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Listening & Engaging

3 Basic Steps To Make Your Business the Core of Your Community (And Why You Should)

The great little community that is the Hemmings House Team The people who work for your company need to be the core of your community, online and off, if you hope to build a community around your brand that draws people to you.

As a business, you are all together to build something you believe in. You work with people who you have something so in common with that you spend 40+ hours a week together doing it.

When people look for you online, what they need to find is your community, sharing and amplifying each other's content and talking with each other, like friends and colleagues do. Your social media community is the heavy lifter of your inbound marketing strategy. Trying to draw people to your brand without it is as unlikely to succeed as not advertising was back in business 1.0.

Here’s the basic Sociallogical prescription for building a brand community:

  1. Get your team online. Make sure they understand what social business is and how crucial it is to the future success of your business.
  2. Decide together, the staff and leaders of your business, how you are going to operate as your own community, publicly online for all to see and interact with.
  3. Build a community strategy that relies on the foundation of your own people socializing online with each other, with their own personal networks and activities.

This active community you build with your first line of stakeholders is the best social asset you have available to you. If you don’t socialize with each other, why would anyone else want to?

NOTE: The Photo above is the Hemmings House team, who we had the privelege of working with this year. A fantastic small company that is an attractive core for a growing and engaging community for their brand.

3 Reasons Why Social Media Is Here To Stay

An Inukshuk is a monument made of unworked stones that are used by the Inuit for communication and survival There is constant change in how we communicate and the players we have now - Facebook, Twitter, etc. - may not look like they do today for very long. But social media is a permanent fixture of the modern world and I'll tell you why I'm confident of this.

1. Ubiquitous Broadband

Big words that mean: high-speed internet is everywhere, including our pockets, and available to most of us. If we were still on dialup to connect to the internet then social media would be clumsy, sluggish, and few would want to use it. But, instead, most of us can have broadband and do. And it makes the networks and media available to us fast and powerful.

And it's only going to get faster, broader, and more mobile. The mobile speeds we are about to see in the next few years make even the fastest connections now available in the home pale in comparison. Soon there will be almost no delay between asking for something and getting it no matter where we find ourselves in the western world.

Unless broadband goes away, social media is here to stay.

2. Dirt Cheap Storage

Do you remember when storage was an issue? Do you remember what online storage even is? When I left university in the mid 1990s my laptop was able to hold less information than my Gmail account will now allow me to send in one email. The size of our hard drives were among the most important considerations when buying a new computer and just 15 years ago were commonly measured in units 1/1000000 of what we measure them in now.

Storage is so cheap now that it is a non-issue in the purchase of a new computer for most people and is being given away for free by the gigabyte. Google gives us over 7GB of storage for free - an amount I still have not yet been able to fill after over 10 years with my current Gmail account. Dropbox gives us 2 GB of free storage and many others do the same.

Have you ever paid YouTube to store and stream one of your home videos? Has last.fm or grooveshark.com dinged you because you downloaded or streamed too much data from their music servers? Storage used to be a barrier to using various forms of media and it's just not anymore. And since much of what we do on social media is share media, the limitlessness of storage is a big enabler.

Unless cheap storage goes away, social media is here to stay.

3. Superb Usability

Do you know why your parents and your kids use social media? Because they can. We used to argue about the challenges of building websites and user interfaces that people will use without confusion and frustration but that doesn't happen so much anymore. Some interfaces are better than others but we have learned a tremendous amount about what works and what doesn't in engaging users and making things easy and we're not likely to unlearn these skills anytime soon.

Facebook ate MySpace's lunch largely because it was more usable and intuitive. Twitter exploded into the mainstream because it is simple-simple and takes most people about 15 minutes to figure out (sure, it takes months for most to be comfortable with it but that's a cultural issue, not a usability one).

Unless we forget everything we've learned about how to build great human interfaces, social media is here to stay.

Social Business Is Also Here To Stay

The telephone found an important place in our business world and became an indispensable tool that connects people inside companies and with their customers and partners. Try to imagine dealing with a business that withholds the use of the telephone from its employees and refuses to give a phone number where you can reach them. I'm confident most people would refuse to do business with them.

And this will become the fate for any business who responds in a similar way to social media and their customers who demand to be served through it.

It won't happen overnight. In the early days of the telephone some businesses DID withhold the telephone from employees and considered it a distraction, not an enabler. So businesses can be forgiven for choosing a fear-based response to this new phenomenon in these early days.

But eventually consumers will only connect with businesses who are truly connecting. Talented people will only consider working for open, connected, and social corporations. Investors will only put their dollars in leadership and cultures that know how to build communities that show support with dollars and their networks.

Choose what changes you will make and when for your business. But do not make the mistake of hoping social business will go away. It won't. And based on the tremendous opportunities and benefits it provides us all, once we get past the culture shock and fear, no one should hope it does.

Am I overconfident in my prediction? Tell me how your business is making the shift or why you're not in the comments below.

Pinterest and the Fear of Rapid Change

How will you ever figure out what to do with social media when everything is constantly changing? Are the expectations and methods outdated before you get to use them? The breathtakingly rapid rise of a new social network this season, Pinterest, makes that fear acute for many clients I talk to.

According to TechCrunch earlier this month,

"It’s beautiful, it’s addictive, and now Pinterest is having its glorious hockey stick moment. TechCrunch has attained exclusive data from comScore showing Pinterest just hit 11.7 million unique monthly U.S. visitors, crossing the 10 million mark faster than any other standalone site in history."

Some are even saying that the visual nature of Pinterest is going to permanently challenge the attractiveness of blogs as desirable and sharable content for brand building.

3 months ago I had never heard of Pinterest. Had you?

Know What You Want to Accomplish

Social is more important than ever now as the world of business and communication changes faster and faster. By 'social' I don't mean social media business or any other buzzword.

What I mean is that when your goal is to build relationships with real people and bring them into your community to buy your products and feed your shared interests, you can't lose.

Evaluate every new platform, tool, and trend on its ability to accomplish this goal.

Is Pinterest Social?

Pinterest is a fantastic medium for curating visual content. It allows us to share content we like easily, so in that sense it is social.

But we don't talk to each other on Pinterest (yet) and that is a major drawback. When I get a notice that someone has shared my pin I can't thank them like I might on Twitter. There's no way to start a conversation based on something shared on Pinterest, unless it is fed into a more social channel like Facebook.

The point is that Pinterest is not scary and neither will any new social platform be if you learn how to build relationships and community online. Then new platforms are just new ways to connect and our online lives become easier and richer.

Does the constant change in social media scare you? Here are a few useful links if you'd like to know more about this explosive new phenomenon:

Relationships Begin With A Gift

A treat for a dog Relationships begin with a gift. It may be as small as a smile or a suggestion, but something is given so the other can reciprocate and the back and forth of relationship has begun.

It's no different when we go online and it is unreasonable for anyone to expect relationship to emerge without this interpersonal volley. When we retweet someone's post, comment on their article, tag them in a photo, or recommend them for their work, we are giving something of value to them that feeds a relationship and we all know it.

Think of how you feel when you get the message that "Arnold @Schwarzenegger favorited your Tweet". Even if the message comes from someone who works two floors down, that's a small gift that validates your choice to share something and draws you to that person.

Our Small Gifts

In our company we give things away all the time. We use the #learnsocial hashtag on Twitter and Google+, the Learn Social group on Linkedin, our Facebook page, and this blog to share articles, advice, and perspective that we hope our clients and partners will find useful and helpful to learn social business.

And today we are giving away a free intro course on social business:

We know that our learning environment creates a mentorship among a small group that is incredibly helpful for people who want to learn how to do business online. Our courses give the understanding and knowledge of this new medium and culture that tactics and strategy are built on.

And as we grow and develop our platform over the coming months, this free course will gain the new changes and features of the rest of our mentorship platform so visitors can see for themselves, with no risk, if the help of our community and knowledge might help them do business better.

Our free course isn't fancy, but it's got some great insight and knowledge as a sample of what someone will learn if they signup for our full course or one of the new courses that we are now building. This is just a small gift to those who want to get to know us better.

How do you start relationships online?

Content Lessons From Orwell: 5 Tips for Better Writing

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebrice/5583689582/In my last year of high school I read George Orwell's essay, "Politics and the English Language." Five years later, I still refer to it. His words are cemented in my brain. Orwell is known as a visionary, someone whose words were thought to hold particular truths about the future. At the very least, the guy knew how to write. In this particular essay he's trying to tell us that the English language (and society itself) are in a state of decay. He explains the cause/effect relationship between language and writing by using a metaphor. A man who fears failure may drink, and as a result, he fails. It's a vicious cycle. He writes that our language is a mess because our thoughts have become foolish. But the way we are engrained in language and its use in our culture causes us to have foolish thoughts.

To fight against the decay of our language and quality of speech isn't trendy. When people are indoctrinated to read, speak, and think a certain way, it's hard for them to see the value in change. Orwell writes:

"It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes."

He explains the specific ways we've ruined the English language through politics. Have you ever read a statement from a politician and had to sit and analyse its meaning? The hallmarks of political writing are vagueness, pretentious diction and the use of euphemisms in place of something more blunt. For example, when discussing war, people often say "collateral damage" in place of "the killing of innocent victims."

"Political language - and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists - is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

And even though Orwell wrote this essay in 1946, the essence of the message hasn't changed over time. I'm going to go through 5 ways he can teach us to write with conviction.

1. Put dead metaphors to rest.

Anything we're used to seeing in print tends to roll off the tongue. I'm guilty of this myself from time to time, I'll admit.

Some examples: beating a dead horse, hell in a handbasket, stand shoulder to shoulder with, fish in troubled waters, etc. There are hundreds, possibly even thousands of these tired clichés.

The problem with them? Orwell puts it simply, by saying they present "staleness of imagery." When we read these expressions they often fly completely over our heads,  we miss their meaning because they conjure no real image for us. Fresh, original thoughts are much more powerful.

2. Always cut a word out when you can.

It's easy to be vague in our writing, or extend our thoughts over multiple sentences. We see this a lot in academic writing. I'd be reading my sociology textbook and have to read and re-read every other sentence because they just seemed to drag on and lose my interest. That's not good. Orwell argued that prose consisted less of words for their meaning and more "phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse."

3. Avoid using foreign phrases, jargon and scientific terms.

People often use a foreign word to sound formal or authoritative on a subject, but they don't realize that it has the opposite effect. The plainest, most ordinary English word has a clearer meaning and a harder impact on people.

I encountered this a lot in my university career. As a journalism major, I developed a thorough understanding of the power of simple, ordinary English, which furthered my appreciation of what Orwell was trying to tell us. My sociology profs would tell me my term paper was "a good read" and I'd laugh because I'd think of the hours I spent dissecting academic papers written by "experts." A few times they were so unclear that I ended up crying in frustration. Why use 100 words when you could have said it in 10?

4. Don't use a long word when a short one fits.

To further develop the point made above; why use "inextricable" when you can say "tangled?" Why put "circumvent" in place of "avoid?" Why "terminate" instead of "end?" It sort of goes without saying. What sounds better? It's almost always the simplest form.

"The psychologist delayed terminating the session because the patient was visibly overwrought."

or

"The psychologist delayed ending the session because the patient was clearly distressed."

5. Be active in your writing.

Vague writing is the worst kind of writing. If you're not sure about what you're saying, or you simply don't care about what you're saying, how do you expect your readers/audience/customer to care? Be direct. Use active words. I'll give an example of the contrast:

It has happened that people have lost interest in the use of proper grammar on social media channels because they couldn't have been bothered to make the effort.

People aren't using proper grammar on social channels because they're lazy.

It's easy to fall into long, passive, boring habits. We all do it. But as soon as we become conscious of it, we can catch ourselves at it, and start communicating more effectively.

We can't let our language skills fall apart on social channels. It's even more important that we be producers of good content. Social is a relaxed environment; it's free, it's open, it's very casual. The language should accommodate this. But when we blog, tweet, or post, we should keep these tips in mind. People are compelled by good writing; meaningful and to the point. Clear?

 

 

Nice to e-Meet You: 5 Fundamentals to Follow

Have you ever met someone at an event and thought ‘wow, he’s nothing like his online profile?’ It’s a first world situation, and it happens all the time. When someone is in front of us, their natural character emerges, pretty or not. Body language, tone of voice and how we regard our surroundings all sync to form an impression.

But, in 2012, there’s a good chance you’ll see someone’s online profile before you meet them under real life circumstances. Think about it. How many times have you tapped into Facebook to feed your curiosity upon meeting someone new?

There's something to be said about the digital first impression. We’re in the age of “creeping,” whether we admit to it or not. The impression we leave with people could be a blessing or a write-off. We may never know.

Psychologists explain first impressions as part of encoding in the brain. We make quick, exaggerated judgements based on parts of a whole. It's hard to fathom why initial encounters have a semi-permanent effect. "The First Impression," by Carlin Flora, former editor of Psychology Today, sheds light on the issue. Flora writes:

"...The brain takes first-impression Polaroids—creating a composite of all the signals given off by a new experience. Psychologists agree that snap judgments are a holistic phenomenon in which clues (mellifluous voice, Rolex watch, soggy handshake, hunched shoulders) hit us all at once and form an impression larger than their sum."

The dynamic changes when an initial glimpse into our personalities occurs online. We suddenly lose the ability to see or hear the person. All we have to base judgements on are profile pictures, brief summaries, the kinds of things a person shares and the way they interact with others through text.

We can't control the ways of the new world, and chances are, employers will search us to find out more about us. We should use this opportunity wisely, as we'll never know who may be watching or what they're thinking. Here are, in short, five fundamentals for personal branding:

1. Know yourself

Whenever I go to write a bio for myself I pause. At 23, I'm really still defining myself as a professional. I don't know who I'll be at 30, 40 and so on. But I do know where I want to go. This is important. When you a have a limited amount of characters to describe yourself (160 on Twitter,) you need to make the most of them. The more information you can pack into those is good: a lawyer who dabbles in photography and loves to cook, etc. You have to believe in yourself before anyone else will. We can trust a mother's word on that.

2. Be consistent

Something I read in Halligan and Shah's Inbound Marketing stuck with me. The authors' point out the importance of using your real name, first and last (if possible.) When we add numbers it gives the appearance of spam. If your full name isn't available, you can abbreviate in ways that look more professional; mentioning where you're from, for example. To take it further: using the same name across social channels makes us more accessible to our audience.

3. Keep it simple

Keeping in mind the "Polaroids" produced by the brain (that often stick) we have a small window of opportunity to either intrigue people or turn them off. In terms of simplicity, playing it safe is good. People who don't know us will assume things based on things like layout, what kind of photo we choose, and how we describe ourselves. A modest, professional profile picture is ideal. If it offers a touch of personality it's better.

4. Stay Positive

post on Pick The Brain, a blog focused on personal productivity, gives some simple but useful tips on selling yourself. We're reminded that the company we keep is significant and how far a smile will take us.

Often, telling someone to smile will piss them off. When I'm in a yoga class and twisted into a pretzel, the instructor always says "remember to smile!" and I sometimes grind my teeth - but it makes a difference.

In The Rules of Work, an international bestseller, Templar writes:

"At first you don't have to believe it - just do it. Act it. Pretend. But do it. After a little while you'll find it isn't an act, you're not pretending, you genuinely do feel cheerful. It's a trick. You are tricking yourself, no one else. Putting on a smile triggers hormones. These hormones will make you feel better. Once you feel better, you will smile more, thus produce more hormones."

People are drawn to positivity; we want to hear from those who are happy, motivated and energetic. It's common to complain on social channels, because it's easy to take out our frustrations on a keyboard. We must actively remind ourselves why we can't fall into that pattern: it makes us feel worse, and turns people off.

5. Leave some to the imagination

There is such thing as an over-share, even on the internet. A woman who recently followed me on Twitter describes herself, in her bio, as "an overdrinker" and "a former party-hopping hussie." I wasn't inclined to follow her back, to say the least.

Respectively, we don't want to take ourselves too seriously. Social channels are a place to have fun. It's hard to describe in a cut and dry way, but we should really consult our "moral compass" before we tweet, update, or post. Imagine your grandmother at the other end of the (virtual) tunnel. As weird as that may sound, it has an instant "reality check" effect and we are reminded to use caution in what we share. Are you keeping your audience in mind before you hit send?

Foursquare: Flourishing or Fruitless?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/geezaweezer/4682037903/ Scenario: You're meeting a friend for dinner in an unfamiliar city. They ask you to choose a place. You don't really have time to sift through online reviews; they can be unreliable, even fabricated. So, when you have a free moment, you log into Foursquare. You search restaurants and explore what people (maybe your own friends) are saying about different stops. It doesn't take long; you find the ideal spot, save it to a list and carry on with your day. You can relax knowing your friend will (likely) approve.

This whole notion of "checking in" and applications that track our location (Gowalla is another example) is still emerging, relatively new to our society. Many are slow to warm up to the idea of social media at all; maps and location add a whole other dimension to the experience.

Reviews From People You Trust

On Foursquare we leave "tips" which help out future visitors at any given location. We can feel good knowing the reviews come from REAL people, with bios, and linked accounts. Many of them will come from our own friends.

There's something to be said here: it's another example of how traditional "word of mouth" has been replaced. Of course, there are endless review sites online. But, it's not always clear who's writing them. In many cases, it's easy to pose or "astroturf," writing calculated reviews with a secret agenda.

Most people are on Foursquare to connect and share their favourite places with friends and their community. And maybe have a little fun while they're at it.

Love it or Leave it

In my research I've encountered a trend: reviewers fall into one of two categories: early adopters who love Foursquare, and those who don't see it's value at all.  To further my point, here are good examples of arguments for and against adopting the application.

A blog post by David Pierce explains the advantages of this media tool well. While the linked review site is no longer active, Pierce is now a Reviews Editor at The Verge, a prominent technology news source.

This post opposes the former. The author is a Senior Brand Planner at SapientNitro, an established marketing and technology services firm in Boston. He argues that most check-ins are of little value to our audience. No one cares when we're at the gym or sitting in our office. He says the application isn't used widely enough for the tips to be resourceful in catering to our tastes.

But, as Pierce explains, Foursquare doesn't just give us a list of check-ins. It notifies us if a friend is nearby. It also plays on our natural competitive sides with its points system, making it a place to have fun.

It's usefulness is entirely subjective. It depends fully on whose opinion you value, and how many people in your social circles are using the application. The technology will evolve and it may even become recognized under a new name, but in the future its purpose will only become clearer as the world grows social. How many of your friends are on Foursquare?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Applying the Art of Storytelling to Make Sense of Social Media

http://www.flickr.com/photos/garrett-ewp/5956495950/ Have you ever lost yourself in a book? There's something about the narrative that takes hold of us; our minds are held captive for some time in an imaginary place, that is, fostered by a great story. We feel involved somehow, it becomes part of us and us a part of it. We draw comparisons between characters and ourselves, and judge them as we would people on the street.

Storytelling is an integral part of life. As children, we develop a sense of right and wrong through parables; ideas become cemented in the brain and are carried out in our life experiences. For example, The Boy Who Cried Wolf is a compelling tale that explains the value of integrity. When we're given a real example of human struggle (a boy's lies lead to self-destruction,) something clicks and we attach meaning to it. These stories stick with us because they are widely relatable.

Adult Learning and the Storytelling Effect

We grew up listening to teachers speak of things we'd need to know in the future. As adults, we're motivated to learn things of immediate value to us.

Storytelling binds us all, regardless of race, class or gender. We can gain new insight on our own lives or problems we've faced through the experiences of others. Self-discovery inspires new learning and growth. A journal article in Adult Learning highlights this idea:

"Narrative thinking, as opposed to analytical thinking, is relational rather than linear; it holds power to help tellers and listeners make new connections, linking various aspects of experience in new ways. Making these linkages frequently leads to revised interpretations, enhanced self-awareness, and learning that precipitate constructive, developmental change."

Social media IS the new storytelling. It connects us to those in our communities, it gives us a venue to share our experiences and provide insight to others. Through social media we learn more about who we are through the kinds of people we attract and those with whom we engage with.

Identify the Storyteller in Your Boardroom

The article mentioned above argues that as adults, we have the capacity to "rewrite ourselves" and our life stories. We've developed beyond the impressionable phases of youth but we're not immune to reinvention.

Listening to our peers can open doors for us. It forces us to re-evaluate, drawing  new light to the way we've always done things. This can be incredibly powerful.

"Stories are relational; they build relationships, create bonding links between educators and learners, and complement analysis with more holistic views of experience."

Is there someone in your office who's active in social "storytelling?" Find the person who's most comfortable with social media and get them to share their story. Social media changes the way people communicate as professionals. If we can understand how these tools have a real-life impact on someone we know, we're more apt to give them a try and discover new possibilities.

Giving New Technology a Human Feel

A good way to ease into social media is by creating a blog. The human effect is instant because blogging is so expressive - the design, photos we choose and insight we share combine to give our audience a taste of who we are.

And a blog can be about anything - interests we have, places we've seen, or maybe it's a place to talk about constructive changes in our work. If you become comfortable with blogging, it will be easier to shift into Twitter and other social media and start sharing and connecting. Social media isn't something that just happens - it's something we adapt to over time. Have your colleagues made the shift? Have you thought about telling your story? There's never been a better time.

3 Stages of Business Evolution Social Media Consultants Face

Take Flight Most professionals would agree that we don’t become comfortable with social media overnight, but rather, through gradual stages of exposure and engagement. An organization evolves as it passes through the social media adoption continuum.

A blog entry by strategy consultant Maxime Teller illuminates this notion of social media adaptation.

I sense a real need to establish and distinguish the roles of a consultant in social business processes.

While companies gradually pass through the social media adoption phases (education, observation, broadcast, participation, relationships, collaboration). I’ve identified three central stages that are part of developing social businesses. The social business stage a company resides in defines their perception of the distinct roles consultants play.

Three Consultative Stages of Social Business

Stage 1: The Tactical False Start

At this stage, companies have recognized the value in establishing an online presence through social media channels. Through education, observation or broadcasting they’ve acknowledged the gravity of social media; it’s not just a passing trend, but here to stay.

Accepting social media comes first. Understanding its usefulness comes later. At this point, the challenge lies in our perception of social media. At a glance, it seems like a “marketing tool.” Focus is placed on logistics: setting up accounts, broadcasting messages and campaigns, with a focus on the immediate “what” and less on the underlying “why.”

We get ahead of ourselves. This can be understood through an old expression: “putting the cart in front of the horse.” We’ve jumped in the cart (implemented new tools) but we aren’t moving without a horse (strategy). We won’t experience the benefits until we develop a strategy to get us from A to B. Only through experience do we come to know social media as a means of collaborative engagement.

What this means to you

The consultant (you) often assume the role of technician (as defined by the E-Myth) and you’re paid for the execution of tactics in place of the development of strategy (which you still do). However, this tactical approach can be used as a catalyst to push an organization to the next level. Accounts are ready but knowing how to use them requires guidance and mentorship.

Stage 2: Strategic

In this stage, organizations have started to see social media through a strategic lens. They may be in the broadcast or participation phase, but with open minds. They’re exploring its potential as a two-way communication medium for things like public relations, competitive intelligence, R&D, market validation and customer service. Because they've passed the education and observation phase, they place a high value on the "why" part, understanding that a well-defined strategy will lead to business success.

What this means to you

Assuming the role of strategist, you’re not only paid for tactical execution, but for the development and implementation of strategy itself. Depending on where the client is in the adoption continuum, they may not be open to the corporate culture shift needed to see a social strategy through. This presents you with a real challenge.

Stage 3: Thought Leadership

Organizations at this stage have developed relationships and collaborate with others. These are typically companies that have already "baked" social into the enterprise. They understand that building community and having a “pay it forward” mentality will translate to positive brand experiences (Ex: Ford, HubSpot, Radian6).

What this means to you

Taking on the role of thought leader pushes you above the “noise” (those competing against you for the organization’s business). Why? Because key stakeholders turn to industry leaders first for insight, advice, and direction before making a purchasing decision.

When I consider thought leadership in the social space, these people stand out in my mind: Brian Solis (Altimeter Group), Peter Kim (Dachis Group), and Dan Zarella (HubSpot). We can draw on the insight of established innovators to grow a social business, for ourselves and our clients.

Have you found yourself at a crossroads in one of these stages? What are your sticking points in helping your clients grow? Let me know in the comments.

Introducing Timely.is: Tweet in Your Sleep

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sleepyjeanie/5738474150/ Are you one of those hit-snooze-at-least-three-times types? If you're anything like me, the early mornings can be rude awakenings. At least before a cup of coffee.

When my colleague introduced me to Timely.is, I was amazed. The application, in a nutshell,  schedules tweets "automagically" for the time of day when your network is most likely to see them and posts them for you throughout the day. I hate to admit it, but my first thought was "brilliant! I could sleep in and be 'tweeting' and no one would know the difference." As Jeff says, timelied.

But, on a more serious note, time flies. I've spent my whole life, and will continue into my adult years, learning how to manage my time well. It's not something of natural evolution, at least for most people. It's just part of the human struggle, making the best use of our time with what hours we have in a day's work.

So, Timely.is may just be an application but it has two major benefits for the user: it saves us physical time, and it allows us to focus on what tasks we have at hand, by being completely present.

An Application With a Mind of its Own

Developed by Flowtown, a team of social marketing innovators, Timely.is is a smart application. It allows us to schedule a given number of tweets (three by default,) and delivers them at spaced intervals throughout the day. What may seem like random times, are actually the product of specific calculations.

Timely.is relies on an algorithm that takes data from our Twitter accounts, and calculates what times of the day we are most likely to reach our audience and followers. It gets to know us based on when we tweet, and how often, and takes all of that data into account. For a more detailed explanation, you can read about it here.

 

So, we make the best use of our time. When we have a free moment or two, we can add tweets to our queue. There are surely things your company should be sharing; whether it's relevant news to potential partners, customers or clients, or a simple statement. Realistically, what working professional has the time to constantly engage with their community via social media? Not many.

Listening and Engaging is a Balancing Act

It's important to stress that applications are here to assist us, not replace authentic human transaction. Social media loses its value when only used to broadcast messages on a schedule. This will only work in conjunction with (a bigger role) in listening. Responding to those in our community is essential to grow the relationships we want to have with clients and customers.

Respectively, no one likes the guy in a board meeting whose eyes never move from his phone. We can't let ourselves become so attached to new technologies that we forget how to be social in real life.

As a kid I was often told, "You can tell a lot about a person by the way they shake your hand." I still believe it. I've always believed in authentic, face-to-face communication. Our interpersonal demeanour is certainly important, both online and offline. Adopting these new technologies can help us in balancing our social demands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Simple Telling Of Our Story

Last night our friends at Hemmings House Pictures released a video that they completed for us yesterday and their founder, Greg, told the backstory of how we made it. Hemmings House played a unique role, first as students of our flagship course, then as creative directors and developers for our story.

It's just a simple 1 minute piece. But to us, it means a lot. In the social business / social media world already characterized by confusion and being defined by each person's experience as a social media consumer, it has not been easy to tell the story of what a social business is and how we can help get them there. This video, we hope, will go a long way towards making it clearer for the people we talk to.

Every time we explain what business we are in, we get looks of understanding by anyone who uses Facebook, Twitter, or who has a profile on Linkedin or Google+. But faces often drop when we ask them if they know how to grow a business or make money with social media. That's the part that few understand and that's exactly what we help with.

We also know we're not the only ones with this perspective and we are reaching out to other social business professionals and consultants around the world to find the ones who share our positive, supportive view. We want to work with social business leaders who know that social businesses need to first be enlightened and prepared for the opportunity so they can plan their own transformations for future growth.

Our online learning platform gives our courses to these professionals so they can help their clients learn social and grow together. And, as Greg mentioned in his post above, we have a new course on the way soon that helps businesses tell their own stories through video (March 2012. Stay tuned!).

Have a look at our new video above and, if you like it, please send kudos along to our friends at Hemmings House. And please let us know in the comments below if we succeeded in making clear, in a simple way, what we do and how we add value.

My Hashtag, My Hometown

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dorianroeck/4784013487/ What’s a hashtag? Well, for those of you who don’t exist in a world of eat, sleep and tweet, Urban Dictionary gives a pretty straightforward explanation. Essentially, placing the (#) symbol before a term, or several terms, creates a link which streams conversations surrounding the same subject, issue or trend.

Hashtags can be about anything, really. Maybe you want to tune into the buzz encompassing a popular TV show, or maybe you want to know what people are saying about prominent news issues. Occupy Wall Street has become a huge trend on Twitter. Simply by typing “#OWS” in the search bar, we can tap into a dialogue among people (mostly in the West) sharing their observations and related experiences. In a matter of seconds, we see what people are saying, in real time. That’s pretty amazing.

While hashtags originated on Twitter, they also create accessible links on Google+ through searches and circles and have become a recognized part of branding on other social media platforms, including LinkedIn and Facebook.

Hashtags: Building Organic Communities

Back in November, the folks at Downtown Fredericton came up with a fresh way to encourage local shopping for the holiday season. They chose 10 social media savvy personalities in the city and gave them $100 to spend in downtown stores, in exchange for their agreement to document their tracks, in conjuction with the hashtag #GetDownFred via social media platforms; including Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Julia Hurst, fashion blogger and business representative at Radian6, was one of them. Hurst said the people selected ranged from radio personalities to photographers and bloggers.

"The people they chose were different, so it was cool to see how someone else would spend the money compared to myself. I spent mine on a dress, and some people spent it on beer, groceries, coffee, etc. I love shopping downtown Fredericton so I liked to promote my favourite stores."

Hurst had a lot of fun with the event, giving others a taste of her favourite places to burn cash through her blog, Fortunate Fool.

Other residents of the city were encouraged to use the hashtag while running their downtown errands to win cash and other prizes. Such an event represents a new-world experience; having the ability to tune into where everybody was shopping, with to-the-minute updates. It's an excellent example to show how social media has replaced traditional word of mouth.

Now Trending in Canada: #SexualPickUpLines

It would be totally false to imply that all hashtags are rooted in something profound or even useful. I roll my eyes at least once a day at the “now trending” sidebar on my Twitter homepage. Silliness has proven contagious, judging by the often ridiculous topics that surface. I say this with sadness, but, #SexualPickUpLines is not a joke. It’s currently topping the generated list I have for “Canada trends.” It’s the same reason why videos become viral on YouTube; cats riding turtles, sassy children with British accents: a large part of our daily internet digest can be chalked up to entertainment.

But if you’re willing to sift through the crap, there’s a good chance you’ll find something helpful or interesting; something that wasn’t born of a bored teenager home on a Friday night.

When Conversations Cross Oceans

There was a lot of talk about the Egyptian Revolution last year or so-called "Twitter Revolution." I won't get into the nitty gritty of it, but my perspective is this: Revolutions happened long before we had such technology, but social media gave a voice to thousands of people in a way that no one had experienced before. In less democratic parts of the world, it's getting much harder to silence the ordinary citizen with the speed of social media and the rates that people are using these technologies.

With that being said, #Egypt became one of the most influential and meaningful hashtags to date. Another one I want to point out is #Jan25. The latter represents the day that the former president stepped down. When this was announced to the general public, the tag #Jan25 became viral. People worldwide who had followed the story were tweeting about this.

Gephi is, essentially, an online graph machine that allows you to download a plugin that compiles data into graphs. André Panisson, Ph.D., is a student from the Informatics Department at the University of Turin in Italy. In a blog entry he explains how he compiled #Jan25 hashtag data to create a video that demonstrates the exponential rate that this story spread through Twitter. The visual he gives helps to conceptualize how modern social media tools are infectious in our society.

Just Like Home

What constitutes our hometowns? Our familiar surroundings; the things that represent us, our communities. We use hashtags to connect meaning to our conversation, and the conversations of others. From silly to serious, it's assembling people based on who they are, and what they stand for. We can link this to the emotions associated with familiarity, and what's elemental in our lives. Are your thoughts trending in your hometown?

5 Steps to Connect With Your Community via SoundCloud

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wstryder/5767988014/ Okay, so podcasting for the average business is still a relatively new trend, but the print and audio industries have made the shift online. Many websites; news networks, online radio channels, now require you to subscribe and pay user fees. We all realize that most of what we consume on an average day is fed to us through the big, bad internet. Personally, I read the news via TweetDeck on my cell phone. To bring my point into focus: we all need to become producers of good content. And we need to do it through the latest, most effective mediums. The more ways we can engage our audience/clients/partners or whoever we’re trying to reach, the better.

Most of us wake with tired eyes. With this medium, it doesn't matter. We engage the senses through the act of listening.

SoundCloud is a user-friendly, versatile, and captivating application. It was originally created in Sweden for the purpose of sharing music among artists. It’s now recognized as a dynamic social tool among communities of people everywhere.

Why SoundCloud? Audio has a unique effect on us. As a journalism graduate who specialized in radio, I came to realize a few things. When we’re forced to listen, we tune out everything else. There are no visuals to distract us. The human voice, when used in a way that’s compelling, has an incredibly powerful and humbling effect.

Step 1: Sign Up

It’s very easy. All you need is a valid e-mail address. Once you set up a password and confirm your login information you can start uploading tracks. I uploaded a 5 minute piece in a matter of seconds. And what’s better: it’s completely free.

Step 2: Start Thinking in Terms of Sound

Maybe you were at a conference and someone said something moving that you just can’t remember. Or you went to a launch and heard an important tip for a new application you’re using in the office. Whatever it was, you didn’t have time to take notes.

A digital recorder isn’t something a lot of people think to have on-hand (or even realize they have in their possession.) Most cell phones today have audio recording capability. You don’t need a fancy recorder to document the interesting things happening around you.

Think of what you’re trying to sell: whether it’s a product, a brand or an idea, and then start thinking in terms of sound. The sooner you do this, the sooner you can piece together bits of your experiences and share them with your audience through a new and exciting medium. If you’re really keen, you can tap into editing software and create podcasts, incorporate music.

Step 3: Start a Friends List

You can search for people and groups that peak your interest. Slowly you’ll build a community of podcasters who are producing content that you relate to, or could even draw advice from. You can sync SoundCloud with your Facebook list and see who in your friend’s list is engaging with the application on a daily basis.

Step 4: Tag, Tag, Tag

If you’ve read anything about SEO you know that tagging is important. Focus your posts, and tag them to your heart’s content. Make yourself easily searchable by using keywords that relate to your business goals and the message you are trying to send within the post. It’s the beauty of inbound marketing: people are able to locate and contact you.

Step 5: Share Like Crazy

Your SoundCloud tracks are easily shared through applications; Facebook, Twitter, Wordpress and Tumblr to name a few. You can easily link to your SoundCloud page. What’s even better is that you can actually embed the SoundCloud widget to your personal blog or website by copying a generated HTML code. Not many applications seem to allow you to do this. SoundCloud makes your audio creations easily accessible to anyone, anywhere. The idea that I could be listening to your podcast on my cell phone from your Twitter feed while riding the bus (and it all links back to one application) is really cool, and kind of a brain-twist.

It’s time to hop on board. It’s fun, it’s social, and it’s a great way to get people talking about your brand. Have you interacted via SoundCloud?

Finding a Voice Through Social Media

http://www.flickr.com/photos/spencer77/4897753209/ I sat down with four local professionals to pick their brains about jumping on the social media bandwagon. I wanted to know why they chose to put themselves out there and engage in these new relationships, and what they've learned through the experience. Here's what they had to say:

Finding a Voice Through Social Media by Sociallogical

A few great quotes from what they had to say:

"If you've outsourced your voice, you're not the one building the relationship" - Mel Norton, Lawson Creamer

"We put the megaphone in everyone's hands so we could all speak and represent the brand" - Greg Hemmings, Hemmings House Pictures

"The results have been amazing. Just terrific." - Glen McLean, Java Moose Coffee

What has your experience been using social media? Have you hired others to speak for you or have you been able to find your voice already? Let us know in the comments below.

Social Is Meaningless When Technology Is The Focus

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wactout81/5261826705/ For a long time now, I thought that many businesses were reluctant to use social media because the technology and its adoption scared them. But now that many businesses have plugged in, I think the issue for many is that people scare them.

Bringing people into the organization that weren't there before is the phenomenon that businesses need to really understand and get comfortable with. The implementation of technology, believe it or not, is the easy part. Like any other product; you can buy it, if you need to, and consult with others on best practices.

But nothing will save a business in this new social world if they really, deep down, don't want to get to know their customers and partners on a personal level. Developing a relationship is essential to understanding what people want and how we can help them.

A Friend Who Forgot What 'Social' Meant

I was talking to a friend in business recently who felt overwhelmed by all of this social business stuff. They were using all the technologies available to them and growing in their understanding of it. But they were without a strategy to respond to an immediate need, and couldn't figure out where to even start.

"Talk to people who have had this problem before," I said.

"Through Twitter, Facebook, how?" was the reply.

"Pick someone, call them and ask them if you could take them to lunch. You know them, they are a friendly acquaintance, and they would probably be happy to help."

Surrounded by new media, we have forgotten how to be social. Many of us have forgotten that the relationships we build are what drives social business. And the quicker we can get our technology in place and our teams comfortable using it, the sooner we can start transforming how our businesses run so that people and relationships are the focus and the reason, once again, for what we do.

Online Learning and Social Media Take a Back Seat to the Dinosaur Tycoons

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdtempest/5764068777/ The internet used to be an anonymous place. We could coast and comment for hours, never revealing ourselves. Social Media changed that. It turned the web into public space. We are now required to self monitor the same way we would in a restaurant or a board meeting. Many websites require us to sign in to comment, and posts are linked to our Facebook or Twitter profiles.

As a result there’s been a huge shift in mentality, and it’s hard to digest. No wonder professionals are hesitant to move forward with it, and start doing business in the online community.

When I started reading about SOPA/PIPA, I was shocked. The US government has been trying to stop entertainment piracy (music, movies, etc) for years, but Wikipedia? This is not entertainment. Many people use it to function. The idea that this regulation could affect such useful open-source software blew my mind. It had, after all, helped me through my journalism degree.

...But I read it on Wikipedia

I don’t know if things have changed much in the last five years, but when I was in high school, those were the dreaded words. My teachers were aggressive in their warnings; those who cited Wikipedia on academic papers would be reprimanded. They were grounded in the notion that it was unreliable, and could not be taken seriously.

I remember the first time I used Wikipedia. I was hooked. A grad school student referred me to it and it was like he had given me a gift; a gift that would help me breeze through high school and continue as one of my vices in university.

It enraged me that my high school teachers preferred that we dig through the library. I remember spending hours tracking down the right title; to find an old, dusty, worn in reference book from 1986. Of course, we were allowed to use the internet, as long as we were citing “credited” sources.

Excuse me; are you the authority on this?

Sue Gardner is the executive director of the Wikimedia foundation. She’s also an avid public speaker. In 2009 she hosted the most prestigious journalism lecture of the year at St. Thomas University, and spoke to students about the controversies of an open-source world.

It was amazing to see a community of people who believed in, and were compelled by her words and the power of the free-information world we’re living in.

A YouTube video posted in December 2011, gives insight to the challenges Gardner faces in her work with the non-profit.

Gardner says that no one believed in an amateur, collaborative encyclopaedia in the beginning, and people were surprised when it worked. Wikipedia has hundreds of thousands of volunteer editors, many of them experts in their trade. But can we trust it?

“That’s a conversation that we’re all having – the whole world is having with itself right now. Sometimes we find that blogs are more authoritative than one might imagine and sometimes they’re less authoritative. There’s no easy answer anymore for what authority is, where credibility resides – all of that,” Gardner said.

Having worked for the CBC, Gardner encountered many debates regarding the legitimacy of Wikipedia articles. But she’s seen a growth in credibility over time and a rise in followers as a result.

“Part of what I’ve seen happening there is an increased critical stance, that I think people are taking towards traditional media and traditional sources of authority.”

When Gardner is pointed to the idea that Wikipedia is sometimes wrong, she challenges it by saying, “Sometimes the New York Times is wrong. Sometimes the BBC is wrong.” She has a point.

Journalists tend to rely on subject matter "experts" in their writing. Quoting doctors, politicians, government officials. It establishes the trust of the reader. But when we think about it, people are people. They make mistakes. When we have this collaborative, social effort in creating one of the world's most prominent knowledge sources, it's incredible. And how do we know that the approved editors aren't doctors, scientists, or particular "experts"?

Thinking of Wikipedia as social changes the dynamic of learning. But it's incredibly social; it wouldn't exist without the hard work and cooperation of strangers across the globe. People link to it every day, through their blogs and other media channels.

Why the Old Paradigm Won’t Fly

I’ve been scraping the UNB libraries to find relevant articles on Wikipedia in the education system. It was difficult to find anything that had been written in the last 5 years, let alone available online.

I found a study conducted by Nick Schweitzer, PhD, of the University of Arizona in 2008. He surveyed just below 1000 first year psychology students, and a focus group of 76 advanced level students. He wanted to know how many students were using and citing Wikipedia. His findings were not surprising.

80 per cent of upper year college students had referred to Wikipedia for an academic paper. Significantly fewer admitted citing Wikipedia, which suggests most students use the encyclopaedia for background information or simply do not cite their papers. Schweitzer writes:

“There is an important point to be made here: Because our students will most likely be using Wikipedia in some way during their college careers, it would behoove teachers of psychology (or any discipline, for that matter) to become familiar with Wikipedia and see firsthand the vast array of articles on the concepts, history, and individuals in our field. In fact, I would not be surprised if some readers of this article found themselves mentioned on Wikipedia.”

Social media is a broad term. It can be overwhelming. It’s not just about Twitter, Facebook or other social networking sites. It’s more than that. It’s about the way information circulates, the way we share things; the way we are social in modern life. If the SOPA/PIPA regulations pass, it will feel as though we've turned back the clock several decades. We'll lose all of this.

You may have read that and nodded, but you probably still have a lot of questions. Social media education is new wave, but it’s a rising and important trend as we adjust to our shifting social culture.

Our social forms of education flip traditional values and change the roles of authority figures. It's scary and unfamiliar. But this way of life is here to stay. Dialogue between the wealthy, powerful figures of society and the "average Joe" is less linear. The Joe's are talking. But your voice matters. Are you an expert in your trade? Who could better describe your work than you? Let us know in the comments below.

I'm a Brand, You're a Brand - First Impressions In a Social Media World

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nanagyei/5379436726/ Jeff Roach said something to me recently that stuck. In his experience, it’s easier to spot a fake online than in real life. I think he’s on to something.

Think about getting ready for an interview. Essentially, you can be whoever you want to be. We’re given an empty canvas to paint ourselves however we see fit. When it comes to landing a job, first impressions are everything. The way we dress, speak and use body language all converge; working in our favour or against us.

But you already knew that.

We’ve had our whole lives to test social reactions in real life. It’s in our nature to appear a certain way to please those around us.

Let me give you an example. Some people are actors from birth, whether they want to be or not. Imagine a man who lived his whole life as a heterosexual male, married with kids. Then, one day in his fifties he comes to work dressed as a woman. It shocks the hell out of everyone around him, and it should. But it happens.

Social media is still so new in our lives; we don’t have the experience or the “tried and true” tactics to rely on. It’s all an exercise in experimentation. It will be a while before online behaviour has been studied in a way that’s useful and significant. We don't know enough about it.

But one thing is certain: how we act on social channels will inevitably affect us.

Most people see your Facebook profile before they see your resume.

Diane Cole is one of the most driven people I’ve ever met. She’s also one of the few twenty-somethings I’ve encountered who takes social media seriously. Having worked as a journalist at Here magazine and now as a producer at Accessible Media, she knows that being a professional applies online as much as offline.

“Everyone is their own brand now as a result of social media. You have to maintain your brand in order to get anywhere now. You have to keep up with trends and new or popular platforms and learn how to manipulate those in new, fresh ways in order to get noticed.”

When you think of online profiles as "personal resumes" it's kind of scary. Interactions online feel very informal, so self-monitoring is essential. We have to think seriously about how we market ourselves, keeping in mind that authenticity is everything. People don't connect to a brand. People connect to people.

Bain & Company is a world leading business consulting firm. They also believe in social media. The company studied over 3,000 consumers to establish what makes social media effective in the industry.

"We found that customers who engage with companies over social media spend 20 percent to 40 percent more money with those companies than other customers. They also demonstrate a deeper emotional commitment to the companies..."

We want to help your business grow a community around your brand. Social media is the avenue for building these relationships. It's the fastest way to engage customers, and more importantly, it's on their terms. Learn to inbound market and let people come to you.

Sociallogical is founded in helping business professionals find a voice in their community. We don't believe in speaking on behalf of our clients. Who better represents you than you?

We exist in an era where an online presence is integral. It's become a pre-requisite; basic, elemental, expected.

But jumping onto social media platforms without a roadmap would leave anyone feeling overwhelmed. Dialogue on social channels consists of a lot of noise. The challenge is in understanding how to tap into the right conversations. We have the tools and the expertise to show you how. Let's talk.

Social Media Stage Fright: a New Wave of Public Speaking

http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottbump/3100991353/in/photostream/ You’re standing in a room full of your peers and they’re waiting, expectant. You’re breathing faster than normal and your hands are sweaty and suddenly you forget why you’re standing there – until you remember. And you keep going.

While social media anxiety may be less drastic in its form – it still exists and I’m about to explain why. The pressure’s off since we’re physically disconnected from our audience, but social expectations and a basic human need for acceptance still apply.

I spoke with four business professionals in the Saint John area about Facebook, Twitter, and how we relate.

Kathy Craig is one of them. Even as an experienced public speaker, she says social media is more intimidating to her than a crowd. I find that fascinating. And I see her point.

When we meet someone in person, our personalities are channelled through everything: body language, the way we speak, the time we spend listening versus interrupting. We don’t have this opportunity online.

“The tone is hard to judge on Twitter. Sometimes I think ‘oh that’s sarcastic,’ and then I reread it and I think, ‘maybe not.”

Craig sees herself as more of an observer on social networks. People’s intentions are often unclear, especially when we don’t know them.

“In public speaking, if you say something and offend someone you at least have the opportunity to explain yourself or apologize.”

But in social media it’s so easy dismiss our peers; all it takes is the click of a mouse.

Craig favours public speaking because we think through our message in advance, we know where we’re going, and we have the opportunity to finish.

“I still have a difficult time on social media; saying what I want to say. I’m really careful and it takes me a while. I know when people tweet they often just – out it comes. Not me, I have to really think about it.”

This notion resonated with another woman I spoke to. Anick Michel finds it difficult to fathom how many young people mindlessly engage in social media.

“With my generation, you’re always thinking of the potential hands it could end up in... I find sometimes to post a very simple line; you end up having to think a lot harder because you think ‘Am I going to sound stupid?’ You’re almost second guessing what you’re posting.”

Michel pointed out that when we give a presentation, our biggest fear is that we’re boring. This couldn’t be more truthful of social media. There’s an expectation to maintain a recent profile photo and the trend is in high-quality candids. We look for approval in others.

“When you do a posting you’re hoping that somebody will laugh or somebody will agree, or, you know, it’s almost like, a fear of the sound of crickets.”

We also experience a time constraint when engaging an audience through social media.

“If you’re giving a presentation you might have 5 minutes or an hour. You have so much time to grab their attention or you lose them,” Michel said.

In terms of the online attention span, the scale shrinks dramatically.

“You have so many words to grab their attention.”

Tracy Hanson is the project coordinator for Uptown Saint John. Tweeting and updating the company Facebook page are built-in to her daily routine.

“From what I see, a lot of people are catching on. Facebook has a large demographic but Twitter also, a lot of the businesses, especially uptown, are using Twitter a lot now.”

While Hanson recognizes the culture of social media fear around her, she’s not personally intimidated by it. She does her best not to offend people, both online and offline. She says it comes down to personality.

“You run into people that are pretty blatant; they have really strong opinions on things and they don’t mind expressing them. – And that’s fine. If it offends someone then that person doesn’t have to follow them.”

It’s difficult to say whether or not social media is essential to the success of new businesses. But Hanson can’t argue that engaging in the online platforms will only stimulate growth.

“Anything online scares some people still which is kind of crazy, but there’s also a huge opportunity that they’re missing too – a huge audience that’s free.”

Anne McShane is a local entrepreneur. She own and operates The Feel Good Store, and she’s also an avid tweeter. Even as someone who loves social media, she still has moments where she has to mentally check-in and ask herself, “Who do I want to be?”

She sees a carefree essence in the younger generations that deters the older ones from adapting.

“We use it as a tool and we’re somewhat comfortable, but your generation – it’s a voice. It’s literally a voice box. It might as well be plugged right into you. You’re so comfortable and transparent and – reality show – it actually is amazing to us.”

Kathy Craig says social media felt totally unnatural in the beginning. She later took the Sociallogical course, despite going in as a skeptic. She found herself surprised.

“I had no idea that it had become that pervasive in our society. For me, it was a real eye opener and it made me say to myself ‘okay Kathy, get on board here. You’re not too old.’”

In spite of all the challenges in adjusting to this new media, it pays off. McShane still has her ‘whoops’ moments, but continues to engage because it’s what she believes in.

“Social media is a godsend to be honest. Because what it replaced were the conversations you used to have in public meeting spaces all the time – back yard barbeques and different places that you would have these conversations. People don’t get together like that. A lot of people commute, there are different ways people interact. This replaced that.”

Have you ever felt stage fright posting comments or content online? Tell us about it in the comments below.

 

Community: The Foundation of Inbound Marketing

Saint John Cut 3 Group Photo Imagine yourself building a house without a foundation. At a glance, it looks perfect. But beyond what meets the eye are structural flaws that will inevitably reveal themselves. Appearances will never substitute for lasting, grounded connection.

Your blog or website can be SEO optimized, you can host webinars, but none of these techniques offer more than initial impressions if considered an end. Think of it as a missed connection: you met at a party, had an amazing conversation, and never crossed paths again.

Marketing has become more about relationships than anything else. To engage customers is to grow a community. A strong brand is powered by real people; active, involved, and listening.

Inbound Marketing in a Nutshell

community-quote-Brian-Simpson

To put it simply: inbound marketing means drawing the right kinds of people to you.

Traditional or linear marketing is based on interruptions: billboards, commercials, telemarketing; essentially "buying and begging," as Halligan and Shah, cofounders of Hubspot, put it in their book, Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blogs.

The authors use the last US presidential election to explain why the traditional approach based on broadcasting is dead, stressing the importance of two-way communication. They argue that while Obama used Facebook as a means of creating a dialogue with voters, McCain saw it as a way to talk "at them." And so inbound marketing is founded in interaction.

Why it’s Vital to Business Survival

By establishing what social media platforms suit your business and using them to attract customers, you lure people in on their terms. More importantly, you open dialogue, and it is those interactions which will define and grow your brand.

Social engagement was always a part of business. Whether through conferences or product launches, presentation has always been crucial. But the way we communicate has changed significantly, and respectively, the business world must adapt to new trends.

The good news: social media has one major advantage: it's instantaneous. It allows us to connect the masses in seconds, transcending time and space. It also provides equal opportunity, there's no "fighting for the mic" so to speak. Above all, it gives a human-feel to business exchanges.

SEO expert Nick Stamoulis furthers this notion in a recent post on Business 2 Community:

"Your social profiles let current and past customers interact directly with your brand, which helps establish a strong trust factor. People want to do business with other people and social profiles let you create a personality for your brand..."

Hippies Who Had a Point

In E Content Magazine article "Grateful Dead Content Lessons," Marketing strategist David Meerman Scott gives us an analogy for inbound marketing that establishes 60's rockers Grateful Dead as more than a bunch of shaggy hippies.

At a time when up and coming artists were banking on album sales, the Grateful Dead went against the grain; putting their energy into touring. They even engaged their superfans by setting up filming and recording stations at live events. If the Dead understood anything, it was how to build a strong community. What no one realized was that their business strategy would foreshadow the most relevant principles today. Scott writes:

"In an era when it’s difficult to make money using the content business playbooks of the past, it’s fascinating that the counterculture ideas of the Dead may hold the key to the future."

Have you thought about how to build a community around your brand? It's time to #learnsocial and strike up a conversation.

Get Social: The Only Way to Develop Customer Relationships in 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sempivirens/5497544971/ Ready or not, it’s time to join the conversation. Social media has become a crucial part of the way we communicate in everyday life and it’s presenting us with an ultimatum: we either grow with it, or apart from it. The fastest, most effective way to build customer relationships is by speaking to them in their language, on their platform. Engaging in social media has become essential to success (both personal and in the business community.) Allow me to elaborate.

The Human Touch and Why it Works

Last month I got an interesting voicemail from Purolator. They regretted to inform me that they “didn’t have time” to deliver my package and offered an address for pickup. My gut reaction was to tweet about this, because quite frankly, I found it hilarious. I didn’t expect to get a personalized response from a representative within minutes, but I did, and it allowed me to regain trust, in a sense.

Simply being acknowledged as a consumer makes a huge difference. The beautiful thing about that interaction was that I hadn’t even tweeted directly to Purolator, but merely mentioned them. Without social media, there wouldn’t have been an exchange at all, and certainly not at such an incredible speed.

The Conversation Goes on, With or Without You

It’s a harsh (and beautiful) reality, but social media has given voices to communities and people alike like never before. Whether companies choose to engage with customers and adapt to social networks or not, there is endless peer-evaluation and collaboration happening, and it’s significant. Twitter allows us to synchronize entire communities of people talking about the same thing through hashtagging, and it’s all open to the public.

An article posted in the Journal of Advertising Research in late 2010 reinforces this notion. In “Marketing in a Hyper Social World: The Tribalization of Business Study and Characteristics of Successful Online Communities” authors Moran and Gossieaux state:

“The community now chats among itself, dissecting marketing messages, changing them, and retransmitting what it considers to be relevant … Interactions between the company and supporters and detractors alike are now visible to the entire community. Volunteers may be more important to buzzing about your products than people you pay and can control. This is all messy and requires new skills, policies, and processes on the part of marketers.”

Hyper-Sociality and the Resulting Power Shift

The authors of the above quoted journal describe this phenomenon as “hyper-sociality” and its main consequence is a huge inflation in the power of the ordinary citzen's voice. Linear marketing and traditional advertising will inevitably collapse under the greater power of social networking and the united online communities that have allowed common themes in customer issues to be heard. It's proven that people will listen and connect each other to the right sources. Controlling the message between marketers and consumers is a concept of the past.

Will Trivett is an engineer and business professional who engages in social media networking in his daily routine. He had a frustrating experience with Bell Mobility via Twitter, in which he got no response from the company to any of his concerns.

“I wished there were more options,” he said.

Doug Estey, a member of our team, shared in this experience with the same company. He spotted 800 days of inactivity on Bell’s twitter account shortly after joining.

“It’s infuriating,” he said, “You feel like you’re screaming at a brick wall.”

Trivett referred to this trend as “astroturfing.” According to an article on Wikipedia, this term was coined as a kind of metaphor for false advocacy – politicians or companies giving the illusion of a “grassroots” or community movement when in reality their motives don’t line up. The term comes from AstroTurf, a brand of fake grass.

So, to summarize: Being involved in the online conversation is crucial, but understanding how it works outweighs in its importance. Having a false or misleading presence is as good as being absent altogether. It may even be worse; especially when angry Bell customers get together and start tweeting. Haven't adopted a social business plan yet? There's never been a better time to get started.