Archive for the ‘Web dos and donts’ 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?

 

blogging

blogging (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Oh Twitter. I went without you for 90 days (sort of). And now I’m back on and following all my old peeps and remembering just how hyped so many things are in your little echo chamber of a text land.

For instance, I saw a tweet with the headline from a recent Social Media Examiner piece, it read: “Research Shows Blogging A Top Focus For Marketers.” That’s great news for writers and bloggers alike. It means if you’ve been trying to make your living off of blogging, soon you might just be able to do it! Blogger for XYZ company could actually be a thing.

The crappy part about the Twitter echo chamber and a lot of online advice is people often forget to tell you how much damned work it is to get that blog up and running, get people reading it, get your company all on the same page of what’s actually going to go up and what’s going to be helpful. Big business gets it. But little mom and pop shop may very well just read the headline and think it’s time to get a blog!

And just like they got a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a Pinterest page, an Instagram account, a Tumblr and a YouTube channel, it too will sit empty.

The long and short of it is, all this content creation stuff… you know, the fuel you need to fill your online pipeline… it’s a shit ton of work. Remember how much it took just to get your business off the ground? Yeah. A full and robust online presence is like doing that all over again.

So while it’s nice and fluffy to think a blog is going to solve all of your problems, get more traffic through your door and more money into your cash register, it’ll be about as successful as opening your store before you’ve even shopped for your product if you don’t approach it with a long-term vision.

But if you insist on doing it anyway…

  1. Decide how often you can blog WITHOUT taking away from your IGA, no not the grocery store, your income generating activities.
  2. Decide what you’re trying to accomplish by publishing and keeping up a blog. Are you educating your customers? Sharing company updates and news? If you can’t figure this out, please for the love of all things holy, don’t start a blog. If some brainiac told you it would get you to the top of Google, don’t start a blog. If you think it’ll make you look cool and with it, don’t start a blog.
  3. Before you start publishing, make an outline of posts and topics you can create for the first 4-5 posts.
  4. If you can afford it, hire an SEO person to do some research for you on some likely keywords you can target. Give him or her bonus points if they can teach you how to research these yourself over the long-term.
  5. DON’T pay a web designer to make you a website for $5,000. Just open a free Blogger, TypePad, WordPress, etc. site, grab a template and get going. If you want a custom template, spend $80 on one. That’s all you need.

One more thing… if nobody reads your blog, it’s ok. They don’t read mine either. The first month I wrote Spirit of the Wench, I had 1 unique visitor. Yep. 1. Just keep at it. Consistency is key.

Good luck!

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.

Chinese shoes for bound feet, The Children's M...

Chinese shoes for bound feet, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Don’t put it on!

There are  plenty of tips and tricks and best practices out there. And they come from very well-meaning people who’ve likely had some rate of success with them. But here’s the thing, just like we tie our shoes differently, whip up our favourite guacamole with different ingredients, or communicate with our friends, relations and customers in different ways, so to should we each be finding our own way to flex our social media muscles.

So, tip #1: It’s good to try out new tactics and strategies, but if it just doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to abandon it. It doesn’t matter who the tip is coming from.

Social media users from any network are pretty savvy people. They can smell a fake from miles away. And they’ll be the first to notice  if you’re doing something that’s just not natural for you. So if the shoe don’t fit… go try on a different pair.

So… did you read my last rant post? Yeah, a mere two minutes after publishing, what should I check? Facebook. And what should I find? A tag pointing me toward my friend Reg’s post about his first ever podcast that has no name yet with Lonnie Taylor. And… it’s really interesting.

*foot in mouth*

At least I’ll admit it. :p

Now… go listen to it (and not just because they talk about me in it.)