Does My Business Really Need This Social Media Stuff?

pink_phone

One of the BizDev guys at my new shop wandered by the other day, and I asked him what he was hearing from his corporate folks that he called on about “Social Media”. He looked at me a little blankly, and responded “Not much at all.”

pink_phoneHe said that to most of the corporate types he talked to, SM was pretty much a toy and they really didn’t understand why it would matter to their business, why they’d want to spend time on it, or why they’d want to be Tweeting or FaceBooking or whatever it is that the kids are all doing nowadays.

Truth hurts. Here I am rolling around in SM all day long, thinking that it’s the neatest thing since bread with the crust cut off, and it turns out that in South Carolina most of the guys in the nice suits think it’s something their daughters do on their little pink phones before their coming out parties.

My BizDev friend challenged me to give him a few short points that he could use with the folks he talked to, that would help them understand why Social Media was important to them.

And the hard part?  It’s gotta be written in “Business” not in “Woo-Woo Awesome”.

1.  You’re Already Using Social Media – You Just Don’t Know It

If you’ve got more than two employees (and they’re under 60), you’re already using social media.  You just don’t know it.  The average social media user is 39 years old.

Your employees are innocently posting things like:

  • “I’m so proud that our tuna is now 95% Dolphin Free!”
  • “I don’t think a few Toyotas exploding is such a bad thing – our dealership hasn’t had a single one explode, yet!”
  • “Yeah, we had a problem with e-coli in our potato salad last week but we’ve cleaned all the dishes and the restaurant is ready to go!”

You need to have a Social Media strategy, a corporate policy, and guidance for employees.  Now.

2.  People Expect To Find You – If They Don’t, They Go Elsewhere

Your customers want you there. 93% of customers say they want businesses to be available through Social Media.

Customers look for your hours with their smartphone as they head to your store.  They compare your product guarantee as they shop in another store for a similar product.  And they look at reviews of your restaurant, hotel, or sewer service just before they call.

Your reputation is already out on the web, most likely.  Someone has posted a review, a blog, or a Twitter comment about an interaction they’ve had with your business.  If it was positive, you should be trumpeting it from the rooftops.  If it was negative, you should be on top of it immediately – solving the problem, if possible. Minimizing the damage, otherwise.

Ask Target. Or United Airlines.

3.A Social Media Presence Is Like That Fire Extinguisher On Your Wall

You’ve got a shiny fire extinguisher on your wall, and you hope to hell that you’ll never need to use it. But every year, you have it tested – and if you’re smart, you train your employees how it works.

A solid SM presence is like that for your business.  When disaster happens (your own little BP Oil Spill or Kentucky Fried Sink Bathers) you’re ready to manage communications and keep things from spiraling out of hand.

You can candidly communicate with your customers, sharing information transparently and quickly – not having let it get filtered and spun through the media.

Plus, your supporters (you’ll have supporters if you’re doing SM right – thousands of them) will come to your aid across the Internet and tell the truth about your company and who you really are.

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So, those are my top three points I’d send out to Corporate America.What would you add?  Where have I gone wrong?

The Three Most Dangerous Words In Web Design: “Lorem, Ipsum, and Dolor”

lorem-ipsum

If you’ve ever worked with a Web Designer (dangerous creatures who live in dark rooms, surrounded by monitors and empty cans of Red Bull and crumpled Twinkie wrappers) you’ve probably seen these strange words in the middle of the screen on your new web site:

lorem-ipsum“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. ”

Used by typesetters and designers since the 1960′s, this “filler copy” is meant to let you focus on the design elements of the page rather than worry about exactly what the copy will say. And, if you’re writing a brochure for Toyotas or a flyer about your lost cat, that’s all fine and good. But if you’re trying to design a blog, sales page or site for your community there’s a large problem.

You can’t properly design the look, feel and vibe of your site unless the designer can read the copy and experience the voice, tone, flavor and vibe of your copy. Let me offer three example opening paragraphs for the same web site, and you be the judge:

Bob’s Lugnut Emporium: Take #1

Welcome to Bob’s Lugnut Emporium. We are purveyors of fine lugnuts in southeastern Kansas (and the Oklahoma panhandle) for vehicles of all sizes.  If you need lugnuts, or lugnut accessories, we can supply all your needs. We offer overnight delivery of lugnuts via Fedex and UPS.  You can also visit our headquarters from 8AM to 5PM to pick up your lugnuts.  Please call ahead to make sure that we have the nuts you need.

Bob’s Lugnut Emporium: Take #2

In today’s competitive business world, your team is striving to be the #1 performer in your market niche — and Bob’s Lugnut Emporium can be just the partner that you’re seeking.  Our world-class experts are available to consult with you and provide business-class solutions that offer best-of-breed products providing proven best practices from threads to foot pounds.  We’re the market leader and industry pioneer in our space, offering our patented Limited Unlimited Guarantee Service (LUGS) where each lugnut has an RFID chip connected to a GPS which electronically communicates to your SAB tracking system to instantly update your CIO on the ROI of the product.

Bob’s Lugnut Emporium: Take #3

If you’ve got big trucks, they’ve got tires.  And if those tires fall off, you’ve got problems.  Big problems.  Missed deliveries, angry customers, huge repair expenses, and driver’s wages to pay with no deliveries being billed.  We’re Bob’s Lugnut Emporium — and we know it’s about way more than lugnuts to you.  That’s why every nut is tested twice.  That’s why professional drivers choose our nuts 3:1 in surveys.  And that’s why we offer a personal guarantee from our owner, Bob “Big Load” Johnson:  “My product will beat the nuts off the competition.”

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So — would your web designer come up with a different looking web site for you, if they saw some of this copy before they put stylus to screen?  You bet.  These are three wildly different personas, voices, flavors and styles. (Yes, I’m exaggerating to make a point. So sue me.)  But without having heard any of this you probably would have gotten a nice site with a big shiny lugnut on the top and some photos of tires.

So the next time you’re at the “design” stage of a project, go ahead and write some copy — even if it’s just a few pages — and stay away from the “Lorem, Ipsum, Dolor” stuff.  You’ll be glad you did.

(BTW — the entire concept of this post was pretty much stolen from “Content Rules” — an amazing new book I’m reading by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman. Go buy it right now. Stop reading and do it. Hurry up.)

Building An Image In Social Media, One Yam At A Time

I try to be as tall as Miss Destructo
I try to be as tall as Miss Destructo

I try to be as tall as Miss Destructo

People often ask me why they would want to be on The Twitters, or The Facebook, or involved in The Blogging.  (To be fair, they also often ask me to hush up and move out of the way, but that’s a whole ‘nother post.)  My answer, oftentimes, is that it’s a great way to build a personal brand.

I point to people like Chris Brogan, James Chartrand, Naomi Dunford, Scott Stratten — all of whom have developed great businesses based on being open and entertaining with their audience on one or more social media platforms.

But my favorite example is always Amber Osborne, aka Miss Destructo.  She’s the blue-haired dynamo who is the voice behind @brucesyams — my favorite canned spud — and the “destroyer of social media boredom”. She blogs from Tampa, Florida — the location of Destructo HQ — and was recently named the Best Twitter Personality in Tampa.

She’s managed to build a high-profile image online over a couple years of blogging, tweeting, and generally being helpful and interesting to folks in the social media world. Now that work is paying off – she recently was a headliner at Social Story in Greenville, SC.  Here’s a short video interview with her by Phil Yanov of the GSA Technology Council.


So — what are you doing to build your brand online? If you’re spending all your time on Twitter offering coupons, or telling us what you ate for lunch, or blogging about that amazing discount your hairdresser has going on — think again!

Sweet Dreams, Jack!

places

The other day my friend Naomi Dunford posted an absolutely lovely audio version of “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” that she read for her son Jack.  Many people commented that it brought tears to their eyes, and great joy to their hearts.places

So — always willing to jump on the bandwagon — I’ve recorded my own little bedtime reading for Jack, based on one of my favorite childhood memories.

Kid should be off to dreamland in minutes.

http://www.techherding.com/jack.mp3

In The End, All You’ve Got Is Your Good Name

santa

I’ve just completed a very strange experience with a client.  Well, she wasn’t actually a client — that would suppose that there had been an exchange of funds for services.  In this case, there were santamany promises of funds, but none ever showed up.  It’s not the first time that’s happened to me, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.  And it’s not even the biggest lie I’ve ever been told — there was Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Federal Reserve.

No, in this case, there was just a string of phone calls and emails about the bright future I would have if I just “trusted” her.  If I bought a plane ticket to her client site with my own money, if I started work without a deposit, if I kept revising my proposal over and over and over without ever getting a dime from her.  I wouldn’t pony up the money for the plane ticket (not my first time at the rodeo) but I did buy her book, read up on her theories, prepped for a phone conference, participated in more calls and email, and generally wasted hours I’ll never get back.

(My wife, who’s the financial brains in the family, thought I was a fool.  From the start she pegged this one for somebody who’d never pay up.  But I’m a Minnesotan — our word is our bond, and if you say you’re gonna do something, you do it.  And if you sign a freakin’ contract? Done deal, Bubba.)

This went on for three weeks.  Finally, I called a halt and said unless she paid the deposit in the contract that she had signed — nothing more would happen.

She said she’d pay if I signed an NDA.  Well, that’s pretty common, so I said sure.  The agreement was if I signed the NDA she’d send the deposit via return mail.  What’s the first clause in her NDA?  That I never, ever disclose to anyone outside her team that I participated in the development and facilitation of a public event for 50 learning professionals.  Huh?  Was I going to wear a hood? I signed, but asked in the return email if she wanted to discuss exactly how this would work.

Suddenly, I was being unreasonable.  We needed to talk.  She had a partner who had to be consulted — we might even have to “start over from zero.”  Ruh roh, Scooby. The next morning, I had an angry email in the inbox telling me the contract was “canceled” — and “since you haven’t done any work, I don’t owe you anything.”

I pointed her to the cancellation clause on my website, common to most freelancers.  It says that if I can re-sell the time, I’ll refund your deposit.  But my time is all I have to sell, and I’ve already told others I’m unavailable.

Is This A Teachable Moment?

Well, on the one hand, I suppose it should be.  I saw right away that this person was pretty emotionally unstable.  I’d known her for years — she’d actually been my employer for a bit quite a while back.  And I don’t remember any of this kind of stuff. But now she kept changing her mind, spent hours trying to decide on spending $400 on an airfare, continually promised to send a check that never materialized, ignored emails — not at all the kind of behavior that gives you confidence in a professional relationship.

Maybe this is just a difficult time in her life.  Maybe there are personal, physical or professional pressures on her right now that are causing this kind of erratic behavior.  (I went through menopause with my wife of 14 years, and, at times, she was nuttier than I am normally.)  Maybe the stress of starting a new company and striking out in a new direction have overwhelmed her — and somewhere down the road things would even out.

Twenty years ago, I’d be shouting “lawsuit” and bringing in the lawyers and enforcing every recourse that my contract entitles me to.  Now, a little older and wiser, I just feel sad that people don’t realize that the learning world is a pretty small pond and that the ripples reach from edge to edge.

Is Using Social Media Like Pulling Teeth?

One of my favorite evangelists in the Social Media space is Jeff Hurt (@JeffHurt on Twitter) the Director of Education and Events for the National Association of Dental Plans (NADP)– a small nonprofit headquartered in Dallas, TX.

Jeff_Hurt_10-14-2009_2-55-51_PMYou wouldn’t think of dental work and social media, but he’s done great work in getting a pretty stodgy group to use some really neat tools — and I ran across a great interview where he actually listed off all the tools that he and his staff use on a daily basis:

What social media sites/tools are you using?

  • Animoto Videos (free or low-cost video creation)
  • Blogtalkradio (interview members, speakers, board candidates, etc.)
  • EventCenter & EventPartner Webinar Platforms (which include webinar microsite, registration process, podcast recording features, text chatting)
  • Hootsuite (to schedule our daily tweets)
  • iCohere eCommunity (velvet rope eCommunity for members only)
  • Facebook Fan Page (for conferences and events)
  • Google Alerts & Twitter Search (for NADP as well as specific industry key words)
  • LinkedIn Group
  • Ning groups (for our own professional learning)
  • Social Collective Conference eCommunity (which also includes event registration, marketing and crowdsourcing features.)
  • Tinychat – to engage in conversations with general public about dental benefits
  • Tweetdeck (to monitor chatter on specific association keywords as well as government initiatives)
  • Twitter
  • Vovici for our research and surveys
  • Wiffiti.com
  • WordPress Blogs (conference blog, public outreach blog, advocacy issues regarding healthcare reform)
  • YouTube


How To Handle Tough Questions From Reporters

I got an email today from Ragan Communications with a lovely little video on “How To Handle Tough Questions From Reporters” that had most of the standard “fess up and take your medicine” sort of advice that your mom would probably give you.

But really, in today’s world of social media tools, there are better ways to handle a reporter trying to nail you on a big story.

If A Reporter Asks About Your Mistress…

…post something on your Facebook page, talking about how you’ve adopted a deserving 27-year-old lingerie model who was so skinny that she might have starved to death.  Remember to link to photos to prove your case.

If A Reporter Questions Your Expense Account…

…tweet that your Gulfstream has been in the shop for the last time, and you’re purchasing Willie Nelson’s old tour bus and will be driving to all of your overseas fact-finding missions from now on.  Don’t mention the ganja in the master suite.

If A Reporter Hears About Your Un-Documented Nanny…

…blog that you’ve embarked on a new Rosetta Stone “full immersion” language lesson series where you get not only the DVDs and tapes, but an actual Spanish-speaking person to come to your house for 45-days to help you prepare for your trip.

If A Reporter Prints That Your Wife Has Left You…

…post a travel review to Yelp claiming that Delta Airlines booked a ticket for a woman with your wife’s name to Mazatlan, along with your pool boy and all your mutual funds.

If A Reporter Calls To Confirm That You’ve Been Laid Off As CEO…

…crumple paper near the receiver and claim a bad Skype connection.

Amazing Content Twix To Gain Traffic

twix

If you’ve got a web page, or a blog, or an AOL site for your collection of Fonzie memorabilia — you’d like to have more traffic.  Here are three simple Twix to improve your content and make those traffic stats shoot right off the charts.

twixIf you’re wondering whether or not I can properly spell “tricks” — fear not.  I’m headed for a meeting of the Social Media Club in Greenville, SC tomorrow morning.  And I’ll be handing out business cards with a little “Twix” bar attached, as I tell people about this post.

Clever, huh?  An amazing play on words (being as I’m a “content guy”) that gets all those people to go and read my blog, because of the guilt they’ll feel after eating that free candy.  Just consider this an “Extwa Twix” for you to use — at no charge.

Twix #1:  Bribe Them
Offer your readers something they actually want — the answer to a question, the solution to a problem, or a way to solve pain.  Don’t just give them a link to an interesting site and some quotes from it, explain clearly why it will make their life better.  Tell them how they’ll lose weight the moment they get there — or how their sex life will improve just from spending time there.

Twix #2:  Speak Their Language
Make sure that you’re using words that the audience might enter in a search tool to find information.  You’ll get more hits from a headline that says “How To Escape A Shark” than one that says “Current Research On Techniques Of Decampment From The Vicinity Of Large Hungry Ocean Dwellers”.  (Headline #2 is perfectly appropriate if writing for an audience of Ph.D. candidates or Nigerian Finance Ministers.)

Twix #3:  Use Key Words In Your Links
If you’re linking to other web sites (a good thing) be sure that your actual hot links contain the key words that people search for:

BAD: …and you can find how to tie your shoes right here.

GOOD: …and you can find how to tie your shoes right here.

Search engines give you additional points for links that contain “hot” words.

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OK — ready to get that content into shape?  Leave me a comment, and I’ll send you an empty wrapper from a Twix bar that I ate in your name.

Turns Out That Great Content Grows Your “Google Authority”!

It’s always nice to hear that you’ve been barking up the right tree.  And now I’ve got proof — or “woof” — of that, from Chris Garrett, in a great post about how content improves your Google Authority.

High on the list of “negative influencers”:

“Thin or Spammy Content – Duplicate, scraped or feed content, or spammy gibberish is likely to get marked down. As you would expect, Google is aiming to promote the highest quality. They will use human checks, algorithms and watch the behaviour of their customers to see if what they are delivering meets expectations.”

Of course, there are other important issues — like links, traffic, and what your site looks like in general.  But you’ve got that covered already — right?

You Can Be A Blogging Case Study

sob

Most of the events I go to about social media are a lot of speechifying and people telling me how successful they are.  So I was a little intrigued when I ran across  the SOBCon09 event that Liz Strauss is putting on.  It appears that you’ll have a chance to bring your company there and actually have experts sit down and focus their skills on developing an action plan to make things happen.

“Using a unique Presentation/Workshop model, we’ll push theory into practice – the conference is designed to build solid action plans tailored to attendee’s individual needs.

On the main day, each speaker will present a 40-minute talk with a direct business application. Then attendee “mastermind” teams will work together for an additional 40 minutes to establish action steps for that part of their business. Through this process, attendees will compile and build a complete Business Action Plan by the end of the day.”

I had a chance to talk with Liz on the phone today, and she tells me that this evolved over several years from an initial “online chat” session that she set up one day — and it’s now several days in Chicago with lots of big names (and their big brains).

sob

Most impressive to me, as an education wonk, is the idea that you’ll actually have the chance to walk away with something actionable that is tailored to your specific problem.

And the fact that @Naomi from IttyBiz is a sponsor means that there will be lots of fun.