Wondering Out Loud

Social Media: Presence matters most

The lead fr0m the eMarketer article says it all:

Social media marketers feel that having a presence on social sites is more important than advertising there, but there are still challenges related to keeping a community running online.

And so it is today as it was in the beginning: Social media is about showing up and showing what you know. Because, let’s face it, in today’s world no one will give your ad a second look without trusting you first. That’s especially true in the B2B space. And that is the beauty of the power of social media.

Blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, to name the biggies, give you ample opportunity to seek, build and engage an audience in a way that positions your people – and by extension your company – as industry experts. And when you take the step of sharing your expertise in public forums the market takes note and comes to see that your people can be relied on to offer counsel without without an invoice attached.

So we all seem to understand the importance of taking part in social media, but where we, all of us, still struggle is the all-important content creation. It’s not a question of how to do it, it’s a question of how to find the time to do it. I wish I had a good answer for you other than making time – 20-30 minutes – every day, or every other day, to scan your Google alerts for ideas (where do you think this came from) and decide how you want to handle them: Is it blog-worthy, or will a simple tweet do, and then handling them.

Of all the possibilities for social media involvement Twitter is, by far, the most forgiving. It takes very little time, yet it will expose your company and it’s people to an audience you won’t find anywhere else. Add a hash tag or two into the mix and you have the potential to grow your audience even faster.

Let’s be honest, we are constantly making accommodations for our time, letting something slide because another, more important, thing pops up, or dropping activities altogether. If you believe there’s value in social media, you will find the time to work it in. And as its value to your marketing programs grows, you’ll find yourself dedicating more time to it.

Regardless of time, market expectations say you have to be involved, so it’s time to get in and make your presence known.

October 12, 2011 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Social media without strategy is the black hole of communications

Black Hole: A region of space from which nothing, not even light, can escape.

If  you are using social tools to communicate with your audience without the benefit of a strategy, you are the proud owner of your very own black hole. Everything you produce – blog post, tweet, podcast, Facebook update, YouTube video – every last scrap of content is being hurled into a void so dark and vast it will only be consumed by those who happen to trip over it. I’ve seen it before. A lot. It’s usually the result of misguided notion that any content is better than no content. Unfortunately, that same idea ignores the fact that no content is preferable to bad content.

Even today, the same marketing professionals who diligently plan every aspect of every campaign, taking care to make sure every detail is accounted for, don’t think twice about what is being posted to the company blog. Whether it’s a website, brochure, commercial or blog post, what you produce represents the company that provides your paycheck and treating any content as second class is doing that company a disservice.

If you’re serious about making social media part of your communications activities, make it part of your strategy development, treat the content as you do other deliverables and give social media equal standing when discussing your activities. If you do you’ll find your content living in the bright light of the Internet being consumed by people who sought it out and have a genuine interest in what your company has to say.

June 1, 2011 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Social Media: It’s easy to spell, but…

It’s the season of interns and entry-level hopefuls. Resumes are pouring in and I’m reviewing those who made the first cut. Like all good potential bosses, I’ve been surfing the web looking for LinkedIn profiles, Facebook pages and blog and Twitter accounts. So far the results are less than impressive. I realize this whole social media thing is still relatively new, but, let’s face it, if you are going to put the words on your resume you had better have the digital footprint that proving you can do more than spell “Social Media.” All the pdf resumes I’ve seen to date do have a web-based counter part in a LinkedIn account, but, rather than painting a fuller picture of the applicant, the online profile is an exact copy of the document sitting in my inbox.

This leads me to ask a couple of questions:

  1. Am I expecting too much from today’s college juniors and seniors, especially those pursuing a career in social media?
  2. Should I be expecting ore from the career counselors who help students navigate the choppy employment waters?

I’d love to see your answers to both, but here are mine: No and Yes.

No: Today’s college students grew up on the web. Social networking is in their DNA and anyone who is looking to enter the job market – entry level or as in intern – needs to have, at the very least, a LinkedIn profile that is full and complete, including recommendations. If you have skeleton profile that is nothing more than a copy of your resume, you are wasting your time and the time of anyone who might be interested in learning more about you. If you are specifically interested in marketing and PR – where SM lives – the digital requirement is even more important.

Remember the good old days when the cry was: “Everyone wants someone with experience, but how can I get experience if no one will hire me.”? Web 2.o0 has given everyone – including my 15 year old son – what they need to gain as much experience as they want. Five years ago I advised a college freshman, planning to major in PR, to start a blog and write about her passion, early American authors. Doing so in 2005 would have put her well in front of her college peers and, today, she would have a robust presence to point potential employers to. Unfortunately she didn’t take my advice and is just another member of the pack looking for work.

Yes: Career counselors in colleges and universities are doing a doing students a disservice if they are not adding social media, in general and LinkeIn specifically to the list of activities their charges should be engaged in. I’ll go so far as to say they should be given LinkedIn training so they can help students make the most of the site. The paper resume – although still important – does not have the power it once did. While it has always been a snap shot of the individual, the resume loses a bit of luster when put against the dynamic nature of a LinkedIn, blog and Twitter.

Going digital is more than a recommendation, it is an imperative. Like investing for the future, the sooner you start the bigger the return you’ll realize. If you wait until your getting ready to graduate and look for that first “real” job, you’re starting too late.

May 10, 2010 Posted by | Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blogging in a regulated industry

Every time I participate in, or attend an event where social media is the topic there is always one – sometimes more – person in the audience representing a company from a highly regulated industry. Most often they are from the financial sector – banking, investments, etc. – and they all have the same question: How can we blog when everything we say needs to be run through an extensive approval process?

It’s a great question. To understand the significance of the question, one need only listen to the disclaimers at the end of any commercial inviting you to invest your money with a particular money manager: Actual results may vary, you could lose some or all of your money, and my personal favorite…you could lose more than you invested. Regardless of the industry there are ways to leverage the power of the web and here is one of my favorites.

In its simplest form there are two sides to the social media coin – join a conversation and start a conversation. For my purpose we’ll look at the second one.

There are two primary ways to start a conversation. The first is to react to an event that is happening in the industry now – President Obama’s jobs summit last week provided a golden opportunity for investment advisors to weigh in with their analysis of the event. When one works in a highly regulated industry there is a certain amount of risk that comes with reacting in real-time, but professionals in these industries can still start conversations with little or no risk to themselves or their companies by creating a calendar of conversations. All it takes is some planning and buy-in from your internal subject matter experts (SMEs).

The first step is to meet with your team and crate a list of issues that are relevant to your audience and that your SMEs can discuss credibly. The next step is to put those issues into an editorial calendar then create content to that calendar. Using this strategy for content creation gives enough time for all the appropriate parties to review and approve the content. Once approved, distribute as normal. Whether to a blog or a LinkedIn discussion page – I prefer both – you have joined the world of social media contributors and have done it with the blessing of your internal regulatory professionals. 

If you’d like to inject some digital steroids into the process take a look at the ed. cals. of the industry publications you are courting and design yours to mirror theirs –  minus a few months. If you can write credibly today about a subject one of the pubs will be covering a few months down the road, you can begin building a case for why your SMEs should be tapped for interviews when the article is being written. It’s a great way to build media relations and, if your offer of supplying expert analysis is rejected, you still have your own content to point your audience to.

I’ll tackle other issue in a later post – reacting as events happen. It can be problematic for any organization, but it can also be done by any.

December 10, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Social Media, Smocial Media

Ever shot yourself in the foot? I’m not talking about using a firearm to do the deed, I’m talking about using your mouth. If you’ve ever stood in front of an executive and spent precious time explaining why they needed be involved in social media you have.  

Let’s face it, there are still too many in the marketing field who belive social media will replace movable type as the most significant invention of all time and that we who use its power to benefit our businesses are turning digital water into digital wine. To those who fit this description I have simple message: Get over yourself.

What we’re doing with these blogs and podcasts and videos and social media press releases is taking advantage of a lot of work that was done by those who created the miracle that is the Internet. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. But when you stand up in front of Mr. and Ms. CwhateverO and begin to pontificate on the beauty of Web 2.0 and the wonders that flow from it, you deserve to be met with glassy stares because they didn’t invite you in to talk about blogging and podcasting and Twitter and the next shiny object. No, they invited you to tell them how you are going to differentiate their company from its competitors. They want strategy not tactics. And social media is not, repeat not a strategy.

All the elements that make up social media are simply ways of distributing your message – whatever that happens to be. Granted they are very powerful means of distribution, but let’s not lose site of what they are at the core. When we do is when we are in danger of taking to the top of the mount and preaching the glories of social media.

Keep it simple, talk strategy. Remember, it’s not about you it’s about them.

November 13, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , | 1 Comment

The social media revolution is over

The social media revolution is over and it’s time for all of us to take a collective deep breath – in through the nose and out through the mouth. Now, before you accuse me of being a complete moron for proclaiming the end of social media, let me clarify what I mean.

I believe social media – as a practice – is in its infancy. We are emerging from a time that saw the development of an amazing number of tools anyone can use to engage on what came to be known as social media. Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, blogging platforms, Twitter, YouTube, UStream, Utterli, and the list goes on . Some, like the ones I’ve mentioned here, have been wildly successful. Others have slipped below the surface and  been assigned to the Web 2.0 category of Trivial Pursuit. The ones that made it, and the ones that didn’t, were part of the revolution. Their advent came at a time when we were all comfortable with the Internt. And isn’t that the way it always goes. Just when we get use to the status quo someone else gets bored with it and decides to stir the pot.

We went from needing a website to participate to needing only access to the web. You don’t even need a computer. All that’s required is a visit to your local library. The revolution that is social media made it possible for us to communicate with, potentially, the entire world. It took the concept of global communications promised by the Internet and made it not only possible, but real. Whether text, audio, or video, each of us now has the power to send our message anywhere and everywhere.

And that, my friends, is a revolution if ever there was one. People took something that existed in one form and through a lot of hard work and struggle created something new from it. The old didn’t go away, but it is not what it once was. So where does that leave us today? The same place we were on September 3, 1783 when the treaty ending the American Revolution was signed. The revolution was over, but the evolution was about to begin. And this country has been evolving ever since.

The tools are the revolution, but he evolution are the tools grow up around those tools to make them more powerful. Twitter is wonderful, but the real power of Twitter is in the hundreds of applications we leverage to make it better. Blogs are nice, but RSS feeds, Diggs and del.icio.us are just a few of the technologies that have helped blogs realize the potential of their communication power.

We have the tool to communicate to our markets in ways we never dreamed possible. Now it is up to each of us to figure out how to use those tools to accomplish the goals we’ve set. The original thinking that social media tactics should reserved for communications and not for marketing is already evolving and will continue to do so. 

What we have today is so because people were willing to push boundries of what the Internet could do (revolution) – people a hell of a lot smarter than me. But each of us is capable of taking the gifts they’ve given and evolving them to derive greater and greater benefit than even the revolutionaries might have imagined.

The revolution is dead. Long live the evolution.

October 1, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Personal v. Professional with Albert Maruggi

 A couple of months ago I saw a Twitter message from the owner of a consulting firm announcing the release of a new survey on the success of ERP implementations. A few minutes later the same individual used Twitter to take a hard line on the health care debate. In my opinion, the guy took quite a risk in mixing his professional and personal lives in a forum like Twitter where following someone is not the same as knowing them.

How many were offended by his opinion on health care reform we can’t know. Nor can we know how many will no longer consider doing business with him. But there is a number that fall into both categories.

Social media requires openness and transparency, but how much is too much? To discuss this, and other questions, I called my friend and former colleague Albert Maruggi of Provident Partners and The Marketing Edge Podcast. The outcome is the first ever Wondering Out Loud Podcast.

During out conversation we talk about the risks of mixing the professional with the personal, about the danger of “blurting” in 140 characters or less, and about how we are quick to label and categorize others. As always, Albert is thoughtful, serious and funny.

Enjoy.

Mark Palony speaks with Albert Maruggi about the risks of mixing the professional with the personal in social media.

August 26, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Are you self serving or self promoting

As the adoption of social media by business expands at an ever increasing rate, its misuse grows along with it. When you engage in social media activities are you self serving or self promoting?

Have you ever considered the difference? Both deal with the self, but if you choose to practice the former over the latter, you are headed for social media failure.

Here are the definitions from dictionary.com:

Self serving: Serving to further one’s own selfish interests.
Self Promotion: Promotion, including advertising and publicity, of oneself effected by oneself.

Done correctly, self promotion will result in all the benefits – increased leads, sales and revenue – you can get through self serving means, without turning away a good chunk of your audience. If this sounds difficult to achieve, it’s not. Promoting the self – you, your colleagues, and your business – is as easy as showing your target audience what you know. How you show them, however, goes a long way toward defining which side of boarder you are on between serving and promoting.

Let me illustrate with an example of a LinkedIn discussion:

Q: My boss wants me to buy a list of emails we can use for marketing. We’ve never done this and I’m looking for advice on picking the right provider. Thanks for your help.

A1: You can buy any list you need from my company Lists-R-Us. We specialize in providing 100% opt in lists for every conceivable industry – and a few you can’t conceive of. Call me at 555-1212.

A2: Before you pick a provider you’ll want to ask several questions including how they compile their lists, what information they gather about the individual and the company, can they segment based on SIC codes, and what are the counts within the SIC’s you are targeting. Also ask to see a sample cut of the data and what accommodations they make for non-deliverable addresses. If you want more I’ve included the links to a couple of credible resources below. Hope this helps.

I will grant that the example I provided is fictional, but it is most certainly not extreme. Go through the discussions and you’ll find any number of questions and answers that are commercials. But LinkedIn is by no means the only site that suffers from sledgehammer marketing. Blogs – posts and comments – are not immune, nor are Twitter and facebook for that matter.

Provide help with information the individual can use to solve their issue. It is a way of promoting yourself, without selling yourself. Over time, as your credibility grows, you will find a growing number of people who follow you, listen to you, and offer your name to others a resource that can be trusted.

August 24, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Nice bones, now here’s the meat

Wednesday morning was a great morning at the St. Paul Pool & Yacht club.

A small group convened to hear Provident Partners’ Albert Maruggi and me speak on the ways of integrating social media tactics to one’s traditional marcomm efforts. Keeping the group small allowed us to drill down into the attendees specific issues and objectives and they walked away, not with a laundry list of what tools are available, but with concrete ideas of how to develop a social media strategy that will help them achieve those objectives.

Our goal was to give people a different type of seminar. We wanted them to forget about the shiny new objects – all the tools and toys that are used and developed everyday – and ask themselves a few questions:

  1. What are our marcomm objectives.
  2. How can we leverage social media to help us me.et those objectives.
  3. How do we determine which tool is appropriate for the given job.

Content, credible content, being king, we also asked them to look inside their company and consider resources – the human kind – they could tap to play the role of subject matter expert and how they could best be leveraged; audio, video and/or text.

We packed a lot of information into a two hour semianr, and in the end everyone left with a solid foundation on which to begin building the strategies they came in search of. I’m going to enjoy watching as the companies represented build out their plans and begin executing on them.

It was a very satisfying and gratifying to help fellow professionals who are in the same position I was just a few short years ago.

August 14, 2009 Posted by | Journalism, Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top 10 reasons Microsoft can’t survive

We’ve all seen ‘em, we’ve all read ‘em, and some of us have written ‘em:

  1. “Top 10 reasons social media will bring peace to the Middle East”
  2. “Top 5 Twitter will make you thinner and save you from chronic Halitosis”

Yes, these are a bit farfetched, but you get the idea.

Frequently the offspring of writer’s block or a fast approaching deadline, The List, as I refer it, is a quick way to get something in front of your readers. For too many, however, it’s become the default way of creating content. While this isn’t a problem that will lead to the demise of blogging, it is certain to cause problems for those who rely too heavily on The List.

The occasional top 10 post is to be expected, but I’ve been finding more and more popping up in my Google reader. The more often they come,  the more suspect I am. When a blogger begins to fall back on The List at least once a week, I conclude they are only trying to drive traffic by packing their posts with highly searched keywords (do ‘ya think my headline might get some notice?) and/or are just plain lazy. As a result, their RSS feed is quickly thrown into a black hole.

When I read a blog, I’m doing it because I believe the author has something of value to share with me, something I may not have previously considered or perhaps have considered in a different context. I want a post to make me think about different sides to the same issue. I want him/her to be provocative, engaging and, on occasion, irritating.

If you’re not generating an emotional response from your readers, regardless of what emotion it is, you are not doing your job.

My bottom line, I’d rather skip posting for day – like yesterday – than give my readers a list of the top 10 reasons I think Microsoft is in its death throes.

It would be provocative, but how much value would it have?

August 11, 2009 Posted by | Social Media | , , | Leave a comment

   

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