Monday, January 25, 2010

Part 5 - Social Media For Business - Who has control?

Before you actually start to engage in using Social Media some serious consideration should be made to who within your organisation or company has the mandate to manage the portfolio.

Those who currently maintain the marketing and communications responsibilities may be the best port of call initially. They have your brand and marketing direction as their primary focus, are often technically aware, already manage the website updates and email communications - so the social media platforms should align nicely. The greatest requirement to maintaining a successful engagement is time so this should be allocated not just added on to an existing workload without proper consideration.

Now is a good time to set the parameters of the engagement and some measurable outcomes to be sure that everyone’s expectations are able to be reviewed and qualified. It may also be the ideal time to initiate a formal Social Media policy so everyone within the company doesn’t get the wrong idea of what acceptable use of the online medium is, and get a better understanding of who is responsible for what, when and why. Remember you are using the web as a serious business tool, not to entertain staff and fill in time.

This is a good time to consider engagement of some external assistance to help you with your planning and possibly implementation process. The opportunity is to get some independent and impartial advice and expertise free from any emotional or political connection to your business.

Social Media consultants seem to be popping up with increasing frequency so trying to qualify their “expert” status let alone what value they will bring to the table can be difficult. While having thousands of friends on Facebook and approaching “whale” status on Twitter (10,000 followers) does demonstrate a high level of commitment to Social Media it doesn’t demonstrate any businesses development experience or acumen.

As with any advisor look for experience in your sector, testimonials and recommendations that you can authenticate and importantly a person that shares your values and goals that you can get along with and trust. Always keep in mind that it’s your business, Social Media is a method of communication and engagement that must be honestly representative of that.

Whatever the decision, be sure your Social Media portfolio manager is a good communicator, is mature enough to understand that what they say can have long term ramifications to the business image, and are responsible enough to ensure that your brand and its values are understood, respected and maintained to the highest standard at all times.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How To Follow The Twitter Madness

Twitter can be as frustrating as it is powerful and engaging. Because there is so much opinion and commentary most of the content is either not relevant to you, pointless or space filling nonsense. To get the most out of Twitter you have to decide what it is you want from it.

If it is ideas, reference or inspiration then just log into your web based Twitter account at a frequency that suits you (once an hour, once a day, once a week) and watch what people are saying. If something is of interest don’t be afraid to engage them in a conversation. Don’t forget to use their @TheirTwitterName in the tweet (post) otherwise they won’t know you are directing the comment at them. While you are logged in take a moment to see who is following you and if they look credible, follow back. It is in this way your portfolio of followers will grow. Remember it takes time and it’s not a popularity contest.

If you want to use Twitter for a more specific purpose such as track comments about your business, your industry or competitor then one of the many 3rd party products will be useful. I would recommend TweetDeck as one of the better applications I’ve seen. It does require a download and a small amount of setup. Once in place you can Tweet from your computer desktop, set up customised searches, receive and send messages from multiple Twitter accounts and also update other applications like your FaceBook. MySpace and LinkedIn.

One of the core features of Twitter is that you can send and receive from your cellphone. Not difficult to set up and I would suggest a handy tool if there is something that happens while your are out and about that you just have to share. Again there are numerous 3rd party applications that can enhance this feature, adding pictures using Twitpic being one example. Unless you have lots of time or a specific reason I can think of few reasons why anyone would want all the tweets on their feed sent to their phone. The cost of these mobile updates will cost you depending on you data plan, I would advise you check with your Telco provider before you get carried away.

When it comes to building your own list, take your time and apply some degree of strategy to who you follow. You can’t choose who follows you but you have every right to decide who to add to your follow list. Unless you are extremely famous or popular you will have to build your following gradually and in sync with how many follow you.

Because effective social media engagement still involves trust and honesty do not be tempted to use automated list builders, it’s not a numbers game and you can risk being regarded as an insincere waste of space spammer. The “auto message your new followers” feature offered by some of these tools is basically spam and should be avoided. As a result of this annoying practice I now never bother to check my DM (Direct Message) folder.

I have more than one account to ensure I can target my audience more effectively. With my personal account @craignetworker I will follow anyone who looks credible and offers advice or genuine content. My business account @MondayMorningNZ is more specific in that I follow predominantly NZ businesses and people who give sound Social Media or business information. Other accounts are more specific like @WineryNZ which is specific to people in the wine industry.

To understand Twitter better you need to think of it as a conversation. Make your posts conversational like you are talking to a real person. Think less about “what are you doing?” as what the original twitter question posed and more on “what can you add to the conversation?”
If you find you are getting hard-sell messages and mindless drivel don’t hesitate in un-following the offender.

When your lists builds to a size that the core group you liked to listen to and engage with melt into obscurity, then use the group filter function built into the twitter browser or featured in applications like Tweetdeck to filter them back into the foreground. If you want to find people who are local, in your industry or discussing particular topics try the advanced search features on

Finally shorten web links using to help reduce the character count (you only have 140) and to offer a mind blowing amount of click through statistics.

Most of all enjoy Twitter, discover its power and develop your own strategy by watching, listening and engaging with others who offer their wisdom and experience.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Part 4 – Social Media for Business – When do I begin?

Did you make a resolution for the coming year or did you simply not bother because you felt it was just a waste of time and energy?

We have just started a new year and it is traditionally when we take some time away from our business. It is the time to reflect on what we have achieved over the past year and affirm what our expectations and goals are for the coming year. Most importantly though, and often overlooked, it is the time to set some achievable actions that will turn the goals into reality.

Few would claim last year was an easy one for business. Taking an optimistic point of view, it has forced us to look long and hard at our business models and come up with ways to improve on the bottom line. As a result, if you have made good decisions then ultimately you and your business will benefit as the economy improves.

No matter what business sector you represent you must have acknowledged that your relationship with the customer is an important factor to your sustainability. Foot traffic and frontage are no longer a primary solution, customers want to know they are not only getting value but they are themselves valued. To achieve this we must listen, we must communicate, engage and share our expertise in a way that was not only unattainable to previous generations but unimaginable.

Saying Social Media is not for me is just the same as those before you refusing to use the telephone, the fax, the mobile phone, email and websites as they became accessible. Sure your business may survive without some or all of these things but you will be a rare and probably much endangered exception to the rule. Social Media, like past advancements in technology, are marketing and communications channels that customers expect you to use, for their convenience not your own.

If you haven’t done so already, the time to incorporate Social Media into your customer communications and marketing strategy is now. It is not a quick fix, in fact quite the opposite. Building your networks, preparing your platforms to align with you brand and values and developing the resources to ensure you can maintain meaningful and ongoing interaction is extremely time consuming. Cheesy analogies of conquering huge obstacles by taking small steps may be appropriate but I will assume by reading this far you have got the point. The sooner you come to term with Social Media’s potential and your advantages and limitations the better off you will be in the long term.

So do start now, take small and careful steps. Get some advice, read, follow and friend those in the know. Do start to watch and listen to what is going on and only then you will begin to understand what the opportunities and risks that relate to you and your business are.

There is no one hat that fits all, thankfully that is what will continue to give us our uniqueness and our point of difference.

Happy New Year.