_girl, www.uptownuncorked.com) for the opportunity to speak.  I do so love to talk.]

Tips for getting your social media job application process off to a good start.

As someone reviewing resumes for a Social Media & Web Marketing Specialist position, I’d like to share some tips.  In the first 48 hours I had about 100 people email me.  I’m guessing other employers are having similar experiences.  Some of these tips really aren’t social media specific, but take my advice:

Everyone wants to stand out, but if you create more work for the person reviewing resumes, chances are you won’t be considered.

I’m doing my best to review every applicant who has contacted me, but if it takes me more than a few minutes to get an impression, I’ll admit you go on the “no thank you” pile.

Tip 1: Resumes are still used

It’s great you have a LinkedIn profile or that you keep information about yourself on your web site.  If 99% of other candidates are still sending a resume, having to go find information about you creates more work. Not good.  It may be a personal preference, but I try to stay organized and my inbox expands by several hundred a day, for me it’s easier if you send your resume as an attachment.  No need to attach your cover letter, your email can say the same thing.

Tip 2: If your resume doesn’t include links to you & your work, you aren’t presenting yourself as a social media pro

I hate to be harsh about this one, but if I’m looking to hire someone it’s because I need help.  (Meaning I’m already overloaded.)  If I have to lookup your information to know you have a professional online presence, you haven’t made it easy for me.  I’m not saying you should provide a laundry list of all your sites, just the ones you feel are key.  You want the links to point to you and your work.  It’s your portfolio, not the kitchen sink, just include the best.

Tip 3: Be easy to find

It should be a given, but just in case you’re new to this, if you make it past an initial review of applicants, expect the next step will be that someone Googles you.  Are the links that come up ones you would want a prospective employer to see?  Do you come up in the results at all?

When I get so many files, I typically save them all off into a folder.  Naming your resume ‘resume2.doc’ makes it that much harder for me to find you again later.  At a minimum, make sure your name is in the file name.

I’m sure there are many things I’m not thinking of, but I have to get back to finding the right person for this role.  Any other suggestions?  Leave a comment.

-k