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gplusscreenshotkelly Obviously, most people just want to be connected with their friends online and aren’t that particular about the format of that connection. That means that most of the 1 billion active users on Facebook are fine with it, thank you very much. The same goes for the 240 million on LinkedIn, the 560 million on Twitter etc.

But some of us care about a richer media experience, safer, more private sharing methods, and easier discovery of great content by specific groups of people we care about. And – most important for business – we also want our the stuff we share to positively influence Google search results, which is still the number one way that the world discovers new things.

For those of us, Google+ is a better social channel with the very best mobile app of all social networks, but it’s missing an essential ingredient: the friend network we have built on the other networks, like Facebook, for most of a decade.

Google+ is a Replacement for Facebook

Google Plus is a powerful sharing network but, until most of our local and familiar peeps are there, we don’t think of it as very social. And really, in that sense, it’s not yet and may not be for a long time. giphy

However, because of how it’s built, I discover and share considerably more content and share it with specific private groups or people like my wife, my clients, my business community and, yes, the public.

Google+ encourages sharing in a way that no other network does and that makes it the best network to put at the centre of my sharing activity.

A Little App That Connects Your Networks

I know it’s not always cool to share the same content across all networks but, for small and medium-sized businesses who don’t have the resources to optimize for the nuanced differences between social networks, sometimes it is. More often now people are focusing on one network more than others and not taking fault with finding the same content in more than one place.

Following is an interview with the Founder of Friendsplus.me, Alois B?la ka, on why he wanted to share to all from his one favourite network and how it is meant to be used:

Friendsplus.me is a simple online service that connects all of my major social networks and posts everything I share with the Public to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and more. I can create a custom, automatic, re-sharing schedule for each network, manually reshare to specific networks with a simple hashtag protocol, or just have everything reshared a few minutes after I post it to Google+.

friendsplusme_sharechart (6)For now, I still use Buffer to schedule posts – except I only share to one account: Google+. I let Friendsplus.me take it from there.

Making Up For the Duplication

Once your content is on another channel you can always edit it a bit by asking a specific person on that channel a related question, tagging a few people, or adding or removing hashtags from the post. Most importantly, you’ll still get notified and pulled into conversations that emerge on a specific network.

So the origin of where you posted originally really doesn’t matter a whole lot. For the most part, I have abandoned Hootsuite for everything except listening. That kind of engagement is still important but getting the content on all networks in the first place has become a lot easier and Hootsuite is not our preferred method anymore.

I don’t expect everyone to jump on this but for those who already know the superior value of Google+, this simple little service makes it easy to make Plus the centre of your sharing activity without causing you to lose the social networks you’ve built elsewhere.

Do you think Google+ is important to your company yet? How are you using it?

The concept of a brand is abused as a marketing term, misused as a weapon to sell fear to businesses, and ignored as unimportant or secondary to the real goals of a business.

The emergence of social is reviving old issues that plague businesses everywhere and provide obstacles to clear direction and focus.

Misconceptions:

  • UX or User Experience is not the graphical interface on your software product, website, or blog. It is the actual experience a user has when they have contact with your product, people, and messages. Your users are sharing their experiences with your business. Are you listening and contributing to the brand they’re building for you.
  • Your logo is not your brand. It is a universally identifiable piece of it. Because social is a human relationship, your logo often isn’t even seen when people are talking about your company. We have all talked about companies and movements whose logos we have never seen. Get over it.
  • Business Development is not sales. Business development is the constant iteration of your product or service with your customer as the main input into what you become. You are solving their problems, no? It’s a lot easier to sell to the guy who helped build the product.

You feed it, you contribute to it, and you make your case for why people should see your brand the way you want it to be seen. But the “experiencer” of your brand decides what it is and they will share their interpretation of it.

Everyone in a business has a the responsibility of continually making the case for positive interpretations of the brand in line with the needs and goals of the consumer. Good brand building starts with open leadership inside and outside the company.

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When a client asked me last week, the 10th person this year, if I could help them draft a social media policy for their company, I was very surprised. Not because she is another client who wanted a policy, but because her company only had 3 employees. Aren’t expectations for conduct and communications easy to explain in a company that small?

My answer to her came in the form of the list attached (links to the right) and a version of the explanation below.social-media-policy-DL-pdf

I have helped larger companies draft and customize social media policies before and have often felt something like this simple list might be the best solution. But when a communications crisis happens, companies want evidence that they made their best efforts to protect themselves and they often reach for what they know: a legal document and a version for the employee handbook.

Culture Spreads The Policy

The culture in any business communicates any given policy. Small businesses have an advantage because the culture is often more intimate and the expectations and parameters better understood through the close familiarity of its members. social-media-policy-DL-jpeg

But larger businesses who don’t have that advantage are not necessarily better off relying on a method other than culture. By making the expectations accessible, simple, and easy to explain, big businesses and small make it a lot more likely that their policies will be followed and culturally supported. While legal documents may provide protection in a crisis, an understood policy might prevent one.

For this reason, I created such a simple, common sense, social media policy and saved it in formats for download that you can print and staple to a common wall in the office, if necessary. I wanted it to be readable by most in under 30 seconds and read repeatedly by the keeners. If at least a few people in an organization know it well, it might spread and become part of the culture.

Why These 10 Points?

I would have made it 4 points if I could, but when I finished the 10 and re-read it looking for redundancies, I couldn’t pick one to take out. Here’s why each point is included:

1. Be kind.

Is there any more important civic duty than this? In life and in business. If your employees find it difficult to be kind to other people, do you really want them on your team? And when it comes to a crisis, kindness can be easily identified and appreciated.

2. You are a person first, an employee second.

This is a hard one for many business leaders to agree to but I feel it is absolutely necessary. People don’t pay attention to brands the way they pay attention to people so if you don’t let your people be themselves online, who is going to pay attention to anything your brand has to say? Encourage your people to be themselves and to talk about the things that get themselves charged up about their company and their jobs, naturally.

3. Spend most of your time listening and liking, not posting.

I might have made this shorter by just simply saying: LISTEN. But there’s a bit more that needs to be said, the most important being “stop worrying about what to post”. Liking what other people do and simply paying attention to people who matter to the company is the basic fabric that keeps you on people’s minds and thinking positively about your company. And it takes pressure off people who might think they need to be posting and commenting heavily to show their worth on these channels.

4. Expectations for professional conduct are the same online as offline.

This is my favourite cover-all statement. Maybe it should have been the first or the last on the list. To me, it basically undermines the thinking that expectations of my conduct are different on social media because those are my personal accounts and my personal time. What people forget is that, before social media, questionable conduct was still questionable, it just wasn’t often recorded and shared. It is now. [Tweet this]

5. Do not embarrass or disparage the company.

The fear of what employees might say keeps corporate networks locked down even when freeing them could be so beneficial to the business. Many companies, if they knew this one rule would be followed perfectly, might open the floodgates for social media use in the workplace right now

6. Do not share private or confidential information.

…for others, this is the rule that matters the most to them. Especially government. In many cases, it’s not even the intentional sharing of private or confidential information that they fear, it’s the accidental sharing. And that is what leads us to point #7…

7. Understand your privacy settings but know that any post can accidentally become public.

giphy 2Accidents happen but people need to be responsible for knowing what happens to the information they share. A healthy fear of sharing something inappropriate isn’t all bad. It’s that same fear that locks down our mouths from asking women “when they’re due” or a gentleman where he got his toupée. And in most organizations, sharing confidential information is grounds for termination and “oops” doesn’t usually count as an excuse or a remedy.

8. Pay attention to and support your colleagues’ posts.

Businesses who use social media to good effect build communities around their brands. So why would anyone want to be part of your community if you aren’t a community yourselves? Your team needs to be at the centre of your brand community; talking to each other, liking each other’s content, and demonstrating the things you share in common. The thinking could be that, if you ignore a co-worker you’ll probably ignore me, too, if I follow your posts. Just be people who know and like each other, just as you do in the offline world.

9. Be mindful of the reputation you are creating.

For you and your company. The things you share, say, and even like all reflect on the reputation you build. It’s important to consider how online activities can be an influence and whether or not that influence is desirable. Think before you share.

10. Be yourself.giphy

Being an authentic person who isn’t just a mouthpiece for a company is so important that I couldn’t possibly take it off the list. Influencers are essential for businesses to grow their brands and sales using social media. In the early days especially, employees are the most readily available people you have to grow into influencers. By not letting them be themselves, their sword is dull and their voice silenced.

Attach Your Strategy

Another last suggestion I have is to share your social engagement strategy, or an “express” version of it, with the whole crew. If all employees know what the desired outcomes are and how they’ll be measured, that transparency alone can be very engaging and they can each do their small part to support it. Keeping this information in a silo is really a lost opportunity.

Turn this stuff into a legal document if you need to but make sure the policy is this easy to communicate or people won’t be mindful of it.

Does your company have a social media policy? A social engagement strategy?

 

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Influencers get the word out with the same reach and authority that TV, radio, newspapers, and flyers did in the former media era. It is through people sharing that things spread now.

Sharing = Audience. Audience can become community. Your community becomes your brand. [Tweet this]

I think a lot of marketers and owners would like to go back to the day when you could buy advertising and expect sales from it. Like a “coin operated” process. It never really was that simple but we think it was because things seem way more complicated now than they were.

We need to build networks, manage online accounts for our brands and ourselves, create content or at least find some good stuff to share, and we need to measure all of this. That’s heavy.

Focus on People

So, to make it simple, the focus of any social brand needs to be on building a community. Losing that focus usually means falling back into a “buy and broadcast” way of thinking that isn’t just backwards, it will most often damage a brand.

When the focus is on building a brand community, then making people happy, answering their questions and responding to their ideas, and making sure they feel involved become the priorities. Social networks just become the efficient tools to do it. We should because we can. And also because consumers, increasingly, expect it.

Advertising Takes a Back Seat To Advocates

All we hear about in social media marketing circles is about managing advertisements. Facebook, Google, Linkedin, and even Twitter (in a big way this year!).

But advertising is a shot in the dark. It’s an appeal to people that you have limited reason to believe care about your company or what you do. In contrast, an advocate is someone who has repeatedly engaged and influenced your community and likely loves what you do and is ready to support you with sharing and community support.

An Influencer can mean so much more than an advertisement in this word-of-mouth world that to invest in advertising over the people who like you already will become increasingly ludicrous as business communications matures into the 21st century.

Influencers Have Skin In The Game

Declaring that your supporters matter used to be smart PR. Now it’s a “duh” statement on its way to becoming a cliché. In the coming years it will become apparent that no brand will thrive without influencers and advocates and no communications strategy will get out of the gate without a plan to make them happy and to orient growth plans toward their needs.

Does that sound lofty? Get ready for it. Influencers are influencing your market and your brand whether you’re aware of it or not. They have an interest in pursuing a certain outcome, vitality, or preservation of your marketplace or your business and you can endear them to your brand, annoy them, or just not matter at all. It’s up to you. This is what social business is all about.

Do you know who your influencers are and what makes them care about you?

Every once in a while, it’s a smart idea to take a few minutes to see ourselves through the eyes of people we hope will hire us.

That may sound very elementary and obvious but many – in fact most – of our clients are surprised and fascinated when we research and describe their current online presence to them at the start of a project. It’s not the market data or sharing trends that catch their attention, it’s the basic stuff anyone can recognize by simply searching for your company like your customer would.

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So do that. If you think most of your customers are going to find you on Facebook, search Facebook and follow the path you think they will follow. If it’s Twitter they’ll find you on, search there. But make sure your search includes a Google search because that is still the #1 way the world discovers new things online.

Community or Promo?

Two things that matter most for you to look for are:

1. Do you find a community? Are OTHER people talking about you, sharing your stuff and saying nice things about your business or are search results finding only your own corporate marketing materials? Other people validate our existence and our value online and provide the tentacles into the social world where we want to be. This is called social proof, specifically the ‘multiple source effect’.

2. Is it obvious how people can contact you and do business with you? You need to know what you want people to do when they find you and make sure they can easily do that. Contacting you is an obvious list topper.

Checking In Is Important

There’s a lot of advice available to fix what you find when you do a simple search like this but you need to start with these periodic checks. Your online profile changes over time depending on how people interact with your content, interact with your competitors content, and even in how they look for you. Check in occasionally so you know.

Next week: do the same search for your competitors.

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Facebook does not drive direct sales, contrary to the hopes and ambitions of businesses everywhere. It is primarily a marketing tool, and the sooner your company realizes this, the sooner your strategy for engagement will put Facebook in its rightful place.

Facebook is useful for 3 things

1. Branding

Facebook is primarily a tool meant to keep relationships healthy and positive in a social world. Because so many use Facebook and, to some, Facebook IS the internet, just being available on Facebook is a simple step that makes sense.

As a branding tool, Facebook, like every other social media platform, allows you to influence your reputation by sharing content you would like to be associated with and by earning commentary and engagement that influences the sentiment around your brand. As the famous video asks, do you like what people are saying about your brand?

Word of Mouth Marketing on Facebook-resized-600

2. Marketing

If you’re willing to pay for it, Facebook advertising can help you reach new potential community members (customers and clients, if the stars align). It’s advertising and analytics platform is so robust and powerful that you can be very specific about who you want to reach with your posts.

And paying for it is the ONLY way to reach new people on Facebook anymore. It used to be that if you had 1000 people like your brand page, 1000 people would see what you post. Not anymore.

Facebook was not built for when things get noisy – with 1 billion+ people on Facebook, the average user would see over 1500 items in their news feed every hour if Facebook didn’t filter it for you. So if you want people to see your stuff, you need to pay Facebook.

Of course, good marketing drives sales. Otherwise, why engage in it? Retail businesses, especially, report significant sales growth from effective Facebook use. But marketing is primarily about generating awareness and demand for what you sell, not selling it on the spot. Because people don’t go to Facebook with buying in mind, calling on people to buy on Facebook isn’t super effective.

3. Building relationships

As far away as most businesses are from understanding that building relationships with customers is THE great gift that social media has introduced to modern communications, it is. And Facebook is a great tool for liking people’s stuff, commenting on it, and generally participating in the lives of others. If you’re not doing this, you should ask yourself what is social about your media strategy.

Facebook is a relationship and reputation building tool, primarily for consumer-focused businesses. In most cases, Facebook isn’t a lead generating platform (Pinterest and Linkedin are) and it is limited in how effective it is at helping new people discover you (Google+ and Twitter are).

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Facebook is now the great social forum where businesses can get to know their communities and build a social reputation. Budgets and expectations should be built around this understanding.

How social is your business on Facebook?

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What is sharability? It’s the “X factor” of a piece of content that makes people what to share it. Sharability is the ingredient that must exist in every piece of content you share or you are wasting your time/investment.

In the olden days of traditional advertising in a newspaper or on a billboard, it was all about broadcasting your message. People selling ad placements would get you to play the numbers game. If their readership was 100,000 people, maybe 1,000 people would notice your ad, maybe 100 would care and maybe 10 would call. So if advertising in that paper will get you 10 leads, advertising in 2 more similar papers would get you 30. (I’m making these ratios up just to make my point).

Back then, exposure was the key. It was about broadcasting and it was as good as it got.

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Social Business Is Niche and Targeted

In a social media world, if people don’t share your content, no new people see your content [tweet this]. It just sits there and you either:

  1. pay someone like Facebook to show it to more people, or
  2. people who see it share it with their networks.

Those are your two options for exposure.

But when that sharing occurs, it should resonate. If the first few people were compelled to share it, chances are a few of the people who they shared it to will also consider it share-worthy  (and so on and so on…)

We want to know: In your business, do you know what kind of content your target audience likes to share?

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I, personally, love brands. I can feel them the way I can feel a person and they make me happy.

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We feel a brand when we encounter a “thing” – an organization or grouping of people. We have opinion and emotion that we attach to every brand we encounter, the same way we do with every person we encounter, like it or not.

Try this: imagine your most significant other. What is your opinion of them, in your own private words? How do you feel when you think of them?

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Now think of the company that built your car or the church you went to when you were 12 years old or the french class you took at the community college 7 years ago. You have an opinion of each of those and you feel a unique way about each one. Right?

They are brands. They are how you mark and label your life’s memories both in your head and in your heart. They are not cold, faceless corporations.

They are collections of people that do things just like individual people do.

Why You Should Love Brands Too

That’s how I see brands and I love them because they are important. The Catholic Church was an ever present brand in the early part of my life. I definitely have unique thoughts and feelings about the church that are mine but are influenced by my experiences with the church. The same is true for my high school, each of my employers and projects I’ve been part of.

 

 

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You already love brands – and you probably hate some of them too. But without them you have no labels to apply to yourself.

So here’s what I think this means for your business:

How people think and feel about your brand belongs to them. The only thing you can do is make sure every experience they have with your brand is the best you can give.

How do you think most people experience your brand?

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Do you remember how you felt when, as a kid, your teacher would wheel the TV trolley into the classroom to show you a video? That was exciting! A change of pace, a new voice, and a story told in a medium we were in love with.

And it was a shared experience. It turns out that storytelling, especially through a visual, “moving picture” medium like video, TV, or film is how we see things in our minds so they speak to us in our most natural language (see video below).

Enter the Storytelling Experts

That’s what we are going to talk about with Learn members on Wednesday night in a live online conversation between our November Mentor On-Call Greg Hemmings, and acclaimed (and TIFF award-winning) movie producer, director, and writer Gia Milani (short bio below).

Based on the Learn lesson Moving Pictures: Storytelling and the Power of Video, Greg and Gia will discuss what makes a great story and how they can be discovered in what we think are the most routine activities of our lives.

And since we’re talking about storytelling for businesses, we’re going to make this very relevant:

  • What can make a story – any story – interesting and engaging.
  • What makes a story worth talking about and sharing.
  • What makes a story sharable?
  • What to avoid when telling a great story.
  • Why every brand has great stories to tell and big budgets aren’t necessary to tell them.

Sign up to join in the event . If you’re not a Learn member, become one and request to join the private Learn community on Google+. We’ll make sure you are reminded before the event. And if you have never joined a hangout before, you’ll be able to watch the hangout live, just like Strombo :)

About Gia Milani

Gia Milani is an acclaimed moviemaker/storyteller from New Brunswick who loves to support other artists at home and abroad when she can. To better tell her story, here are a few stories others have told about her:

Why Your Brand Stories Are Best Told Through Video

The most recent blog post that Greg has written for Learn members can be found here. It’s a great perspective on storytelling and it’s told through his observations as an attendee of two awards galas this past month. Check it out.

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Great content that companies create, often at significant expense of either time or money or both, is meant to be shared, celebrated, and attractive to people the business wants in their brand community. Two of those three hopes – having the content shared and celebrated – are tied to the sharing strategy.

So how the content is shared determines the ROI of the content more than the content itself and should be considered before the content is even created. Please let me explain.

1. Brand content is meant to be shared.hootsuite-funnel-makes-it-easy-to-track-leads

Companies should always be curating content that they hope their target clients will love. But the content that a company creates and owns is the powerful stuff that pulls the consumer into the brand’s website and hopefully into their lead generation funnel. The only way to reach new people who will care about this great nugget of value that you have created for them is for it to be shared by your supporters with new people.

So how do make sure your content gets shared? You need to create content they will love and you need to share it on the social channels that they use, when they use it, and in a way that earns their interest in short order.

You can’t make anyone share your content – or at least you certainly shouldn’t. So your only alternative is to share content they’ll care about and in a way they’ll feel compelled to pass it on. That is how you’ll reach new people.

Before you make a video, draw an infographic, or write an article you need to know where, when, how, and by whom it will be shared with the world so you can make sure the content you create fits the channels, characters, and style that people will associate with it. How you share and what you share go hand in hand.

2. Brand content should be good enough to celebrate.

By celebrate I mean that it earns the attention and care of others to the point that it gets them to think, talk, and like it publicly. If you post a piece of content and it just makes me smile inside and move onto the next post in my feed, that’s not much of a celebration.

But if I read it, like it, +1 it and tell the world what I think of it in a comment I am celebrating that piece of content and grabbing the attention of people in my personal network as my expressions light up their news feeds. You want the people in your brand community to do that.

By now,  any business  that isn’t  building  a community  is likely  starting to wonder  how to reach & keep their  customers.

3. Brand content should be attractive to the people you hope to attract.

A great strategy can’t have a great outcome if the content it’s based on is uninteresting to the target audience. For example, Louis CK is an incredibly talented and beloved comedian, but a Louis CK video is simply not going to be shared and loved by people who are easily offended.

Know your target audience and dazzle them with stuff they’ll love. But don’t underestimate how important it is to plan how you will reach the people you hope to reach to bring them into your brand community and eventually, hopefully buy what you sell.

How you share your content is as important as the content itself.

Do you have a sharing strategy for the content you invest in?

Top Photo: Walt Disney shows Disneyland plans to Orange County officials, Dec. 1954. Disney was a legend in the world of content strategy decades ago.

Team

Jeff Roach

Jeff is our founder who is obsessed with culture change and connecting the people inside our client companies. Always learning and always teaching, lights turn on in Jeff

Chris London

Chris is our Sociallogical Learn leader and our Mentor of Mentors. As our first Community Manager Mentor (CMM), Chris leads the way in helping our clients and their teams understand and master the big shifts in business culture and supports our growing CMM Team.

Greg Fleet

Prior to joining the University of New Brunswick, Greg worked for over 14 years at Bell Northern Research (Nortel) in Ottawa as Senior User Experience Engineer within Design Interpretive.

Kelly Lawson

Kelly makes sure you are open for connections. Starting relationships is about being approachable, welcoming, and a potential friend. Online, that

Matt Reed

Web developer / enthusiast.

Sean McGrath

Web developer and Wordpress ninja.

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