Tagged social

The Best Money You’ll Ever Spend on SEO, Social, and Content

 

You may have all the technology and expertise in the world at your disposal, but do you have this crucial element to SEO, content and social media success?

the best money you'll ever spend on seo, social and contentDo you have a fantastic SEO platform? A beautiful piece of software, with all the data dots connected, and all the keyword bells and social media whistles that you could ever ask for? If your brand has a culture that is forward-thinking enough to recognize how crucial a tool like this is to the success of your digital marketing, then I hope the answer is yes.

But that’s not the only thing that demands your precious marketing dollars. Are you promoting your posts to precision-targeted audiences on Facebook? Gaining a following on Twitter by advertising your best stuff to key influencers? Utilizing all the many paid search tools to drive traffic to your brilliant content?

All these magnificent things are not cheap, but they are certainly worth it . . . IF you’ve also made another important little investment. An investment in great people.

Don’t underestimate what it takes to win in SEO, Social, & Content Marketing

It’s no secret that the biggest bottleneck in content marketing (and by extension, SEO and social) is TIME. It takes a huge amount of time to develop truly great content that delivers value, ranks in search, and resonates throughout social media. This is one of the biggest stumbling blocks that brands hit when developing their content marketing strategies and social plans. Most brands just don’t have enough people to actually execute what is needed to outpace competition and gain more ground in their markets.

I mean, on their own each thing you do for digital content doesn’t seem very daunting, and this is part of the perception that makes content ‘seem’ easier than it actually is. Seriously, how long does it take to write a 500 word blog post? But what about 4 or 5 of them? Maybe add a whitepaper in there, too? Throw together a handful of tweets every day? A few Facebook posts? Couple of things for LinkedIn? Pic for Instagram? And let’s not forget the time needed to crush it on YouTube. It adds up fast.

But that’s just reality, isn’t it? I mean, you can’t just ‘buy’ time, can you?

clock-1274699_640Yeah, actually, you can buy time.

What if I told you for the low, low price of a single person’s salary, you could flat-out BUY dozens more hours every week? Because that’s exactly what you’re doing when you hire people. Every person you bring on is paying your brand back with their time. All of it. Every day.

Hiring great people gives you their time, their expertise, and their knowledge to execute your strategies and tactics. Without great people to action those ideas and plans, they’re nothing more than decorations on Powerpoint slides.

1+1 = 2, mostly. Sometimes it’s 3. Possibly 4?

This is really basic math. When you go from one content writer to two, that’s instantly doubling the amount of content you can churn out. That’s two times the amount of original, fresh, relevant and valuable content for your brand to rank in search and share in social.

Yeah, it’s that simple, and it scales in huge ways. Once those two writers begin to develop synergies, sharing valuable research, conducting brainstorming sessions, etc, you’ll find that your content team becomes more than just the sum of its parts. They now have the support they need to do more than they could on their own.

Investing in people pays the biggest dividends of any dollar you spend in SEO, social, and content. People give you the ability to action what you’ve been told by all the data that you have in your analytics tools and platforms, and put in motion all the advice coming from your agencies and consultants. Great people and their time are the best things you can buy for your brand.

Marketing Doubleshot Podcast – Ep.11 – Pinterest the Search Engine & Agencies Making Software

In this episode, Jonathan Barrick and Josh Muirhead discuss how Pinterest and its search mechanics combine with other key aspects of the platform to bring power to digital marketers, and a recent article about how marketing agencies should be taking a good hard look at software as a competitive differentiator.

Links and resources mentioned in this episode:

Pinterest – pinterest.com

25 Pinterest Stats, Facts & PR Best Practices – www.cision.com/us/2015/01/25-pin…r-best-practices/

Jim Dougherty – twitter.com/leaderswest

Why ad agencies need to become software companies – www.businessesgrow.com/2015/10/13/ad…re-companies/

Mark Schaefer’s {grow} blog – www.businessesgrow.com/blog/

Social Media Sommeliers – Choosing perfect pairs of social networks

by Jonathan Barrick

A well maintained social media presence is like a fine wine; it develops more character as it ages. As you invest more time in to social media, joining additional networks and using new tools, your presence gains different characteristics that it did not have before. However, just as certain wine characteristics mesh well together, others simply do not. Certain wines will pair well with certain foods and enhance the experience, while others conflict and compete. So it is with different social networks. Some are natural fits, enhancing each other and creating synergy. Others are so vastly different in scope and purpose that using them together can actually weaken the total effort.

So how do you know which networks jive well together, and which just don’t? Well, I reached out to several brilliant professionals whose experiences in social media give them a unique perspective on which networks work great together. They are, for all intents and purposes, Social Media Sommeliers, pairing different networks together to create an experience greater than the sum of its parts. So, what networks do they believe hold the greatest power for synergy?

Here’s what Ric Dragon http://twitter.com/ricdragon had to say:

image“I’m of the mind that the Twitter/G+ combo is killer.  G+ is more open than FB, and it’s easier to share blog-type posts publicly. Twitter, of course, is the place for garnering those weak-link connections – those people with whom you share an affinity. So Twitter makes the connection, and G+ allows you to share deeper content with those new connections.”

Smart stuff, to be sure. And after speaking with multiple other professionals, and with so many different networks out there to choose from, it became quite clear that everyone would have a different approach tailored to their individual style, fitting with their unique approach to their industry.

I asked this extremely savvy group of Marketing/PR/Social pros to look at this concept from two different angles:

1) Which two social networks do you feel are most complementary, and why?



2) Which two social networks do you feel have the biggest disconnect, and why?

Here’s what they had to say:

Mark Schaeferhttp://twitter.com/markwschaefer
image“The biggest synergy that I see is between Blogging and Twitter. Building a Twitter audience is an effective way to build an audience for your blog. A tweet is like the movie trailer for the movie! They fit like a hand in a glove.

As I see it, the biggest disconnect in social networks right now is between Google + and everything else. Google is not making the sharing easy so it is probably the least integrated network.”

Peg Fitzpatrickhttp://twitter.com/pegfitzpatrick
image“I feel that Google+ and Pinterest are a powerful combination. They are both very visual networks with savvy users. Photographers are really killing it on both platforms such as Trey Ratcliff, with 4.5 million Google+ followers and 4.7 million followers on Pinterest, that’s an enviable social media network! Google+ and Pinterest, more than other platforms, really reward their power users with engagement and activity with their content. You can save your Google+ posts on Pinterest boards or find interesting things to post on Google+ from Pinterest. Both platforms support hashtag usage and using keywords is a benefit.  Google+ and Pinterest complement each other and add mutual value without distracting or overwhelming the other.

I feel like LinkedIn and every other network are disconnected. LinkedIn doesn’t seem to fit naturally with any of the other networks although they have taken strides towards improvement. The endorsement feature made LinkedIn spammy to me and weakened the recommendations, which I felt was their most valuable asset. I feel that LinkedIn has its place for job seekers and networking but I don’t see how it blends with Pinterest, Facebook or any other site. I think that this was their intention but they shot themselves in the foot with that plan. You need to have a presence on more than one social media platform so if you are on multiple platforms, you’d like to work them seamlessly together.”

Don Powerhttp://twitter.com/donpower
image“LinkedIn and Twitter work beautifully together for me. I use LinkedIn to get comprehensive background info and details about individuals and their histories and companies before connecting with them on Twitter. Or, you may be connected with a person at Company X on Twitter – you can use LinkedIn to find more people at Company X to connect with (including their Twitter backgrounds). I use them in tandem quite a bit but for me – all roads ultimately lead to Twitter – if I make a connection on LinkedIn, I’m always suggesting that we continue the conversation on Twitter.

Facebook and Twitter – two almost completely exclusive sets of users (in my opinion and personal experience). For example, almost all of my high school friends are on Facebook (I graduated high school in ‘86) but NONE of them are on Twitter. Most of the people I’m connected with on Facebook are not active on Twitter. I only use Facebook to respond to people who find me or reach out to me there. I don’t start conversations on Facebook and 99.9% of my posts on Facebook (unless I’m responding to a specific tagged post) are simply copies of what I post to Twitter (and no – I don’t care that my Facebook posts are often marked up with @ symbols and hashtags)

As I see it, albeit an oversimplification, Facebook is made up of 90% of the people who want to be social 90% of the time. Twitter is made up of 90% of social people who want to do social business communication (in a no sales-y way) 90% of the time. Facebook is 90% wasting time and sharing crap, Twitter is 90% time connecting with people and building networks where the underlying assumption is – how might I be able to leverage this connection, now or in the future, for a business purpose? Because those networks have two completely different modus operandi, they are a total disconnect for me.”

Susie Parkerhttp://twitter.com/susie_parker
image“I often see how well Facebook and YouTube can work well together. Facebook being the largest social network and YouTube being the second largest search engine makes it easy to share a powerful, compelling, funny, or moving video with a large network of people with one click.

There is so much potential with Foursquare and Twitter. But there is too much disconnect and not enough businesses have claimed their locations to maximize the benefit to their businesses. When sharing where you are on Foursquare it would be great to have better Twitter integration to connect better with a potential new place to experience.”

David Christopherhttp://twitter.com/davidchris
image“Twitter I find great as a tool to build new relationships and to start conversations that continue on other platforms. It also allows you to connect with your network and keep those important relationships alive in just 140 characters when in today’s busy business world you don’t have time for much more.

Google+ for is the opposite. It’s where conversations continue and evolve (especially with the recent release of Google+ Communities) and for those where the need for much deeper level relationships are important. What I find interesting is that of the Twitter users in my network, very few of them use Google+. For this reason I find they complement each other as they don’t compete against each other for market share.

As for networks that have major disconnects, I’m going to give you a response that maybe you weren’t expecting here. External Social Networks and Enterprise Social Networks. There is a big disconnect between the Enterprise Social Network (behind the firewall) and the External Social Network (beyond the firewall). This isn’t a technology response, but a cultural response. Employees are your companies Brand ambassadors and should be leveraged as such but fear of what they might say prevents this. This is creating a disconnect in consistent messaging and preventing engagement opportunities with your customers.”

Sam Fiorella – http://twitter.com/samfiorella
image“Google+ and YouTube are natural partners and work together for the brand’s benefit on many levels. Google+ Hangouts upload directly to a YouTube channel for one-click cross-network sharing. Further, with Google Authorship, the combo packs a great SEO/SEM punch. There’s little-to-no expertise required to create conversational videos with customers, vendors, the  media or others and best of all, the platforms are free!

When talking about disconnected networks, I believe those are Pinterest and YouTube. Each are successful in their own right and each is a visual medium. Pinterest is great at sharing with Facebook but doesn’t accept other forms of visual content from other networks well. I see great opportunities for individuals and business if Pinterest would allow the inclusion of videos onto their boards, it would make for a richer experience.”

As for me? I believe that Facebook and Instagram are a very powerful combination. The ease with which you can insert creative, timely images in to your Facebook timeline, and the ease with which users can interact, share, and comment on this activity make them a natural fit for both personal use and for showcasing the personality of a brand.

Where I fail to see much synergy is between Pinterest and Twitter. Much in the same way that the absence of Instagram image support within Twitter has hurt the synergy between them, I feel that it is a crucial missing element that Pinterest should be working towards achieving. Being able to see a pin from within Twitter without the need to click would add a lot of utility, enabling users to view and re-share Tweeted content from Pinterest in one step instead of multiple steps in two different apps.

As you can clearly see, there is no definitive, all-encompassing answer to the question, which appears to be the general nature of social media to begin with. Everyone does it differently, and that’s ok. Ultimately it comes down to your personal ‘taste’ when choosing the social networks that work best for you.

What do you think? Are there two networks that consistently create business magic for you? Or are there two that don’t jive for you at all? Let’s hear!

From Sprout Social Insights -> Twitter Success Story: Training Hospitality Students With Twitter

http://sproutsocial.com/insights/2012/12/twitter-success-story-college/

Happy to talk with Don Power from Sprout Social about my experiences integrating social communications (specifically Twitter) in to the curriculum of my college marketing class. It’s been a great tool for encouraging students to see social from a different light, and training them on the intricacies of communicating with customers in the social space.

From Sprout Social Insights -> Twitter Success Story: Training Hospitality Students With Twitter

Retrospect – 6 Undeniable Marketing Truths Learned in 2012

by Jonathan Barrick

Another year, another look back.
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2012 was a year of contention in marketing. Debates raged on many fronts, but none were more heated than the battles on two particular topics: Social Media ROI & Influence Scoring. Other issues came and went throughout the year as well, such as what kind of metrics marketers should be using, and if EVERY business really needs to be using social tools.

Throughout all the fiery Tweets and divisive blog posts created through the last 12 months, however, I came to learn (at the very least) six key points that influenced me in 2012, and will continue to do so going in to 2013.

Behold! These six undeniable marketing truths are:

1: Influence Scores aren’t evil, but people are using them for evil things. – Klout, Kred, PeerIndex made some people stand up and cheer, and others reach for their pitchforks. There are few topics as divisive in marketing right now as influence marketing. Opponents raise valid points about the poor use of such scores in things like job interviews and as a credential to provide proof of expertise, and they’re right. Using a Klout score as the definitive measure of influence or expertise is just plain stupid, much in the same way that using an SAT score on its own without context is just as foolish. If you’re ever asked in an interview what your Klout score is, or if the job posts a ‘minimum required’ score, run away. That company is clueless.

Where social scoring sites do some good, however, is as a starting point in identifying the most active, well-known personalities in social media related to a particular topic. ATTENTION: It’s absolutely essential to note that activity and visibility are NOT the same as influence, but what these numbers do is give you a place to start. Now that you’ve found these people, DIG DEEPER. Look at their content, connections, accomplishments, personality, and activity that surrounds them. Then, and ONLY then, will you have a somewhat valid picture of their true level of influence. Realizing what the tools actually do (measure activity & visibility) and using them accordingly where we need to go from here.

2: Blogs still matter, but only if they’re awesome. – Find me a better way for a company to showcase their personality, expertise, dedication, and professionalism alongside their appreciation of their customers, desire to improve, and commitment to their industry. I dare you. Bet you can’t find one, can you? They allow you to truly prove that your business is a leader by writing about things that matter to your customers, to your business, and to your industry. The catch? You have to publish good stuff, because junk content won’t do it.

A well-written blog that has a purpose, that is maintained regularly, and that stays relevant is one of the greatest brand-building tools a company can have. Quitting a blog after three months because ‘it’s not working’ is an all-too-common scenario for many businesses. To use the stereotypical analogy of social media ‘experts’ around the globe, a blog is a marathon, not a sprint. Building an audience and reputation takes time, as does refining your writing style and personality. Stick with it, and the benefits will be huge. Search engines love blogs and readers love blogs, so have one and make it awesome.

3: Social media does have ROI, but it’s not the same for every business. – Now this one ruffled a lot of feathers this year. Anti-ROI people claimed that social ROI is inherently unmeasurable. “How can you tie brand affinity to a dollar amount?” “What’s the ROI of your mother?”, etc. Pro-ROI people claimed that EVERYTHING can be tied back to a measurable return on the investment. You just need to look at the right clues.

The unavoidable conclusion: They’re both right. Not everything a business does ties directly back in to a sale, but everything a business does CAN be measured. What’s the time savings you’re achieving through social communications with customers? What’s the market research value of 30,000 Facebook fans? What’s the long-term loyalty aspect of social activities? Sometimes YES, you can measure in simple $, but sometimes you can’t. This doesn’t mean the return isn’t there. It just means you need to look deeper. How your business measures the ROI of social is up to your business. Start with what your goals are, and figure out how social is helping you meet them.


4: You can measure anything, but without context those numbers are useless. –
“We got 5,000 referrals from Google this month! YAY!” So what? What do you do now? How does knowing that you got 5,000 referrals from Google give you any idea whether your marketing is working or not? Marketing people have been tossing around generic, meaningless metrics for way too long and nobody’s said anything. Well, I get the distinct feeling that those kind of metrics just aren’t going to fly in 2013. Likes? Followers? Hits? Forget them, they aren’t helping. It’s time to dig deeper.

Need some examples? Try ‘Share of Search’. Google can tell you who many monthly searches occur for a specific set of keywords. How many of those searches does your web presence capture? This is your share of search. If it goes up, you’re doing something right. If it goes down, your competitors are. What search terms are you dominating with vs. what search terms are you failing with?

Need another one? How about ‘Social Sentiment’. Are your customers ranting about you or raving about you? What about your competitors? How does your sentiment rank against theirs, and what’s the share of conversation you’re capturing? CONTEXT is what makes metrics work. If the numbers don’t tell a story that helps you improve, they aren’t worth measuring.


5: Listening in social is not the same thing as paying attention in social. –
It’s really easy to set up alerts & social monitoring. Every time a keyword gets mentioned you get notified, but what happens then? Are you simply listening for your own name, or are you really paying attention to the conversation? One example I had the pleasure of observing recently illustrated just how easy it is to look stupid in social if you’re not paying close enough attention. A Twitter user sent out a sarcastic Tweet mocking a lame commercial, and the business responded (two days later, mind you) with a cheery ‘Thanks for the compliment!’. Suffice to say, the original tweeter thought it was pretty funny, and so did I, therefore it was immortalized with a blog post.

It was a tiny little tweet in amongst billions of others, but it shouted loud and clear “Yeah, we’re listening. Kind of. Mostly.” Set up the notifiers, but when you get notified THEN PAY ATTENTION. Social media monitoring tools can’t catch sarcasm, so be sure the person tweeting out the responses for your company can and will. It’s easy to set up the alerts, but it’s even easier to look silly. Be vigilant.

6: Yes, every business should be social, but in their own way. – The question isn’t whether businesses ‘NEED’ to be social. The question is ‘Why wouldn’t you want to be?’. Customers aren’t’ there? Please, just stop, because you know that they are. No time? BS. Nobody has time, you need to make time. Find where you’re wasting time and resources and shift them. Don’t have anything to say? Then you shouldn’t be in business. It’s not an all-consuming process to be social. Tweeting all day isn’t the answer. Plan it out and schedule it just like you plan out everything else you do for your business.

This isn’t about being all things to all people. You don’t have to be on EVERY social network, but you damn well better be wherever your customers are and where they want to see you. To paraphrase some guy named Scott Stratten, ‘Stop marketing to people the way you hate to be marketed to.’ Do you like sorting through piles of junk mail? Do you love clicking on banner ads? Do you live for the newest billboards? No. You love to check out cool pictures, interesting videos, and helpful articles. Give customers who like your business the same regard that you want from business YOU like; VALUE. Connect with them on their terms. Answer their questions, don’t push your agenda. Show them what they want, not what you feel like broadcasting. Educate, don’t preach. Be awesome, not annoying.

There you have it. Six points that shaped my view of marketing this year, and will no doubt be a factor going in to 2013. It will be quite interesting to see what the hot-button topics will be over the next twelve months. Will influence continue to divide marketers? Will ROI continue to be elusive and confusing? Or will marketers take the lessons learned in 2012 to heart and shake off the fear of abandoning comfortable, old-school, dollar-wasting marketing in favour of truly connecting with customers and giving them real value on their own terms? I know what I’m going to shoot for. How about you?

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

The Promise of Social Brands

Advertising is full of crap. Well, at least most of it is, I think we’d all agree. Advertisements and brand messages have long been full of lofty promises and ridiculous imagery that alludes brands to be magical entities given to us from the heavens to alleviate the pain of every day tortures like laundry, dusting, and what to make for dinner. Without them, our lives would descend in to unparalleled misery and despair.

More than a few humorous articles have been written online chronicling hilarious ads from decades gone by that made promises so laughable, we are astonished that anyone ever actually believed them. Cigarettes that soothe throat irritation. Exercise contraptions that melt fat away while you sit on your ass. Young lovers coming together through a mutual desire to consume lard.


Seriously?

Oh, most definitely. In fact, the promises being made by brands today aren’t that far removed from those of the past. Swiffer dusters that make cleaning so much fun you have to dance. Cat treats so tempting they make your cat destroy fences to get one. Magic shoes that give you an award-winning butt just by wearing them.


Reebok EasyTone Shoes Commercial

Things are different now.

Consumers are talking about everything. We’re comparing our experiences with others, not just in our immediate group of personal friends, but with people around the world. We’re realizing that poor customer service isn’t just an isolated incident, and crappy products abound. We’re voicing our dissatisfaction of companies with the world, and the world is on our side. We’re fed up. We’re speaking up. And companies need to step up. Deliver on your promises, or you will feel the wrath.

This is the promise of social brands.

We’re just at the cusp of this change. Although some forward-thinking businesses recognize the shift of power, many more continue on, blissfully unaware that promises made are now going to have to be kept. Or else.

One of two things is going to need to happen, and it’s going to need to happen fast if a brand wants to earn kudos instead of complaints:

1 – Brands will cease to make promises that cannot be kept.

or

2 – Brands will actually deliver on the promises they are making.

Companies cannot afford to be called out for not delivering. It’s too easy for the reality of the brand experience to be brought to light by customers and made public for the world to see. Social is going to force brands to be real about their promises, one way or another. If a brand makes an ad depicting a fragrance so potent it makes women de-clothe as they passionately run towards an unsuspecting man, we’ll call BS on it before the logo even appears. It’s not going to be worth it to create stuff like that anymore.

Social is reducing the variance between the ridiculous promises brands make & the reality of the actual brand experience.

Eventually, we’ll hit an equilibrium where the expectations we have of a company based on the messages we receive will be exactly what we get. Or if we’re lucky we’ll get more than we expect. That’d be nice.

Of course this all hinges on the vocal consumer. Consumers need to continue speaking, louder and louder. Share more and more. Call out brands that don’t deliver, and praise those that do. Smart companies will do what they need to do, and we’ll all be better for it. Companies that don’t? Well, we really don’t need them around anyway.

Ok brands, it’s time to deliver.

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

Return On Influence – A Book Review

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Whether you like it, love it or hate it, whether you agree or disagree with its philosophy or purpose, there’s no denying the fact that Klout and other social influence scoring sites are changing the way we all think about online influence and social media. This is the overarching theme of Mark Schaefer‘s latest book, “Return On Influence – The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing”.

There is a simple reason for the meteoric rise of social scoring sites like Klout, Peerindex, and the newest kid on the block, Kred. They promise to keep a running score on something that’s inherently elusive and extremely difficult to measure in any quantifiable way: How likely is it that you will affect behaviour and actions related to a specific topic?

It’s pretty easy to see why this would be valuable information to have. Being able to identify key influencers around specific topics would give businesses and individuals much greater ability to communicate precisely focused messages.

There is of course a great deal of debate around whether such a thing is actually measurable, and whichever side of that argument you fall on I’ll leave you to decide. Ultimately though, the perspective presented in this book will provide insight in to how the algorithms calculate influence scores, the different ways certain actions will affect your score, and how businesses are using these sites to their advantage.

Mark Schaefer does an excellent job in this book by looking at the popularity of Klout, PeerIndex and others as a simple reality of today’s online world. The bottom line is: These sites exist. If trends continue, it’s clear that they aren’t going away anytime soon, so you’d best understand what they do, how they work, and what they can mean for your business.

Schaefer presents both sides of the story through relevant anecdotes and personal experiences. You’ll hear stories of tremendous success along side stories of people gaming the system and being discriminated during job interviews because their scores aren’t high enough. You’ll also hear how social scoring companies like Klout are constantly working towards more effective measurements and minimizing the chance that the system can be gamed.

Social scoring is in its infancy, and as a result it’s sound advice to keep an open mind about it. Given the frequency with which new communication tools have appeared in recent years, I don’t think that anyone can guarantee a prediction about how the business of social scoring is going to play out. But this book gives clarity to some very muddy waters. Overall, Return On Influence is an excellent read, and it will certainly give you pause to rethink your position on influence scoring, regardless of whether your for it or against it.

Find ‘Return On Influence’ on Amazon

Note: This review was not solicited in any way, and my copy of Return On Influence was purchased.

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

Twitter is Stupid. (until you realize…)

by Jonathan Barrickimage

Twitter is one of the world’s most popular social networks, but many still see it as pointless, inane and trite. (Yes, even today there are TONS of people who believe this to be true) They’re looking at it all wrong.

Here’s why: In a recent discussion I had with a group of tech-savvy  young adults, I posed the question “How many of you have Twitter accounts?” – Only two hands raised.

Next question: “How many of you think Twitter is the stupidest thing ever?” – Nearly everyone’s hand thrust in to the air. Reasons like ‘I don’t care what people have for lunch, the Kardashians are awful, etc’ were not uncommon to hear from this group in response to this particular query.

Ok, let’s talk about something else: “How many of you watch TV?” – Everyone’s hand up.

“Anyone hear of a show called ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’?” – Laughter from the group.

“How many of you think that is the dumbest show on TV right now?” – Virtually every hand raises in agreement.

“So, I guess that everything on TV is stupid, then?” – As I scanned the crowd, I saw several faces change as they realized what I was saying.

Saying Twitter is ‘stupid’ is like saying all of TV is stupid. All newspapers, all magazines, all radio, all movies. EVERYTHING is stupid if that’s how we think.

The truth of the matter is that if all you’re tuning in to is the worst, most annoying things you can find on TV or on the radio, then EVERY kind of media will provide a horrible experience. Every person on Twitter is like their own TV channel, or radio station, and every tweet is it’s own show. Tune in to the channels that have the best shows, and your Twitter experience be awesome. Tune in to people that post junk, and you’ll hate it. It’s not the channel that’s stupid; it’s the content we choose to see. Ultimately, if your Twitter experience sucks, it’s your fault, not Twitters.

This is where the awesomeness of Twitter really comes from: CONTROL. Control to tune in to the things you like, and tune out of the things you don’t. You wouldn’t judge all of TV based on 2 minutes of Real Housewives. It’d be far more sensible to watch some Mythbusters, Big Bang Theory, Grey’s Anatomy, Property Brothers, and So You Think You Can Dance before casting your final judgment on the entire media.

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A Twitter experience isn’t made in 2 minutes. It’s crafted over time. It occurs as you discover awesome people you’ve never heard of. It occurs when you begin to see the world differently because you’re exposed to the lives of interesting people from all over the globe. It occurs when you interact with them. It occurs when you inspire them, and are inspired by them.

So, if you’ve never tried Twitter because of stereotypical reasons relating to Hollywood gossip or updates about people’s food, then you need to at least give it a chance. Talk to someone you trust about who they follow and try out a handful of their top recommended “channels”. Really test things out, then make up your mind whether it’s for you or not.

If you’ve tried Twitter and left because all your friends were posting updates from the bar or sharing the latest and greatest cat meme pictures, maybe your friends aren’t who you should be following. Try business contacts. Try the top leaders in your profession. Try your favourite comedians. Try your favourite musicians. Try your favourite brands. Change channels until you find shows that you find interesting. With more than 140 million channels out there, you’re bound to find SOMETHING that delivers the goods.

Find something great, tune in, and enjoy the show!

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

Who Owns the Account? – Navigating the Minefield of Social Ownership

by Jonathan Barrick

When your job responsibilities include engaging in social media, are the contacts you make truly yours, or do they belong to the company?

It’s a divisive topic for companies who engage in social communications. If you put an employee in the position of representing your brand in social media channels, what happens with that account if that employee leaves your business? How should you set up these accounts, and how ‘personal’ do you make them appear?

Recently, the story of PhoneDog and its former employee Noah Kravitz brought forth a shining example of how things can go horribly awry. PhoneDog alleges they setup the account & username for Kravitz to use for business purposes. Over time the number of followers grew to over 17,000, and when Kravitz left to work for a competitor, he changed the account name to his own & continued to use it.

On the surface, the answer seems pretty clear. PhoneDog setup the account for business, so it’s theirs. However, there are different perspectives that come in to play in the world of social media that muddy the waters. For example, is it certain that the followers were truly following the ‘brand’, or were they following Noah? What’s the context in which this account was used? Does the context even matter, or does the original intent of the account override any personal factors rising from how it was used?

These questions can be extremely difficult to answer for some businesses, and the decisions you make here could have huge repercussions in the future. These are questions not typically addressed in your average social media policy, as they generally stick to covering things like behaviour and the types of content being shared, not the ownership of connections being made between individuals. Fortunately, there are some sensible steps you can take to easily maintain a ‘personal’ face for your brand AND minimize the risk of disruption if certain individuals leave your business.

In navigating this minefield, the first question you need to ask is “Will the account be used for BUSINESS PURPOSES?” If the answer is “Yes”, then I believe that the following criteria for the setup of social media accounts would protect both parties regarding ownership of accounts that are used for business purposes:

  • If the account was created under the individual’s personal identity prior to the beginning of the contract, the account remains property of the individual.
  • If the account was created by the company for the purposes of official company communication/representation, then the account remains property of the company.
  • It is appropriate for small businesses and sole-proprietorships to present themselves through the personal accounts of the owner, but it is important to keep in mind that any personal opinions shared through these accounts directly impact the image of the brand. It is nearly impossible to separate the brand of the business from the brand of the individual in these situations.
  • In larger businesses, it is appropriate for special corporate accounts to be created for each individual who will be participating in social communications, and these accounts should be designated as such. Example: A Dell employee named Jim might communicate on behalf of Dell on Twitter using the handle: @JimAtDell
  • Visually, choosing the right profile picture for the account is also important. Using the example above, it would make sense for @JimAtDell’s account to feature a picture of Jim with the Dell logo added to it in order to visually distinguish it as an official company account.
  • If the company will have multiple individuals contributing through the same account, it is effective to add the initials of the individual posted at the end of each piece of content to designate the person responsible for that posting. Example: An employee named Mike Smith tweeting through the @starbucks account would end each of his tweets with ‘MS’
  • In situations where multiple people are using the same social account on behalf of the company, it would be appropriate for the profile picture to be that of the corporate logo, or other universally applicable image not associated with any one particular individual. Although in certain situations, one individual may be designated to be the figurehead of the account, and therefore use of their picture along with a logo would be appropriate.
  • In certain situations, it may be wise to cross-reference the account of the individual and the account of the company in the bio spaces of each account. From the example we used earlier, Mike Smith’s @mikesmith personal twitter account bio might mention he tweets from @starbucks with the initials MS, and the @starbucks account might mention tweets from @mikesmith in its bio. This would help to ensure that business followers and personal followers are aware of the difference between the two.

Ultimately, every company needs to choose the approach that best suits their brand & their goals. And in the event that the one, singular face of your brand in social media decides to leave your business, the reality is that some of your fans WILL inevitably go with them. Of course, how many fans leave will depend on more than just how you approach each of the factors I laid out above. HOW they leave, WHERE they go, and WHY they left will all play a role in how things pan out for your business.

The best approach, of course, is to maintain a clear line of communication to the employees managing the accounts regarding the company’s expectations. Make it clear at the very beginning that the accounts created for the purposes of business belong to the company. They are communications tools just like laptops and cell phones, and the employee should understand that when they leave they must return all property. That includes Twitter accounts!

On the other side of the spectrum, companies must recognize that just like personal laptops or cell phones, a personal Twitter account stays with the individual. If you ask or require them to use their own equipment or account for company purposes, then you’d better respect their ownership of it.

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

The January Social Checklist – 9 simple things you need to do NOW for 2012

by Jonathan Barrick

2011 was a tremendous year in the world of social communications. We saw the emergence of several new big players in social networks like Google+, Instagram and Pinterest. We also saw massive increases in the use of social by businesses, and a dramatic shift in the way we all interact online.

2012 is undoubtedly poised to continue down this path, and now is the perfect time to make a few simple but powerful tweaks to your online social presence. Here’s a handful of tips that can help you get off to a strong start in 2012!

1 – Consistent profiles

Make sure all of your personal profiles across all the social sites you use are consistent. It should be easy for your Twitter followers to identify you on LinkedIn at a glance, and across all other networks that you participate in. In addition, doing this will also tighten up how you present your personal brand.

2 – Reserve your usernames

You don’t need to use every new social site that starts up, but you never know which ones are going to be huge, so get in early on every site you hear about and register your account. This way you make sure to reserve the same username across all the networks out there, just in case. Again, the key is consistency.

3 – Get the apps

If you don’t have all the apps for all the networks you use, get them now. Easy access to your networks and real-time monitoring are crucial to making sure that you’re not missing anything.

4 – Set up your alerts

Google Alerts, TweetAlarm, and other notification services are extremely valuable to keep you in the know when the conversations turn to you or your company. And don’t forget that you can also use them for any topic that you’re interested in or passionate about. It doesn’t have to be all work all the time.

5 – Link to everywhere from everywhere

You should be able to get to any of your networks easily from your profiles. Some make this easier than others, but at the very least you should make sure that your main ‘hub’ of activity is linked to all your profiles, and all your profiles link to your main hub.

6 – Make a list of ‘Superstars’

We all have a group of individuals that we consider to be the best of the best. If you haven’t already done this, create a special list dedicated solely for those people on your favourite networks so that you can easily browse through the latest stuff posted and shared by your ‘superstars’.

7 – Register for key events

Don’t wait until the last minute to sign up for those events that you really want to attend. Register now, and make the commitment. The last thing you want is to miss out on an event that could be a great opportunity to learn and network with other awesome people.

8 – Plan out your essential reading

Check your ‘Superstars’ list for any upcoming books they may be authoring, or anything they may recommend that suits you, and make sure you add them to your reading list for the year. This also counts for blogs that you may stumble across as well. Make sure to keep your list up-to-date as you go!

9 – Choose your key metrics

Identify a handful of metrics that you will track throughout the year that will give you ACTIONABLE information you can use to improve. Everything you do has an impact, but being able to identify WHAT that impact was, and what it means for your brand or business is the key to making positive changes and adjustments as you go.

There you have it! A few simple tips that anyone can use. Hopefully you found at least one or two things here that can help you in 2012, and beyond!

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com