Archive for June, 2011

Social Media and Org Charts

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Conventional wisdom seems to suggest that social media is a responsibility for your communications team to tackle–but I’m still seeing organizations try to shoehorn it in with IT.

Beyond that, there’s the issue of centralization vs. distribution–should social media be handled by a single core group, or should people from all over the organization (and in the case of Zappos, pretty much everyone) play a role?

How does your organization answer these questions? Where does social media live?

Looking Inward, Socially

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Jesse Stanchak has an interesting post on the next wave of social media. In short, he thinks it will focus on internal communications, and may not take the form we’re accustomed to.

I think that a lot of organizations miss the boat on internal communications, and this is an interesting idea. But I wonder how I’d feel about actually participating in something along these lines.

There’s definitely great opportunity–as more companies work remotely, there’s a need for ways to link employees who aren’t in the same physical location. Videoconferences can bridge some gaps, but they require a lot of setup. A less formal structure could ease day-to-day interaction and help people share information and get a better feel for each other as colleagues and individuals.

But there’s also the chance for abuse. Stanchek says, “By watching internal social communications between employees, managers can figure out where their workers are spending the most time, where their pain points are and what resources are needed to enhance performance. . . .” That’s a best-case scenario; managers can also become Big Brother, watching employee communications for anything that smacks of disagreement with company policies or practices.

And then there’s the fact that too many places don’t even have viable intranets. Are those organizations really likely to develop useful, functional social networks?

There’s potential in this idea, but I’m not sure how close we are.

Summer Reading (Social Media Marketing Edition)

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The Washington Post usually has a great list of books in a variety of genres. I’m not going to try to match that (although I’m really looking forward to the new Louis Bayard novel), but I do want to share some recent titles that I’ve found valuable. Each is by a thought leader in social media and marketing, and all of them are easy to read.

Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman
As you might guess from the title, this book focuses on the importance of content. I think we can all agree that content is essential–without it, you’re literally talking about nothing. Handley and Chapman provide a valuable look at how to produce substantive content for a variety of platforms, from Twitter to podcasts and white papers. (Ann Handley: @marketingprofs; C.C. Chapman: @cc_chapman)

Engage by Brian Solis

There are two editions, so be sure you buy the new one. I have each, because I bought the first just before the second came out. Solis does a great job of explaining why transparency and trust are vital to the new marketing world, and provides valuable case studies about customer engagement. (@briansolis)

UnMarketing by Scott Stratten
Great book. Stratten just might rule the Twitterverse, and here he provides insight into how every point of contact is important. I’ve long said that the saying ought to be “You only get one chance to make a last impression,” and I’m pretty sure Stratten would agree with that. His book really demonstrates why seemingly inconsequential encounters make a difference, and why “business as usual” just may lose customers. (@unmarketing)

Social Media ROI by Olivier Blanchard
I’m in awe of this book. Blanchard doesn’t just focus on ROI, although wow, will you learn about that. He also provides a social media primer that is a great reference for newcomers and a refresher for those of us with experience. Suggestions on how to develop social media training for your organization, how to persuade reluctant managers to buy in, and more–this book has a wealth of information. Buy it! (@thebrandbuilder)

Is Your Head in the Cloud?

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Key

How do you use cloud computing? And what precautions do you take to keep your information secure?

Over the weekend, an authentication bug made Dropbox accounts accessible via any password. Because encryption and decryption happen on their servers and not yours, they hold the encryption key. This gives you access to your files even if you lose your password. In this case, it also gave hackers access to your files.

Dropbox reports that only a small number–about 1%–of accounts may have been accessed, and they’ve contacted the owners of those accounts. But it raises the question: how safe is the cloud?

Of course, nothing is foolproof. But there are some things to keep in mind. Namely, these kinds of services can be great for file sharing and transfer. The question is, what files are you sharing and transferring? Take a hard look at what kind of information you put there, and think about your real comfort level.

Photo by zebble, via Flickr.

3 Ways to Handle Criticism

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We all have room for improvement. And we all want to get it right the first time. All too often, this results in conflict. Here are some tips on how to handle that.

1) Accept that you’re not going to get it right the first time, every time.
Life is one big learning experience, and sometimes we just screw up. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and find a new approach to whatever didn’t work. People are more likely to overlook your errors if you acknowledge them and look for solutions.

2) Recognize that it is not “My way or the highway.” There are lots of solutions. Is yours the best? Maybe. Maybe not. When someone disagrees with your idea or approach, focus on what is best for your project, rather than what is best for your ego. If your way is best, be prepared to demonstrate why. If it’s just “your way,” consider the merits of “their way.”

3) Consider the source. Sometimes the criticism comes from someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, and isn’t a stakeholder. The comment is still worth considering, because someone with an outside view may have a perspective you don’t, and can’t. But if the criticism is based on a lack of familiarity with project goals, organizational mission, or previous decisions, then it’s probably fine to let it lie.

Please note that #3 is not a license for rudeness. Being a jerk will come back to haunt you.

It’s the Transparency, Stupid!

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Panes of glass

Some lessons, people never learn. Politicians screw up all the time, but it’s the coverup that brings them down. And even though transparency has been the byword in social media for years, there are too many people who haven’t figured that out.

2K Games released the long-awaited (and that’s an understatement) Duke Nukem Forever–and as of right now, they lack a PR agency. The founder of their former agency, The Redner Group, threatened to blacklist reviewers who made negative comments about the game. Although he apologized, the follow-up wasn’t enough to save his agency’s relationship with 2K Games. (It also wasn’t enough to save the reputation of the game itself, which is getting lousy reviews.)

Of course, reviews themselves can be fake. Take the case of a hotel owner in Thailand who posted to TripAdvisor asking how to write fake reviews that can pass for real. I suppose there is an ironic level of transparency here, since in his question he stated both his name and that of his hotel. But how does TripAdvisor handle this when their slogan is “Reviews you can trust”?

There are definite benefits to Web anonymity. But like anything else, it’s easy to abuse–and when that happens, the losses–financial and otherwise–can be more significant than the gains.

Photo by fabi42, via Flickr.

Whither Groupon?

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What sold me on Groupon was the knowledge that I could get my money back if the deal didn’t tip.

What keeps me from using Groupon is the range of businesses represented.

My approach to Groupon is this: I’m interested in buying Groupons for things I want or need, regardless of whether they’re offered by a business I already patronize. In fact, I can only remember seeing one that was for a place where I’m a current customer, and the services offered weren’t ones that interested me.

So I am that new customer they’re looking for. It’s just that the businesses I’m looking for don’t seem to be there. That means I don’t even click through most of the e-mails, because the deals just aren’t of interest.

But who else is buying Groupons? (Or deals from Living Social, Family Finds, and even Active.com–there are many places to act on this new business model.) Is it new customers? Existing customers? Do people use Groupon as a way to find products and services of interest, whether or not they buy the specific deal?

I’m hearing that each of these things may be true. But I wonder how much the businesses benefit if they only get 25% of the price. That can be a significant loss leader, particularly if it doesn’t actually result in more business over time.

Sure, Groupon’s got revenue–$713 million last year, a substantial increase from $30 million in 2009. But is it sustainable, or is it a flash in the pan? I continue to get the sense that it may be the latter. And I wonder when the next dot-com bust is coming. But I do not wonder if it’s coming.

There’s No Excuse for Legalese

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How many times have you clicked “yes” on a user agreement without reading it? Pretty much every time, right?

No one is reading them. The result is that we don’t really know what we’re agreeing to–but most of us are willing to take that risk. We don’t have time to read 67 pages of arcane text before we start using a site.

So, to all software developers/social media site managers/companies of all sizes and shapes: Stop writing them. It is not that hard. Give us the rules of the road, and let us move along. There’s no reason for user agreements to be written in a way that makes reading them onerous. Just because we live and work under an Anglo-American legal system (except for you, Louisiana, I know) doesn’t mean we should be writing documents in some Middle English/Latin hybrid. Henry II of England is not checking your policies, and if he were, he’d have no idea how to keep his status up to date on foursquare.*

So let’s all act like we live in this century, and write for our audiences. That includes our user agreements. It’s right there in the name of the document.

*Although now that I’ve written that sentence, I really want to create social media profiles for him, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their assorted dysfunctional children. And yes, I know Henry spoke French.

5 Questions to Ask About Your New Social Media Campaign

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question mark

It’s tempting to just jump in, and doing so isn’t going to kill you. But it won’t be entirely effective, either. Here are a few questions to ask yourself (and your colleagues) as you plan.

1) Who Are We?
You don’t have to navel-gaze, but take a few minutes to think about your institution. What do you do? How does your audience perceive you?

2) Who Is Our Audience?

You should already know this, but now is a good time to take another look. Consider geography, demographics, and psychographics.

3) Where Is Our Audience?

You’re meeting them on their turf, so make sure you know where to find them. Do they use social media? What sites do they use? How do they use them?

4) What Is Our Content?
Your content is not necessarily suited to every social media outlet, just like it’s not suited to every traditional outlet. Take some time to figure out what goes where. Do you have multiple pieces of information to share each day? A few a week? Once or twice a month? Are you planning to create blog posts that elaborate on an idea, or rely heavily on URLs with short intro statements?

5) How Will We Interact?
Are you planning to push information at your audience, or provide a forum for conversation? Are you going to moderate comments, or will free speech rule the day? Who will do this, and how much time will they need to dedicate to it?

There are more questions, but this will get you started. Now, go forth and strategize.

Photo by Leo Reynolds, via Flickr.

Fun With Marketing

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In another life, I wrote an econ textbook. In my head, the working title was “Fun With Economics.” Ludicrous? Maybe, but it helped me focus on creating content that was as engaging as possible.

Sometimes it’s easier to have fun. Orange, a UK communications company (although with that name, I was expecting them to be based in the Netherlands) has found a way to play around with Twitter. The approach is goofy and just a little bit snarky, but not mean-spirited. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this brought them more attention–and in a good way.

So are you going to give the #thissummer hashtag a try? Or have you got your own ideas for social media fun and games?

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