Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

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

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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!

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“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

Tainted Love: Foursquare’s Unintended Side Effects   1 comment

What if your employees’ personal lives and “off the record” opinions defined your company? Not how they perform at work. Not just senior management. Any employee, going about their normal life. If your employees are avid users of social media and your company is not, then there’s a good chance they are the ones defining your company online–perhaps without even realizing it. Even employees who love their company may unintentionally taint its reputation.

Recently I was researching a couple of companies online in order to provide friends with some social media tips. These companies have minimal “official” social media presences, but one thing in particular jumped out at me: their employees are using Foursquare. Often. And the picture it paints is not always pretty.

So why pick on Foursquare? What makes it different?Foursquare Badges If an employee is blogging, or even micro-blogging, they are conscious of what they’re writing and the online presence they are creating. However, when they check into a place on Foursquare they are more likely to be “in the moment” and less likely to be thinking of the business implications of those check-ins. They might include an off-hand comment that suits the moment, such as checking into their favorite bar on a Friday night and commenting, “Epic party! Buying the next round of shots!” If their Foursquare account is linked to their Twitter account, and many of them are, then the entire Twitterverse is now privy to their fun.

“What employees do on their own time is their business,” you might say. “As long as they’re not identifying themselves as an employee or sending inappropriate messages on behalf of the company it’s not a problem.” This is where Foursquare closes the loop and your reputation takes a hit. What I found when researching these companies is that those same employees who partied on Friday night were using Foursquare to check into work come Monday morning.  Now your company name is attached to that person and any other activities they publish. When someone does a search for your company in the social media sphere those Foursquare updates can come up big and bold. Depending on the strength of your company’s official online presence, those check-ins may appear in a simple Google search of your company.

The other thing I was shocked to find during my research was employees using Foursquare to check into work–and writing disparaging comments about work when checking in! Unhappy employees were casually venting their frustration to Foursquare and, by extension, Twitter and the rest of the Internet.

Is this the branding kiss of death? Of course not. Might it make some people think twice about working with or for you? Maybe. We all fight night and day for a piece of the customer’s pie and none of us need to put speed bumps or road blocks in their way.

The moral of the story?

In the absence of other social media activity, Foursquare updates can define your company online.

Stay tuned for future posts with recommendations on how to minimize the impact of these activities on your company and keep your employees’ love from tainting your online reputation. (Here’s a hint: Banning the use of social media by employees is NOT the answer!)


Photo credit: Nan Palmero via Flickr

The three faces of Lindsay   1 comment

Multiple personality disorderI have a secret. When I’m alone or at home, I sometimes…swear. That’s right, when left to my own devices, especially in my car, I let loose with an occasional f-bomb or other vulgar obscenity. Why am I telling you this? Because chances are you will never experience it firsthand. If you are someone I interact with professionally, you will be very hard-pressed to ever hear me utter such a word. I have a professional persona to live up to and that persona does not swear. And I think this is a necessary thing in the business world–and the online world.

Will the real Lindsay Ball please stand up?
Some people believe it is disingenuous to have personas. “You should be your true self all the time,” I’ve been told. But we all have multiple personalities. The “public” you vs. the “private” you. The you that your family sees, the you that your friends see, the you that your other friends see. I don’t think of it as not being “me” though. “Me” constitutes an entire range of emotions, likes, dislikes, and other distinctive personality traits. Different people and situations bring out different aspects of my personality. I listen to country music with some friends and Top 40 with others. I believe this helps me succeed.

Birth of a persona
While I might enjoy letting loose in my car, not all of my colleagues may appreciate this behavior. And so the business persona is born. It’s still me, but the traits that are most suitable for a business setting are highlighted and others are downplayed. I love my jeans and flip flops on the weekend, but that doesn’t mean I wear them to work. Same goes for the online world. Everything that I say online is my own true thought, but they are just snippets of the whole me, just one color out of the Crayon box.

I’ve also taken this concept a step further online. I have decided that, for me, LinkedIn is the online equivalent of office Lindsay. Twitter is happy hour Lindsay–still professional, but a bit more casual. Facebook is weekend Lindsay so I don’t use it for work. The challenge is when people begin to not like their own persona. That’s when it becomes fake and not a true representation of yourself. I am thankful this isn’t a problem for me, but I can sense when other people don’t believe or don’t like the front they’re putting on. It’s important that these other yous are still YOU. Being genuine is key.

The best “me” for the situation
Identifying who I am in different situations allows me to bring out the parts of my personality that are best suited for each of those situations. It means not cursing at the office. It means not pestering my LinkedIn contacts with drivel about my day that my Facebook friends are more willing to suffer through. That way the people who interact with me in each of those places know what to expect from me. In the workplace this helps me be seen as dependable.

So keep your work persona clean, but don’t be afraid to let loose with an F-bomb in the comfort and safety of your car. As long as you’re not carpooling.

Image Credit: Idol via Flickr