Archive for the ‘social media’ Category

Flickr credit: Jason Howie

Flickr credit: Jason Howie

I don’t get it. Every other day, one of my LinkedIn contacts endorses me for a skill. Sometimes it’s marketing, strategy, entrepreneurship, media relations and other times it’s “social media.” But why? Social media isn’t a skill, it’s a medium. It would be like typing “hammer” into my profile and saying I’m good at that. What does it mean to be good at hammer? Nothing. I can be a clever carpenter, I could be a fabulous furniture maker, I could be an incredible handywoman… all of them use hammers, but would you describe them as being good at hammering?

Let me repeat it: social media isn’t a skill, it’s a medium. It’s a medium that everyone can wield. Skills and abilities I think I’m proficient at that help me use online sharing tools to my advantage are:

  • Confidence. When we put something out there, we put it out to the world. Those who waffle on the content they’ve shared fail.
  • Thoughtfulness. Content is king, it always will be. Thoughtfulness includes being plugged into your audience and knowing what they like. Sometimes, wielding your social media tool is sharing your cat lounged out in a funny position, sometimes it’s having something intelligent to say about a political candidate you’re supporting. But if you always post about kittens and try to throw a politician into the mix… fail. Unless, of course, you find a cat who does a great impression of said politician.
  • Consistency. This ties into my point above. Consistently posting and commenting on the topics you wish to be engaged in (and also associated with) is important, but it’s also one of the toughest skills to cultivate. We get bored, we want to stir things up as individuals, yet humans generally dislike change and being taken by surprise.
  • Clarity. Knowing what it is you’re trying to say and being capable of communicating this in the least amount of words possible. Very few people will read a novel online unless they’ve downloaded it from the Kindle store. Short, succinct.
  • Analytical. Checking your stats without becoming obsessed with them is another skill to apply to social media use. Learning when to care about your follower count vs how many people liked your last instagram of that ridiculous bacon wrapped cupcake you bought goes a long way. But before you can care about your stats, you need to know your objectives. Are you just having fun (at which point you can skip being analytical)? Or are you attempting to accomplish something specific?
  • Ethical/true to our purpose. If all we cared about were likes and clicks on our content, all we would post would be what people like most. The problem here is that sometimes this information isn’t aligned with our original objectives. Letting the masses guide you isn’t the wisest long-term strategy. Look at some of the stories that end up as the top headlines for traditional media. They post it because eyeballs sell–even if they’re selling crap.
  • Leadership. Social media gives us the microphone. Do you turn it on the audience? Or use your space wisely to connect, share and lead people to something that’s made their day better?
  • Listening. Stand up on a soap box in the middle of a busy street and see how many people you can get to listen to what you have to say. Or, set up your own bistro table and invite people to have a conversation with you. You listen, they listen. Which is more successful for having your message heard?
  • Creativity. Flash mobs are over. Trends start and end faster than the road runner can say, “Meep, meep.” Being creative with how you use this medium, finding original content to share or putting your own spin on a related topic helps you stand out from the masses. Do you post the infamous photo of your perfectly manicured toes at the beach? Or do you build a sandcastle and use it instead?
  • Genuine. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be the person online that people would meet offline. If you’re going to tear into someone from your Twitter account, be sure you’d be willing to do it to their face as well. Same goes for saying nice things about people. In fact, if you say something nice online, take extra care to say it offline too.
  • Open-minded. There are a lot of things we don’t know, a lot of perspectives we haven’t thought of and a lot of triggers that other people have. Keeping an open-mind and a willingness to consider new information as it becomes available keeps us fresh, respectful and relevant to the conversations we’re having and the communities we’re a part of.
  • Quit selling/Don’t be creepy. Conversations are not for selling. They’re for conversing. Do you remember that friend who tried to sell you that product they represent at that last BBQ you both attended? You totally bought it, didn’t you? How about that mortgage broker who followed you last month because you mentioned the word mortgage? Did you call him up and asked for a mortgage? No, because it was creepy. Alternatively, if you were talking to a dentist about golf and not your teeth, the next time you needed a dentist, who would you think of?

What would you put on your list? What makes you a savvy social media user?

 

Listen to an audio recording of this blog post here:

IMG_3604 1

Oh what a view!

A couple of weeks ago, I was staying in this ridiculous mansion out at Sylvan Lake. No, it wasn’t mine (someday!). I had been invited out for the weekend by a friend to enjoy some time off lakeside. As is my custom, I found myself in a debate with one of the other house guests. The topic? Relationship selling.

See, the conversation began around clubs, networks and the likes and your reasons for joining them. Are you in a networking club just so you can “sell”  your goods or services? Are you there to meet friends and like-minded people? Her point, relationship selling doesn’t work. My point, the only way human beings function is through relationships, so of course relationship selling works. It’s all “relative” anyway. To which she responded, “So, everyone is in a relationship with somebody or to something… that advice doesn’t help anyone.”

She’s right of course, that piece of information isn’t something immediately actionable by anybody. But for me, it IS the key to understanding the intricacies of relationship and just how subtle successful relationship selling is. (Tip: social media/relationship selling… same deal). It’s the most important point to understand. My goal was not to provide the magic formula for relationship selling, it was to communicate that everything we perceive about our world is only done in relation to something else. So in that sense, we are in a constant and evolving relationship to one another.

I used to cringe when the word “sales” came up in a conversation. To me, it meant trying to convince the person in front of me to purchase my goods or services in this moment. It was my job to onboard you. If I couldn’t close in the short-term, I had failed. You can imagine the inner turmoil when I thought of bringing that style of selling into my relationships. It’s very easy for friends to start looking like walking dollar signs. It’s why network marketing often has a bad rep.

I run into a myriad of people who still hold that perception of sales. Get rid of it. It won’t help you today, tomorrow or the day after that.

Relationship selling is simple, it’s just not easy and it takes time. It requires a consistency to your approach and doesn’t stop when you leave the office. It consists of building a genuine rapport with the person you’re speaking with, caring enough about them to establish whether your goods or service will be helpful and being confident enough to accept their answer of yay or nay without making it about you. Oh, and we can’t forget timing. But that’s not always something we can predict.

The other side to this is that your relationships follow you everywhere. Relationship selling doesn’t stay at the office. It’s how you approach your clients, your friends, your family, your networking groups, your online interactions – everything. It’s knowing that you can never predict when a business relationship will collide with you at a personal event. Or when your friend refers you to a client. Or that guy you’re working in the kitchen with up in the oilfields ends up as the business partner you didn’t even know you were looking for.

See, relationship selling is all about the impression you leave with people. It starts the moment you converse. It also requires being clear and upfront about your intentions. Successful relationship selling leaves room for either party to say yes or no and to have their decision respected. And it’s an approach that works with friends, family, coworkers, current and potential clients and any other person you come into contact with. Just rinse and repeat with every relationship and you’re golden.

How do I know? It’s how I’ve learned to operate sustainably. And it’s working.

That’s it. So, if you aren’t haven’t much success with relationship selling, consider:

  1. Re-evaluating your sense of what it means to “sell”. It may not work in terms of relationships.
  2. Do a self-audit on the relationships in your life. Are they supporting you? Or are they hindering you? Oh, and sometimes relationship selling is about ending the relationships (or at least changing their terms) when they aren’t serving you or the other party.

Takeaway: Be genuine. Be transparent. Be helpful where you can be. And always look for the opportunity that is mutually beneficial. Added emphasis on mutually.

Oh Twitter. Not a blog post goes by that I don’t mention it, but it’s just so damned interesting! What makes it even more interesting is the fact that I have my first name as my handle. Yep, I’m @Wendy. It wasn’t really a problem at first. When the local Calgary Twitter community was at a stage where most people remembered your Twitter handle rather than your real name, I didn’t have to worry. Everyone already knew it!

As the service became more popular, random users would discover that there was in fact a girl in Calgary using the @Wendy handle. They’d tag their friend, I’d answer. They’d talk about Peter Pan, I’d answer. For awhile, I think I had a bit of a following in Indonesia. Don’t ask me why, I couldn’t tell you, but I swear every other follower was from there.

One day back in 2010, I discovered this restaurant chain was using Twitter as well. You may have heard of them before…

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 10.10.27 PM

I quite enjoyed answering tweets for people mistaking my account over the years. All it takes is that little apostrophe, and you get me.

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 10.18.13 PM

And if you didn’t catch this recent news item

The restaurant chain isn’t the only one I receive mentions of, whenever anyone puts a space in the account for @wendywilliams, who do think subsequently get’s a flood of “how YOU doin!“?

I did make a random friend in Chicago thanks to Wendy Williams though, my Twitter pal Sid followed me accidentally think I was Wendy Williams, decided I was still pretty cool (even if I am Canadian) and continued to follow me anyway.

And then there was the time I was the devil’s spawn…

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 10.35.14 PM

There’s some good that comes out of being @Wendy at least… I make people happy when I tweet them! The following was sooo meant for me, right?

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 10.36.46 PM

I can’t deny that my life isn’t all that dull to begin with. But being the only @Wendy on Twitter? It adds an entirely new layer of interesting.

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 10.46.33 PM

I’ve even got my own fan club.

Photo Credit: Paull Young

Photo Credit: Paull Young

Way back when I started going to meetups explaining what this social media stuff was all about, there was one important message that I kept hearing over and over. In its simplest form, the message is this:

Social media is nothing more than word of mouth.

That’s it. It’s not about Pinterest or Twitter or Instagram or blogging or YouTube or any of the other mediums out there. It’s simply word of mouth. And those who are good at getting people to interact with them, to create stories and experiences with them and share these with others… those are the true social media practitioners.

If you have a blog or a website and you’re trying to use social tools to drive more traffic to your website, you are NOT employing social media, you’re building an audience. It’s not bad, they’re just two different things.

If I put a pen in your hand, does it make you a writer? A poet? An artist? Or just a person holding a pen?

So, before you say you want to engage in social media, define first what it is you’re hoping to accomplish. And then know that just because you’re sharing information through online channels, it doesn’t mean you’re engaging in social media. It means you’re broadcasting, answering questions, delivering customer service. The social media part comes when your audience, customers, friends, whoever, become a part of what you’re building. They take ownership for having an influence over your brand and they do so simply by sharing.

Social media isn’t new. It isn’t a tool. It’s a technique. And when applied correctly using tools, either online or off, it’s a more powerful force than any we could hope to harness individually. Because the whole is greater than the sum of its part, it’s impossible for social media to exist without a community behind it.

 

There’s a common misconception that social media is a cheap or free way to get your message out there. Many of us thought that at first. After all, there aren’t many barriers to its use, most platforms and apps at least have a free version available. When you come from a land where the monetary bottom line counts the most, sure, the use of online social tools might look like your free ticket to even more eyeballs. Except… they’re not.

When I lived in corporate Calgary land as the Electronic Communications Advisor at ATCO, we ran a contest for the 2010 Olympics. It was also our first opportunity to play around with social media. We had a Facebook page, I got the Twitter account up and running and we signed up for some listening tools with Radian6. We didn’t have much lead up time to building our audience before we launched the contest. And guess what? The social media bits were a flop. Sure, it felt warm and fuzzy to be able to post about all of the kids we were sending to Vancouver for a day, but what did it really do in terms of contest submissions and at connecting with a larger audience? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

In a larger context, it was a huge success. It was the first toe dip in the online social water for a major Calgary company. And overall, the response from those we did connect with was positive. Having Radian6 in place during the campaign helped me garner a lot of the data I needed to show our management team the types of conversations that were happening online directly related to our brand. Not our competitors, not some other company, but US. Yes, in this context, big success. But… do you know the hours and the fight I put in over the years to get that in place? And during the campaign, all of the time setting up the profiles and condensing the information into something they’d understand? I’d look at tag clouds, rivers of information, growing keywords and I could see the trends and get a decent picture of what was going on. But then again, I lived it, ate it and breathed it. If it’s going to be of any use at all, you have to.

Social media is NOT cheap. And it’s not low-budget either. It works in two scenarios. You either need the dollars to buy someone’s time to invest in listening or you need your own time to invest. And depending on who you are or what your organization is, it might not be the right fit for you. Do the evaluation. Make the smart choice on whether your time is better spent navigating this world and ensuring all of your current processes are running as efficiently as possible, or if it’s time to amplify your message. You might have bigger fish to fry first.

Remember. You first. Your health and well-being. Then that of your company/nonprofit/organization, this includes the employees, volunteers, customers and so on. If you’re all good in the offline world, move forward into the online world. But never, ever, ever to the detriment of your day-to-day operations. The internet amplifies. And if you’ve got problems, it makes them worse (Note: There are scenarios where we’re forced into online conversations in a time of crisis, but that’s the exception to this post). Or if things are coming along swimmingly, more will come your way. That’s just how it works. And you’ll still need a plan and a team and resources in place. Real resources. Time and money to ensure things continue to go well and you’ve got the support you require to handle the growth.

So, not free. Not low-budget. And definitely not to be taken with a grain of salt.