Wondering Out Loud

Brian Carroll strikes again

Brian Carroll of intouch has given us 6 lessons he’s learned about using LinkedIn for generating leads and I’d like to add one that, while implied in his 6, cannot be reiterated enough:

1. Tread very, very carefully

Above all, LinkedIn is a networking site for professionals. Most use it to find others who inhabit the same industry or professional role as they and are taken aback when they find someone who appears to be there to sell, sell, sell.

Remember that social networking is just that: social. We don’t call it business networking or lead generation networking for a reason. Get to know the folks you’re communicating with before you shove a piece of collateral under their nose. If you shoot first and ask questions later you’ll screw up any chance you have of developing a relationship – personal or professional.

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July 29, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Social media and revenue: fast friends or oil and water

If you don’t already, you need to subscribe to the rss feed at {grow}. Mark Schaefer, the proprietor, has been known to throw a bomb or two into the sanctified town of Social Media. Mark is one of those rare birds who believes that every company activity should lead to one thing…Revenue. That includes social media.

GASP!

I should add that I appreciate Mark’s instance on delivering to a hard ROI, but he might be asking for something that social media is not prepared to deliver at this stage.  Or are we, social media’s practitioners, not ready to be held accountable for money made? Whichever the case, it can’t last forever. After all, the day is coming when senior management will require social media initiatives to do just that and we need to be prepared.

The biggest obstacle to making marketing hay out of social media tactics is the culture that has evolved around it. The idea, misplaced or not, that a company cannot promote their products and services, the first commandment in the SM-sphere. Thou shalt not use Twitter to promote the “New and improved X”. Nor shall thou blog about the rave reviews customers are giving your services. Social Media is the purest form of communicating – no spin allowed – and marketing messages shall not go so far as to cast a shadow across its door.

 Forgive me for thowing my own bomb here, but that way of thinking is a bog ol’ bunch of hooey.

 Mark asks some great questions [emphasis added by moi]:

How is social media marketing any different from holding a company open house for community leaders or hosting a dinner to get to know some potential customers? Are those things about building trust and relationships? Yes, of course! But we also have no problem admitting that the ultimate goal is to burnish our image with these influencers to improve our chance of business success. Why are we so intent on carving out a special little place in the sun — where results don’t matter — for the social web?

Told you they were great questions.

Who wrote the rules that SM is different, that it can’t be used to openly market products to prospective customers? I’ve heard and read others who liken social media to a cocktail party or a round of golf: leading the event with talk about business is bad form. What the same people fail to mention, however, is that at every party and golf outing the conversation inevitably  turns to business. Believe me when I tell you, all parties know why they are in attendance.

Social media is a powerful way to build credibility, showcase thought leaders within your company, and prove subject matter expertise. But the real power is that is gives you direct access to your market. No more gatekeepers filtering your message. So why not include “traditional marketing” messages in your social media initiative.

I’m not talking about hitting people over the head with daily blog posts and podcasts. But what’s the problem with providing objective information about the industries you serve along with examples of how your products and services have helped others overcome the issues raised.

Try this and this for example. The first is a podcast about lot trace in food and beverage manufacturing. It’s product neutral. The only mention of the product I serve is in the introduction and close of the recording. The second is a customer video in which the COO talks about the wonderful lot trace functionality they have in FourthShift Edition.

And for good measure, here is a recording of Can O’ Worms, a streaming webcast we did about food safety. Like the podcast, it is product agnostic.

The three combined have been downloaded and viewed 2800 times. As Mark points out – views mean nothing if you can’t measure the number of sales qualified leads those views have produced. That, my fellow social media community members, is the crux of the matter. Luckily I can tie two actual deals to the customer video – not leads, deals.

There are ways to marry taditional social media (if there is such a thing in something so new) with marketing and the sooner you are able to expand your SM strategy to do so, the better off you will be.

You can’t afford to maintain the “purity” of social media, you must begin quantifying your successes. If you don’t the C-suite will surely pull the plug on your social media initiative.

July 28, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , | 1 Comment

Drive by social media

The good news and the bad news of social media are one and the same: Anyone with a computer and Internet access can do it. Whether from home, office, library or another venue, engaging in social media is as easy as opening your favorite browser and getting to it.

Social Media is of the people, for the people and, most importantly, by the people. As wonderful as that is, the fact that it is open to virtually everyone means we, the people, are responsible for the proper use and consumption of social media is all its forms.

What set me off on this journey of pondering is this article from gogamecocks.com, which is the official website of the athletic department at the University of South Carolina. The story is about the women’s basketball coach, Dawn Staley, and how she used Twitter to complain about how she was treated at a local restaurant. According to the story, she had previously used Twitter to rave about the same place. In this case, however, she told her followers she was treated badly and would never return. What happened inside the restaurant hasn’t been made public, so we don’t have all the facts, but the incident got me thinking about using Twitter and other social networking vehicles to lodge complaints.

Again, I don’t know what happened in this case, but, in my opinion, anyone faced with such a situation owes it to the company to bring the complaint to them, in private. I believe it is an abuse of the power we have as social media practitioners to give into the urge to spread word of a transgression as soon and as widely as possible, before engaging with management in an effort to resolve the problem. Let me say again, I don’t know what happened in this instance.

I’m sure there are exceptions, but most times a comany deserves the opportunity to make things right before being publicly pilloried

As consumers of the same social media we have a responsiblilty to view everything through a skeptics lens. Not that anyone is being dishonest, but a 140 character Twitter message, or a 500 word blog post for that matter, is written with built-in biases. In most cases they are biases we don’t understand and can’t detect because we simply don’t know the author well enough. Also, we are only hearing one side of the story and human nature dictates that, when we tell our side of the story, we do so in a way that paints us and our actions in the best light.

Practicing and consuming social media in a responsible way is good for everyone.

July 25, 2009 Posted by | Social Media | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Showing you the “How”

A while ago I wrote a post called “Show me the how”. It was written out of the frustration from reading yet another blog post about why B2B companies need to get active in social media. It’s my contention that we need to stop talking about why and start talking about how.

How does a B2B company get started, what do the objectives look like, and who should you target? All are questions that need to be answered before you even consider launching a blog or establishing a Twitter account, but that’s what everyone seems to want to talk about.

Well, I threw down the gauntlet and Albert Maruggi, @albertmaruggi, of Provident Partners and the Marketing Edge took it up and challenged me to a duel of sorts. So on August 12, Albert and I are hosting a seminar that focuses on the hows of social media. Among them:

  • How to get media coverage without pitching
  • How to effectively expose your expertise on the Web
  • How to use multimedia to tell a powerful story
  • How to identify and use game-changing marketing and PR tactics

You can register for Social Media – What Works, What’s Next at the Provident Partners website.

This is a face to face event especially for Marcom/PR pros who are trying to launch a social media strategy at their company, but are struggling with exactly how to get started. If this sounds like you, I promise the two hours you spend with us will be well worth the time.

Albert and I are looking forward to seeing you there.

July 21, 2009 Posted by | Social Media | , , , , | 3 Comments

How do you define leadership

I opened iTunes the other day and came across two of my favorite audio clips: the Crispin Day’s speech from Henry the V by Kenneth Branagh and Kurt Russell, as Herb Brooks in Miracle, giving his pregame talk to the team before the 1980 Olympic game against the Soviet Union.

Individually each is a great example of oratory skill, but together they illustrate the difficulty of defining leadership and what makes a great leader.

I’ll tell you straight out that I can’t define it – and I defy anyone to define to do so – but I do recognize it when I see it. 

Leaders are defined as much by their styles as by the results of their work. The late great Herb Brooks built a gold medal-winning Olympic hockey team by giving his players a common enemy to hate, not the Soviet Union. Brooks took a bunch of kids, primarily from the Midwest and East, who came to the rink with built-in hatred for each other and brought them together by turning himself into the target of their anger. In time the regional divides came down and settling old scores didn’t matter any more. Brooks’ model of “hate me not each other” lead to the Miracle On Ice.

Brooks was famous for playing mind-games and hurling insults during the 18 months leading up to the game, the pep talk before the miracle game showed the confidence he had in the team. Gone was the talk of “playing worse and worse every day and now you’re playing like it’s next month.” He replaced it with the message that each and every member of that team deserved to be on the ice with the Soviets. Not only did they deserve it, they were born to be there. It was a real, and unexpected, turn around from what  the players had grown accustomed to.

Contrast that with the clip from Henry the V. In it King Henry is rallying his troups to do battle with the French. The French are better armed, better fed, better rested and have far greater numbers, but Henry in undaunted. In response to his cousins who wishes for more men Henry says it is they, those not there, who will come to regret they did not join.

And gentlemen in England now abed shall think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whilst any speaks that fought with us upon St. Crispin’s day.

It is a call to arms, but more than that, it is a call to brotherhood:

For he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.

But Henry, in saying “shall be my brother”, tells his men that they are part of his family. The royal family.

It’s an amazing contrast. Herb consciously working to make his players hate him and Henry embracing his men,calling them brothers. Henry and Herb had dramatically different styles of leadership, but both were successful in a battle they had no business winning.

So how do you define leadership? I don’t know, but I know one when I see one.

July 17, 2009 Posted by | Leadership | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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