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The Middle-Aged execuTive’s guide To sociAl MediA
How to Stay Relevant and PRoSPeR in by: dennis brown an incReaSingly Social woRld
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wheN it comes to dealiNg with techNology-driveN chaNge, i thiNk about two examples i’ve witNessed.
The first is an airbrush artist I’ll call Stan. Airbrushing is how we produced technical illustrations and retouched photos before Photoshop and Illustrator came along. (If you’re reading this guide, you probably already knew that.) The good ones could do amazing things with an airbrush, like creating beautifully detailed cut-away diagrams of an industrial engine from nothing but blueprints. Stan was one of the good ones. But when the work of the airbrush started to be done on computers, Stan felt threatened. He didn’t consider that this new development might make his job easier and increase the value he delivered to clients. Instead, he saw the equivalent of robot arms taking the jobs of automotive assembly line workers. He couldn’t even bring himself to try the new technology; although, he knew his stubbornness was costing him business.
iN the course of just a couple of years, the world passed him by.
The other example is my father-in-law. He had a graphic design company back in the day when design concepts were done in colored marker and the most sophisticated technology he had to deal with was the printing press. Continued...
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A botched eye surgery cost him his vision, and he had to shutter his business right around the time his industry was transitioning from traditional processes to digital production. When a new surgery restored some of his vision years later, he learned everything he could about the programs that had become standard in his industry. He knew he couldn’t recapture what he had lost. He was simply curious and found the advances fascinating.
he became proficient in the major programs and stayed busy as a freelance designer until he chose to retire.
The lesson is obvious: change happens whether we like it to or not. An attitude of curiosity and open-mindedness gives you a better chance to benefit from change than an attitude of contempt. This guide attempts to apply that philosophy to social media. It provides a basic introduction to the most relevant social media sites and tools along with guidance on how to use them to enhance professional development and company positioning.
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is it our turN to be left behiNd?
After all, we helped computerize the workforce and led the move onto the Internet. We pioneered e-commerce and e-marketing, traveled with laptops and bought BlackBerries to stay connected 24 hours a day. We have been all about progress. Then one night we went to sleep as Buzz Lightyear and woke up as Woody the Cowboy. The world was blogging and tweeting and friending, and we were on the outside looking in. Was it our turn to be left behind by technology? This particular revolution feels different than others in which we have participated in (although it mirrors the early days of the web in many ways). Maybe because social media is so, well, social. It’s sometimes pointless and silly, and it’s tough to get a handle on from a business perspective. Plus, it’s moving so fast. Fast enough to make you think it might be smart to just wait for things to settle down before you invest too much time in it.
Actually, it’s more likely that the opposite is true: the longer you wait, the farther behind you will be when you do move forward.
Because amidst all the silliness and pointlessness, social media represents a fundamental change in the way people get and share news, information and content. It is impacting how opinions are formed and decisions are made today—and its influence is only going to grow. It is evolving quickly, but as the early days of the Web demonstrated, it is better to stake a claim and evolve with the media, rather than try to catch up to it later.
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does sm work for b2b?
There’s a perception that social media is primarily a consumer marketing tool and has only a marginal role in B2B marketing. That’s a perception that’s easily challenged. Consider:
The power of the network
At its core, business is about relationships. In consumer markets, those relationships are typically with brands; in B2B they are just as likely to be with people. Social media helps extend networks and deepen relationships.
The importance of content
B2B purchasing decisions are often complex with long sales cycles. Purchasers and influencers are typically hungry for information that can help guide their decision. Social media gives you new tools to get content in front of purchasers while they are in the consideration phase. When you accomplish that, you not only make sure they are considering your point-of-view, you gain favor by serving as a resource.
The nature of community
Remember the old adage, “nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM.” That has always said more about what motivates buyers than it does about IBM. B2B purchases can have a significant impact on the companies involved—and the career of the person making the decision. That’s why B2B purchasers tend to look to their peers for suggestions on what to use and reassurance that products and services work the way the company that is selling them says they will. Increasingly, this experience is being shared through online communities and forums you can reach through social media.
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six social media tools you Need to kNow
While there are hundreds of social media platforms and tools, here are six that are worthy of your attention. You may find others you like, but if you’re just getting started with social media, these represent the best places to focus your efforts.
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Blogging has evolved since Web pioneers started keeping “web logs”—online diaries—in the mid-’90s. Today, blogs continue to be used as web diaries, but their role has also expanded. They now serve as an alternative to traditional media in delivering news and analysis; as a way for traditional media to provide more timely and personal perspectives on news; as a collaborative management and internal communications tool; and as a vehicle for engaging markets, communicating thought leadership, driving Web traffic, and improving performance on search engines. There are two opportunities to consider when evaluating blogs from a business perspective: 1. Reading and commenting on blogs 2. Creating a blog
Reading blogs can give you a broader perspective on news and issues, more timely analysis, and often the ability to tap into an individual’s passion, personal experience or expertise. There’s a pretty good chance your customers, competitors and the leaders in your field are already blogging. If you’re relying strictly on traditional media for your view of the industry, you’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. You’re also missing out on a chance to participate in the conversations taking place among your potential customers. For example, if you had Googled, “best tax preparation software” in March 2009, the first result that would have been served up was a blog called FiveCentNickel.com, which had a post titled, “What’s the Best Tax Prep Software?” (blogs perform well on search engines). The post itself is a non-committal review of the leading programs and doesn’t shed much light on the question. But, as of March, it had generated 55 comments, mostly from users sharing their experience with different programs. Continued...
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In the earliest comments, TurboTax gets knocked for being more expensive than the others. Then Bob Meighan, a VP at TurboTax, posts a thoughtful and fact-based comment that outlines some of the benefits of TurboTax that had not been mentioned and respectfully corrects some of the misinformation from previous posts. He posts five more times in the discussion thread during the next three weeks, each time either answering questions about tax filing processes and IRS requirements or responding to comments triggered by his previous posts. Scrolling through the posts, you see a shift in the tone of the discussion after his first comment. It becomes more favorable to TurboTax and Meighan is praised for his participation: I have used Turbo Tax for years. I like the fact that Bob is here talking about his product.
i like that this guy …. Bob Meighan, vP TurboTax … steps up to , the plate and answers concerns.
Thanks Bob for responding to these posts. Wonder why the other companies are not posting? Those comments reach a smaller audience than an article in Money Magazine, but they have a powerful impact on those who do see them. It’s hard not to come away feeling as if TurboTax is more on top of things than its competitors, a pretty good takeaway for a company selling its ability to help you get the biggest return on your taxes. That’s effective marketing that doesn’t feel like marketing.
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creating a blog Many organizations and individuals have considered whether to start a blog. This is a difficult question as blogs can be very effective at boosting web traffic and communicating with a core audience in a personal and impactful way. That is if you can consistently deliver search-relevant content that the people you are trying to reach will find useful. In many cases it will be worth the effort. Typically, a corporate blog will involve multiple people within your organization so the burden isn’t on one or two individuals. It is helpful to have a blog champion or editor who can set the direction, identify keywords, solicit content, and provide light editing for consistency, but blog content should be the responsibility of the organization, not the champion. If you do choose to start a blog, think long term. As web communications continue to evolve, your blog will become the hub of your participation in social media and possibly the centerpiece of your marketing communications program. Focus on consistency, quality and delivering information the audience will find useful, and be mindful of the keywords they are using to search for solutions like yours. Don’t get hung up on the number of readers out of the gate. You are probably going to be disappointed if you do; there are just too many competitive sources of information. But, if you have a point-of-view or specialized expertise (and most organizations do), align your content with the key search terms, update frequently (twice a week is suggested), and promote your blog through other avenues, you will be creating a powerful tool for engaging your market.
THRee THINGS You CAN Do BeTTeR THRouGH BLoGGING
1. engage in a dialogue with leaders in your industry by commenting on blogs. 2. bring to light expertise in your organization that may be hidden from the market. 3. provide timely, relevant, keyword-rich updates to your web site.
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It’s hard to overstate the impact YouTube has had on the web (it was Time Magazine’s “Invention of the Year” in 2006). The video sharing site, launched in 2005, simultaneously “videoized” the web and turbocharged the user-generated content movement. In a matter of just four years, it has become home to more than 100 million videos and, according to TechCrunch, serves up a staggering 1.2 billion videos a day. Search on a term specific to your industry and you are likely to find a wealth of content from both potential customers and competitors. of course, companies have been using video to tell their story since the days BetaMax and VHS battled for market share. In the Internet age, flash animation became a popular and powerful tool for simplifying complex concepts and solutions. YouTube not only provides a new channel for existing video assets, but has also recalibrated viewers’ expectations regarding video quality. Internet users have quickly grown accustomed to seeing videos shot by non-professionals with handheld cameras and have com to associate this style with authenticity. The highly polished corporate video with the deep-voiced narrator may not impress with its professionalism. It’s likely to get glossed over as corporate marketing, or worse, be taken as evidence that your organization is stuck in the previous century. It’s never been easier and less expensive to create new video content for your company. The new generation of video cameras can capture web quality video for less than $250, and basic editing software is available for both the Windows and Macintosh platforms. You can employ these technologies to produce video blogs, product demos and point-of-view videos that can be posted to YouTube and embedded in email communications, news releases and newsletters.
BeST PRACTICeS FoR YouTuBe VIDeoS
1. keep it short. less than five minutes is the standard. remember there are 100 million other videos just a click away. 2. find the right words. use the terms your customers search on in titles and descriptions to help them find your content. 3. remember the medium. make sure your video still shows what you want it to when it is compressed and displayed in a small window or viewed on a mobile device.
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LinkedIn was created expressly for professional networking and is the most business-friendly of the social networking sites. As of May 2009, it had more than 40 million registered users, spanning 170 industries. LinkedIn is a no-brainer for business professionals. Like the other tools, it’s free (although the site does offer a subscription service for “power users”). The profile you create is not unlike a resume and you can make it visible to people searching your name on the web or keep it private. once you have a profile, you can “link” to your current colleagues as well as those from previous positions. LinkedIn provides a convenient vehicle for communicating with your network through regular status updates that inform the people in your network of new connections you’ve made, changes to your profile, and, if you choose, an update on what you are doing. Likewise, you see the same from the people in your network. It also gives you the opportunity to extend your network. This works in two ways. You can send an invitation to someone you met once at a trade show or on a flight and bring them into your network, paving the way for future interaction. Plus, you can request introductions to people who aren’t in your network but are in the network of the people in your network, essentially digitizing the traditional networking method of asking someone you know to introduce you to someone you don’t know. You can also join groups relevant to your business, industry or personal interests. LinkedIn groups create communities based on interest and present the opportunity to ask questions or share information with others in the community.
THe lionS oF LINkeDiN
the basic premise of linkedin is to create a network of people you know and trust. but some members believe networking is all about connecting with people you don’t know. these linkedin open Networkers (lioNs) communicate through their profiles and through groups that they are “open networkers” and will accept any invitation they receive. as a result, they may have thousands of connections. while it’s not for everybody, lioNs believe the more contacts they have, the more effectively they can use linkedin.
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Facebook is the largest social networking site in the world with more than 350 million users. That kind of scale simply can’t be ignored. Facebook is best known as a personal networking site, but has indicated it will eventually offer users the option of maintaining multiple profiles for different audiences, allowing professionals to have separate profiles for business and personal relationships. until then, the best reasons to join Facebook may well be personal. Your daughter, brother, motherin-law, golfing partner and co-workers are already out there. Facebook gives you a way to stay connected to them, even when you are working long hours or traveling. Like LinkedIn, you create a profile when you join, but the profile is more focused on family connections and personal interests. You choose who you want to connect to (or “friend” in Facebook terms) and whether your profile is visible to all Facebook members or just to your network. Information in your profile is used by Facebook to serve up ads that match your interests or demographic profile. Ads are fairly discreet and you have the option of giving an ad a “thumbs down” to prevent it from reappearing on your page. You can also create a page for your business or brand on Facebook where you can post content and allow Facebook users to become a “fan” of your business. For brands with strong followings, such as Apple, Starbucks and Ikea, Facebook is becoming a key vehicle for customer engagement.
THRee FACeBook TeRMS To kNoW
wall: the page within your facebook site where you can post updates, add photos, videos, web links and other content you want to share with the people you are connected to or the fans of your business. Fan: brands, businesses and performers are on all on facebook, but you don’t connect with them as a friend, but as a fan. as a fan, you receive status updates from the brands and people you are fans of, but they don’t receive updates from you. becoming a fan allows you to do things like receive messages from lance armstrong after each leg of the tour de france or learn about specials or new dishes at your favorite restaurant. connect: a newer application that allows you to log on to a third party site using your facebook id. your information is then shared with the third party site and your activity on the site appears on your facebook status updates. for example, if amazon were to adopt facebook connect, it could personalize book or music suggestions for you based on your facebook profile. it isn’t widely used yet, but facebook aspires to be the hub of all your online activity, and connect is a step in that direction.
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SlideShare is the web’s largest presentation-sharing community and is quickly doing for documents what YouTube has done for video: creating an easily searchable repository of information on almost any subject. SlideShare creates a new channel for exposing your content to the market. Similar to YouTube, you create an account that allows you to upload PowerPoint, Word or PDF files to the site for public access. You can also add audio and clickable uRLs so you can add a call to action at the end of your presentation with a link to more information. or you can even post a shortened version of a presentation with a link that takes users back to your web site to view the full presentation. Many of the best practices for YouTube apply here. Most importantly, make sure your presentation can stand alone, either by adding audio or building narrative and context into presentations. In addition, be sure your title is informative and includes key search terms. You can also tag presentations with keywords to improve search.
does the world really need more powerpoint presentations? Not if you think of powerpoint presentations as dry sequences of bulleted lists. but slideshare is home to much more than that. if you want to use slideshare effectively, make sure your content is “able” as in: 1. find-able. pay particular attention to the title. does it contain the key words the users you want to reach will use in searches? if not, change it before you post it. 2. scan-able. people don’t read on the web the way they read books. they tend to graze, find things they are interested in and scan them. so make sure your document tells a story through heads, subheads and callout text. 3. memor-able. is it clear what the audience should take away from the presentation?
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Twitter is the “micro blogging” platform that limits messages from users to 140 characters. Like some of the other sites, you create a profile (much shorter than LinkedIn or Facebook) and connect to other Twitter users by following them. unlike some other communities, Twitter doesn’t impose a reciprocal relationship—you can follow someone without them following you—and doesn’t require the people you follow to accept you into the community. Twitter is also much more fluid in how communities evolve. It is easy and acceptable to “unfollow” someone you have been following, so communities can form and dissolve quickly. Twitter has a relatively high abandonment rate, which means a lot of the users who register never engage with the platform. But it’s a unique service, and it’s easy to see Twitter playing a growing role in our culture: 1. direct connection between markets and brands Right now this is playing out most notably with celebrities and athletes who are using Twitter to communicate directly with their audiences. Want to know what Shaq thinks about his trade to the Cavaliers? Many of his 1.6 million followers went to Twitter to get his thoughts first-hand before tuning into SportsCenter. And those in Cleveland were able to send him a message welcoming him to the city. Few brands have found their voice on Twitter the way some celebrities have, but the potential is there. 2. A mobile platform for a mobile world Twitter is ideal for mobile devices. That brings Twitter an immediacy that can be incredibly powerful as was evident in its role in keeping the world abreast of the uprisings in Iran during a media blackout. 3. A peek into the collective psyche Twitter’s Search function allows you to search on specific terms and see what people are tweeting at that very moment. Want to know what people are saying about Microsoft’s new oS or who is tweeting about data centers right now? Do a search by going to http://search.twitter.com. You don’t even need a Twitter account to use the search function. In fact, if you want to learn more about social media after reading this paper, try doing a Twitter search on social media, and you’ll be exposed to a wealth of resources.
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six steps to get you iNto social media
Here are the steps you can take to get involved with social media on a personal level: 1. Know the policy. Find out if your company has a social media policy. If they do, make sure you are familiar with it. You need to act on the web the same way you would act if you were in a meeting with a customer. You also need to know what is okay to share and what isn’t. 2. Find a mentor. Don’t go into the woods without a guide. Like so much else, social media is turning mentoring on its head. Senior executives need to turn to new hires for their expertise in this area. Ask around to see who in your organization is social media savvy, and see if they will show you the ropes. 3. Expand your horizons. use Alltop or Technorati to identify blogs to follow, or ask your customers and colleagues what blogs they monitor. You can set up an RSS Reader to track those blogs so you don’t have to go out and check for new updates. If you don’t know how to set up an RSS Reader, ask your mentor or do a search for how-to guides. 4. Establish a presence. If you’re not already on LinkedIn, start there. If you are on LinkedIn, but have never built out your network, do that. Join some groups you find interesting. Then create your Facebook and Twitter profiles, even if you are not sure whether you will ever use those platforms. 5. Listen. You’re smart enough not to walk into a meeting in progress and start contributing before you’re up to speed. Spend some time following the blogs you’ve identified and the “conversations” on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to get a feel for how others are using these platforms. 6. Make a contribution. When you’re ready, join the conversation. You can’t really experience the power of social media if you never make a contribution. That might mean leaving a comment on a blog you found interesting or adding an update to your LinkedIn or Facebook page. Who knows? You may even start tweeting.
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six steps to get your compaNy iNto social media
Here are the steps you can take to make sure your business is using social media effectively. 1. Get a policy. Make sure your company has a social media policy. unless you’re a sole proprietorship, there’s a good chance your associates are already using social media. A good policy will encourage participation in social media while recognizing who the associates that participate aren’t just representing themselves. They are representing the organization. For a sample social media policy, email email@example.com. 2. Identify your champions. Find the people in your organization who have a passion for social media and get them engaged in the process of developing a social media plan. Also, look to your public relations and marketing partners for additional expertise in this area. These companies have the benefit of working with multiple companies dealing with the same issue and can bring more experience and a different perspective to your social media plan. 3. Create a content plan. If you’re going to participate in social media, you must have something to say. For many companies that means content: white papers, ebooks, videos and blogs. The content that works best in social media may be a little different than the content that you’ve traditionally produced. Think about the issues your potential customers are dealing with and the questions that they have, and address those in an informative, non-promotional way. You’re most effective when the networks and communities you’re participating in view you as a trusted resource, rather than a promoter. 4. Monitor the conversation. Just as on an individual level it is smart to listen in to conversations before you contribute, you should get a sense of the level and type of social media activity relative to your business before you implement a social media plan. However, this is more complex for a business as you may have to monitor multiple sites and terms, not just a group of individual accounts. There are tools available that can help you create a dashboard for monitoring, although they can be challenging to configure. If you’d like to set up a social media dashboard for your company and aren’t sure how, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Continued...
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5. Establish your presence. on LinkedIn, make sure your company profile is accurate and reflects what you want it to reflect. If you have video assets, create a YouTube “channel” for your company that allows you to aggregate your videos in one easy-to-find location. You can also create playlists within your channel to categorize videos by subject or expert, and can choose to disable comments, allow comments with approval or allow comments with no approval. Take a similar approach with SlideShare, making sure that any presentations you upload do not contain any proprietary information and represent your brand the way you want it represented. Then, consider what role Twitter and Facebook might play in your future marketing efforts. Regarding Twitter, you may eventually want multiple accounts so you may need to develop an account naming structure that provides some consistency across accounts. At minimum, you should have a company account that can be used to supplement your public relations program by creating an additional channel for communicating company news. For Facebook, you may ultimately want a site for internal and external audiences. 6. Engage the market. Now, it’s time for the rubber to hit the road. Social media isn’t a monologue, it’s a dialogue. Create opportunities to interact with your audience through blogs and social networks where you have established a presence.
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maNagiNg your iNvestmeNt iN social media
As with other online activities, social media is inherently measurable. You can measure connections, followers, downloads and web traffic. It is also a medium that can consume as much time as you are willing to invest in it. Here are three keys to managing your social media investment: 1. Focus your efforts where you can have the most impact. Go where your market is. If you don’t think you can build a large base of fans on Facebook, don’t invest a lot of time there. Do a few things well, instead of a lot of things poorly. 2. Measure what you can measure. Track all the metrics you can, paying particular attention to metrics most likely to indicate interest in your company’s products or services, such as Web site visits or white paper downloads. These metrics may not be of the scale you are used to seeing with traditional public relations and advertising programs, but they often represent a higher level of interaction and engagement with your customers and prospects. 3. Integrate with other programs. Social media shouldn’t exist in a silo. It can play a role in supporting public relations and online marketing programs, and content from those programs can be used to feed the social media program. Now, more than ever, all your programs have to work together to support your marketing objectives. For larger organizations, it can be helpful to create a social media team with representatives from different marketing disciplines and select partners.
for more information or to inquire about social media consulting, contact dennis brown, a middle-aged executive who gets social media. direct. 614.383.1609 email. email@example.com
©2010 Fahlgren, inc.
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