Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

Blogging: Not for the faint of heart   4 comments

I am struggling. My fledgling blog is now more than four months old. I have lots of ideas for blog posts. I’ve been invited to guest blog on more than one occasion. Readership is low, but I occasionally get attention from unexpected places. So what’s the problem?

I’m exhausted. Of course, as with most moms who are working full-time, exhaustion is a normal state of existence. Every week I end up writing late at night to make my arbitrary, self-imposed editorial deadline.

It’s not all fun. I enjoy thinking and writing. I do not enjoy digging up a suitable, Creative Commons-blessed photo to accompany every post (which is why I skipped it on vacation). While I occasionally break this rule I try not to as people tend to feel more engaged when there’s a photo.

I know I can do better. I am certainly not writing to my full potential or my own editorial standards (which I admit are higher than most), which is highly frustrating.

So why bother with the blog?

It’s calming. My world allows me few creative outlets these days so this is one medium that allows me to clear my head of many of the thoughts that are rattling around.

It’s a point of pride.  Seeing that list of completed posts grow each month is a very satisfying feeling and as is being able to count myself as a blogger (albeit a newbie one)

Professional growth. Writing the blog forces me to sit and really think about the topics of the day. What DO I think about Google+? It helps me focus my thoughts and form opinions that might otherwise have remained mostly dormant.

To compromise between my desire to express myself and my desire to salvage what’s left of my sanity I am changing this to a bi-weekly or even monthly blog. We shall see. I have decided that blogging is great, but living my real life is better. So is sleep.

Image credit: viralbus via Flickr

My#FollowFriday favorites: Top 3 PR/Marketing/Comm bloggers   Leave a comment

This week I am doing you a favor. Rather than pour out my usual drivel I thought I would share with you some of my favorite bloggers/Twitter personalities. I admit, I don’t keep up with my blog reading as much as I should or want to, but when I do these are the people I go to.

These folks are brilliant, talented, and charming to boot. They are bona fide experts in communication particularly when it comes to public relations, social media and marketing. If you want to learn how to communicate well these are the people you need to know. Consider this one big #FollowFriday shout-out (in no particular order).

  1. Shonali Burke
    Sole proprietor (and sole employee) of Shonali Burke Consulting, Shonali hosts the popular #measurepr chat on Twitter and is the driving force behind the blog Waxing UnLyrical. I am also pleased to say I have met Shonali as she was the guest of honor at the very first Tweetup I attended, here in San Diego.
  2. Jay Baer
    A renowned social media consultant, Jay Baer is also an author and speaker (if I read books anymore I would definitely read “The NOW Revolution,” his book with Amber Naslund). His site/blog, www.ConvinceAndConvert.com has a ton of great info and tools you can use to plan your social media campaign.
  3. Gini Dietrich
    Founder and CEO of ArmentDietrich and author of the Spin Sucks blog, Gini Dietrich provides excellent tips and food for thought.

There you have it. There are MANY more talented folks out there, so I encourage you to scour the list of people I’m following on Twitter if you want to find more people I find influential and educational.

Who are your favorite bloggers and communicators?

“To thine own self be true” when choosing a social network   Leave a comment

Shakespeare had it right when he said, “To thine own self be true.” Bust of Shakespeare

Why choose one social platform over another? Why Facebook instead of Twitter or LinkedIn instead of Google+? It all depends on two things: your needs and how well each one addresses those needs.

Sarah Kessler and Emily Caufield have created an interesting infographic  (hot items these days) that essentially charts the top five social networks and how each one stacks up on certain criteria. View the infographic here. It is not without its flaws, but it highlights a key factor in choosing a social network: we join social networks that give us what we need.

For example:

On paper (or screen) Google+ really does kick arse. The only thing that it seems to lack is a built-in ability to do event planning. However, in the last several weeks I have been on Facebook and LinkedIn multiple times per day and Twitter every couple of days.

Google+? At  best once a week.

Right now Google+ doesn’t give me what I need. I need support and interaction with friends and family and out of the social networks Facebook is the one that best meets those needs.

What else do I need? Professional development. So I go to Twitter and LinkedIn to see what my colleagues are talking about and read articles on topics pertinent to my business. I could do that on Google+ as there is a flourishing community of my peers on there. However, that brings me to another need: time. I need something that is quick and easy and LinkedIn and Twitter provide me with that since I’ve already done the hard work to set up the networks. Google+ does not meet my needs because I don’t have time to set it up properly yet.

This all boils down to one quick reminder that goes for all the things we do: know what you want to get out of something before you start putting something (time, effort, money) into it.

Can you take a vacation from social media?   6 comments

I’m on vacation right now. And not that I don’t enjoy blogging (because I do), but even I need a break from discussing social media sometimes. And yet here I am, feeling compelled to keep up with a self-imposed editorial schedule even on vacation. Why?

Even when something is your passion you need a break periodically to stay fresh and maintain your creative drive. Athletes have to take rest days. Students get a spring break. But so many professionals, particularly in social media, cannot shut off. We fear what will happen if we do. We’ll miss being the first of our friends to retweet or comment on a breaking story. We are concerned our Klout score will drop (yes, I checked mine and it’s dropped 5 points in less than a week)–even though we haven’t decided if we care about Klout yet.

Of course there are things we could do to maintain our social media presence while on vacation. Hootsuite allows us to schedule tweets and other updates. WordPress allows you to schedule blog posts if, unlike me, you’ve been able to get ahead of schedule and have posts ready to go (I admit that I am currently living the literary equivalent of paycheck to paycheck). Wait. That’s incorrect. Those tools allow us to maintain a media presence–not a SOCIAL media presence.

That’s really the crux of it. Those of us who are in social media do it because we are social and enjoy being sociable. When we “go dark” and turn off our phones and stop interacting with people online, we feel like we are ignoring friends. If we schedule tweets and blog posts and then go on an unplugged vacation we won’t be able to respond to comments and interact with our followers and readers. And as we generally like those people we don’t want them to feel ignored or unappreciated.

We also feel compelled to prove to clients, bosses and colleagues that we can keep up with social media presence virtually 24/7 instead of admitting we are human and need a break. We set expectations far too high and then have to live up to them.

As a protest to this virtual leash and to get back to my vacation sooner I am making this an abbreviated blog in a few ways:
1. You are reading the first and only draft (as opposed to the first-and-a-half or second draft you normally read)
2. I am typing this on my iPad which doesn’t allow for formatting changes (no putting clever or inspired phrases in bold to highlight them)
3. I am not including a photo
4. I am not digging up or including links to other blogs on related topics (and I know there are many so Google them)

How do you handle social media while on vacation? Without further adieu I bid you good night.

Now, back to my vacation.

Posted July 20, 2011 by Lindsay N. Ball in Career, Internet, Social Media

LinkedIn Networking: Selective or Open?   5 comments

If you’re on LinkedIn much at all it won’t be long before you come across a LION.

Lion lounging

“A lion?”

No, a LION–a LinkedIn Open Networker. These are a special breed, folks who have decided they will connect with anyone and everyone who wants to connect (even strangers!). LIONs are often in recruiting or sales, industries that benefit from having as many contacts as possible. And there are definite professional benefits to this approach. Who wouldn’t like to have thousands of people to reach out to with a question or request?

The decision to be a LION or to be a more strategic networker is a personal one. I have chosen the latter route. It really all depends on how you plan to use your network.

“‘Use’ my network? That sounds a bit selfish.”

Not at all. A network is there to be used. Whether it’s a network of friends for entertainment, a network of family for emotional support or a business network for advice, we all have these networks because they provide value to us–we are using them. It’s only selfish if you use your network more than you give back to it.

But I digress.

Let’s return to our use of a network. Most of us, myself included, are suited for targeted, selective networks. We want to know (at least to some degree) the people in our network. However, even though I am a selective networker I don’t set the bar very high. Mostly I want to feel like you contacted ME in particular for a specific reason. That it was purposeful and not simply a sales pitch or spam bot. This way if someone comes to me and is interested in connecting with one of my contacts I know enough to know how the two people will best connect.

Either option is completely acceptable, so it just depends on your approach. Are you using this tool to generate sales? Then being a LION may be the way for you to go. If you prefer a little more intimacy with your contacts I recommend keeping things selective.

Additional Useful Links

http://www.stacyzapar.com/2011/05/what-is-linkedin-lion.html
http://www.stacyzapar.com/2010/11/why-i-decided-to-be-open-networker.html

Image credit: cheetah100 via Flickr

Google+ isn’t going to kill anyone (but it could make everyone stronger).   2 comments

Let’s get right to the point: Is Google+ a Facebook killer? In a word, no.

To borrow from a famous movie,  you don’t get to 750 million friends without knowing a thing or two. And you don’t lose 500 million friends overnight. The “social” in social media means that most people will stay where their friends are and right now their friends are on Facebook.

So what will it do? Google+ will definitely do some damage to Facebook, but it will take some time (case in point: they have temporarily stopped allowing new people to join). And in the meantime Facebook will be able to revise its site and develop new features to keep people there (Zuckerberg ain’t no fool–he’s the most followed account on Google+ and you can bet he’s doing his research). Facebook has already launched a new feature: video chatting with Skype. (Though Google+ Hangouts is still better.)

What Google+ will really do is motivate Facebook to improve its service and broaden its offerings. Make it easier to group people and send updates to certain people and not others. And while Facebook is working on that, those of us who are attracted to the new and shiny when it comes to technology will begin using Google+ until it eventually goes mainstream. How long that will take and what either site will look like once this happens is anyone’s guess. Google+ is still in its infancy so I expect it to evolve rapidly in the coming weeks and months.

Let’s not forget there are other sites affected by Google+ besides Facebook. Twitter, for example. While Google would like to make Google+ a Twitter replacement they are a long way from being able to do this. Where Google holds the power is in search rankings. If Google starts giving Google+ updates more weight than Twitter updates then companies have a serious incentive to interact with people on Google+ because it means they are more likely to place higher in search engine rankings. A great analysis and example of this is here. And Google also has Twitter beat on ease of use and slick design. So there is more potential for Google to do serious damage to Twitter than to Facebook. Twitter may be the best known provider, but its service is easily replicated and improved upon. They had better hustle to find new ways to engage with visitors or they could see a serious decline in use.

Finally, let’s talk about LinkedIn. What is LinkedIn? A place to post your resume, connect with colleagues, post updates, get info on companies and, as of recently, see news about your field. All right let’s break this down into its parts and review through Google+ eyes:

  • Post your resume – It’s rudimentary in Google+, but do-able
  • Connect with colleagues – Check!
  • Post updates – Check!
  • Get info on companies, including job posts – Coming soon
  • Read news about your field – Check! (See Sparks on your Google+ account)

So with only a few minor upgrades you could do most of your LinkedIn activities on Google+. The main thing missing is to be able to see who in your network works at a particular company or with certain other people. Until that feature is added LinkedIn remains a valuable tool.

The key takeaway from all this is that Google+ changes the landscape by providing a viable alternative to each of the three major social networks. However, there is still time while Google+ grows and develops for the other players to learn from Google’s growing pains and improve themselves. I’ll be curious to see if they do.

Image credit: RHW-Photography via Flickr

Posted July 7, 2011 by Lindsay N. Ball in Internet, Marketing, Social Media

First Thoughts on the Google+ Project   2 comments

Google bread manIntriguing.

That is my first impression after reviewing some of the features of the new Google+ project. I’m still willing to give Google the benefit of the doubt (even after the Wave, which I have yet to be given a compelling reason to understand or appreciate) and there is a lot of potential with the new toys. The concepts are simple, yet elegant. The design is friendly and usable. However, the adoption of Google+ will all depend on the usability of the final execution. Check out this article from Wired.com for a full write-up from people with far more insider knowledge than I have.

Circles
Similar to your Facebook friends, Circles allows you to group contacts into “Circles” that you name. Unlike Facebook, this appears to have a very user-friendly interface that allows you to easily drag and drop contacts into those circles. Early descriptions of this functionality seem like a cross between Facebook and Twitter: you can designate which circles receive certain updates, or you can make them public to the entire world like a tweet. Apparently you can even include contacts in groups who are not using the system, so family members can still receive your photos even if they haven’t “friended” you. While you can send non-Facebook using contacts links to photo albums it’s not an easy or convenient process which this has the potential to be.

This has been my biggest issue with Facebook. With the privacy settings being so complicated,  how can I be sure that my colleagues won’t see my vacation photos? I do, after all, have multiple online personas for a reason! I generally refrain from typing anything that could be the list bit embarrassing onto any site, but I’m human and my personality shines through at times. I need a site that protects me from those moments! Perhaps Circles will be it.

Hangout
One of the most fascinating features is the new Hangout. This TechCrunch article gives an apt analogy: “If your neighbor is sitting there, you know that they’ll likely be interested in striking up a conversation. In fact, it would be rude for you to walk by and not say anything.” The idea is that if you’re online, surfing the Web, but none of your friends are on at the moment, you can tell them you’re ready and waiting to video chat should they hop online and feel interested. This would almost replace my need for Skype and my constant texting with my parents to figure out when we are both available.

Other Features
The other features of Google+ seem very interesting, but are less ground-breaking. Sparks simply reminds me of LinkedIn Today, but with more varied categories of information. Instant Upload and Huddle are cool, but I have other ways to accomplish the same things (though of course in other sites). This could be a good way to combine all these tasks in one.

My Early Assessment
I predict this product will be successful. Not Facebook successful, but better than Wave anyway. It is unique and user-friendly.I plan to try it out as soon as I can and I hope you’ll join me as I experiment with it as soon as I can get my hands on it it!

Image credit: DannySullivan via Flickr

Why I blog. (And why you should, too.)   2 comments

BloggingI spent more than a year with the avid desire to start a blog, but many things stopped me (raise your hand if you have the same challenges):

  • Not enough time to dedicate to doing it right
  • Not sure of the topic (What new thing could I possibly have to say about my areas of expertise, marketing/communication/social media/business?)
  • Not enough time
  • Fear of being judged
  • Not enough time

Finally, a conversation with the lovely and intelligent Michele Dortch with Write to Incite inspired me to get started with SOMETHING. Essentially she told me that you just have to jump in and make it happen. So I made the commitment to do it no matter what. Now, what to write about?

I started researching topics and seeing what other people had run into the same challenges and concerns. So I Googled. And found this excellent post from Patrick Garmoe at PureDriven. Patrick was kind enough to give me his thoughts on writing about a common topic like marketing and I continue to be grateful for that. The comment that inspired me the most was this: “people buy from certain places because they like and trust the store staff, not because they can’t get the advice or items elsewhere.” It told me that I don’t have to be the first to say something, but if I’m bringing value to my readers (all three of you–hi, Mom!) through a unique perspective, then that’s what’s important. So I jumped in.

I’ve found that this blog is as much a creative outlet for me as anything. It’s also a way for me to take control of my online reputation. So far I’m just writing about whatever topic strikes my fancy in the broad marketing/social media space. I haven’t yet settled on what I hope to achieve with this blog, but I’ll get there. You don’t have to have all the answers when you start.

I’m also not doing this to get paid through ad sponsorships or to support a solo practice so I’m not worried about optimizing it for search engines just to drive traffic. While that kind of thing can be very helpful depending on your goals, like most things it takes time to do properly, especially on a new blog, and with a full-time job, a toddler, and some semblance of a life there’s only so much I can do. SEO is not a priority.

However, I do enjoy connecting with people and hearing their thoughts, which is why I decided on a blog format instead of an online journal or simply typing up a Word doc. I’m human, I have an ego, and I want to talk about things I am passionate about with people who are passionate about those same things. It helps if you enjoy developing relationships.

I am working to stay disciplined enough to post one solid article every Wednesday morning (which is why I have been at a laptop at 11pm each of the last several Tuesdays) because without a routine this blog would quickly lapse into nothingness. Sticking to a schedule is key.

I tell  you all of this because if you’ve been thinking about it and want to do it, now is the time. I don’t care what excuses you have. They are not acceptable. Just dive in and start writing, even a brief one hundred words at a time. You won’t hit a home run every time, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing at all. If you’re doing it just for the attention, there are easier ways to get that. Blog because you want to and will enjoy it regardless of the response.

Image credit: Search Engine People Blog via Flickr

Want to generate buzz? Get your employees buzzing.   Leave a comment

What’s better than having someone talk about your company online? What about having lots of someones talk about your company online? “Ummm…yeah. Isn’t that the whole point of social media? To get people talking about your company online?” Well, yes. But I’m talking about something else. Something more intrinsic. Imagine if those people knew your company inside and out and were promoting your company just by being them. I’m talking about your EMPLOYEES!

Bee

“But I don’t want all of my people tweeting or giving their views to the world. I don’t always like what they say.” If you think most of your employees aren’t already using social media in some way then I’d like you to pull your head out of the sand. Wouldn’t it be better to corral that activity into productive efforts for the benefit of the company? Not everyone is going to be interested. But for those who are, why not channel that passion and drive into something beneficial.

In my last post I illustrated how important it is to take control of your reputation through participation in social media. While it’s important to have at least one person coordinating those efforts, there’s only so much one person can do. Amplify those efforts by educating your employees and sending them out into the online world on the company’s behalf. There are two aspects to this education: education on the company’s social media policy and education on best practices for using social media.

“What do you mean, ‘social media policy?'” Oh, you don’t have one? Never fear! As you are not the first and certainly not the last company to go through these growing pains there are plenty of resources out there to help you. First, think of it less as a “policy” and more like “guidelines” (think of the pirates’ code in “Pirates of the Caribbean”). You want to direct, not dictate. With that in mind, here is a repository of sample guidelines. IBM, Dell and Intuit are three companies that stand out as leaders in this field. And don’t forget these “10 Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy.” Mariam Cook provides additional excellent resources and examples in this post.

So you have your policy…ahem…GUIDELINES. Think a company memo with the document attached is sufficient training? Not so fast. Hopefully you got input from your team as you were creating these guidelines so they are not news to anyone. Within reason this document should be discussed with managers so that they understand the why (if not the how). The document should be emailed out by you or a superior, possibly even printed (gasp!), and live presentations or webinars should be given so that employees have the opportunity to ask questions. This document deserves a roll-out worthy of any communication plan.

The other side of education is training any newbies on what social media is, how to use the various tools effectively and what corporate presence (if any) your company has that they can get involved in. Many people are probably using social media to check out pics of the grandkids, but if they are interested you can help them take that interest a step further to become a brand ambassador. (If they’re not interested, leave them be. The only thing worse than no voice is a negative voice.) What does that training look like? That will have to be a post for another time!

The more people talking about your company, the better. If those people are upbeat, intelligent and know your company inside and out then your company is better for it. The buzz will come!

Image: Andy Hay via Flickr

Posted May 25, 2011 by Lindsay N. Ball in Branding, Business, Marketing, Social Media

Don’t let other people hijack your reputation   6 comments

In my last post I described a scenario in which unwitting employees, after checking into Foursquare during a weekend of debauchery, taint your company’s reputation by using Foursquare to check into work on Monday morning. This forever  links your company to all of their online activities (since we all know by now that nothing that is said online is ever entirely gone). Conversation

You have a right to be concerned–after all, you don’t want your company’s reputation to suffer. On the other hand you don’t want to have to implement (and enforce) draconian rules that will sap morale and perhaps cause defections. What’s a leader to do? You can relax. There are manageable things you can do to protect your company’s reputation.

Want to know the easiest way to protect your company’s reputation online? I alluded to it in the conclusion of my last post. Need a hint? Here’s the key statement: “In the absence of other social media activity, Foursquare updates can define your company online.” Still not sure? Okay, I’ll tell you:

The number one thing a person or a company can do to protect an online reputation is to PARTICIPATE IN SOCIAL MEDIA.

Other people can dictate your reputation in the absence of your own activity. But if you actively engage in social media and take control of your online reputation you will drown out or otherwise discredit negative publicity. Those random Foursquare updates disappear in a sea of updates if you are actively engaging in social media on any platform.

That’s not to say that you want to bombard people with constant, meaningless drivel (i.e. your latest press release). The idea is to build relationships so that those random tweets, when they are seen, are viewed in a larger context and, we hope, dismissed as the mindless rantings they are. Do you think Zappos worries about employee Foursquare check-ins? Unless it’s from a competitor’s office I daresay not. There  is so much else being said about and by them and they are so busy otherwise engaging customers in meaningful dialogue that a rogue tweet isn’t going to matter much.

If your reputation is not as established as a company’s like Zappos then it is even more important for you to begin the work of establishing your presence online. Whether you start tweeting, creating a Facebook page, writing a blog or joining forums, the point is to get started doing SOMETHING. Google loves fresh content so the more you’re talking the more you’re being found.

In future posts I’ll tackle other ways to help your company (like providing social media education to employees) and provide tips on establishing a social media program at your company (Hint: Don’t just leave it to the interns and part-timers!).

Photo from Search Engine People Blog via Flickr