Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Can you learn to be 'social' when using social media?

When I started blogging in 2005, one of the first things I did was study how the so-called 'successful' bloggers blogged. One of the bloggers I began reading was Hugh MacLeod at Gaping Void.

I noticed as soon as I started reading Gaping Void that Hugh wasn't blogging the 'right' way. Specifically, he was constantly linking out to other sites and bloggers. This was obviously 'wrong', because all he was doing was sending traffic AWAY from his blog. And if a blogger with several days experience could see this, I'm sure everyone else could as well. Obviously.

But as I kept reading Hugh (even though I knew how he blogged was 'wrong'), I began to notice that people were commenting saying that they appreciated the link to Seth's recent post, or Tara's post on Pinko Marketing. Then I saw someone comment that they loved reading his blog because of 'all the great links you share'.

Hmmmmm.....could it be that by sharing links to other sites that Hugh wasn't actually driving people AWAY from his blog, but instead giving people a reason to become regular readers?

Then soon after, another blogging epiphany happened for me. As I was doing a crash-course of reading blogs in an effort to uncover the secrets of being a great blogger, I began to find a post here and there that caught my attention enough to leave a comment. Then a day or two later I noticed that traffic to my own blog started suddenly going up. And for the first time, COMMENTS were coming in! Awesome! But the problem was, I still had no idea what had caused the floodgates to open. Why all the traffic and comments suddenly? Then my friend Jordan Behan left a comment and when he did, he THANKED me for commenting on his blog. I went back and checked, and sure enough, almost all of the comments I had suddenly gotten, were coming from bloggers whose blog I had commented on first.

What these two examples did for helping me understand how and WHY people use social media, is immeasurable. Share something of value with others (such as a link to a great blog post), and they will be thankful. Create something of value for them (such as a comment on their blog), and they will not only be thankful, but they will want to return the favor.

But when I started blogging, my thought was that you become a good blogger by creating great content, and giving people a reason to come to your blog, and stay there. I had to LEARN how to be social with social media. I had to figure out how the tools work, and why people are using them. Not to silo content and information, but to SHARE it.

I was thinking about this learning process as I read Robbin's post today. I agree, I think companies have to train their employees on how to use social media as well. And in reality, the only way to do that is by making mistakes. Even if a company hires me to help them learn how to use social media effectively, there's still a time when the training wheels have to come off and the company takes ownership of their own efforts. No one learns how to ride a bicycle without earning a few scraped knees first. Social media is no different.

BTW as an introvert, I really think this applies. When I first started using social media, I didn't want to interact with strangers, because I am hesitant to do so offline. I had to learn how to become more social online, and now I think I'm an online extrovert, and an offline introvert. Have any other introverts noticed the same thing?

Monday, February 22, 2010

#blogchat 2-21 recap: Corp Blogging with Dell's Chief Blogger Lionel Menchaca!

Last nite was our biggest and most active #blogchat ever, with Dell's Chief Blogger Lionel Menchaca joining us to discuss corporate blogging, and more specifically, how Dell uses blogging to connect with its customers.

I do want to do a recap of some of the MANY takeaways from last nite's #blogchat, but first I wanted to touch on a big reason why Dell is using social media so effectively. As Shannon Paul would say, they show up. I asked Lionel to join #blogchat mostly because he's one of the best corporate bloggers on the planet, but also because I knew he would 'show up'. I told Lionel beforehand that if he needed to leave #blogchat after an hour or so to let me know, but he stayed for over 2 hours. And guys he was being absolutely HAMMERED with questions. Seriously when #blogchat first started he was getting 5-10 new questions a minute thrown at him. And there were even a few people taking swipes at Dell and how they use social media, and he handled it all with grace and ease. I'm sure it was a bit overwhelming at times, but he answered as many questions as possible, the funniest thing where people were asking him questions like 'Top 5 examples of...' or 'Your Ten Best reasons to blog', and other questions that were impossible to answer in one tweet, he would just peck out the answer in 3-4 tweets ;)

And this is a big reason why companies like Dell and Radian6 and Marketing Profs are using social media so well. Because they are connecting to us as PEOPLE. A big reason why my future laptop and desktop purchases will be Dells? Because I have connected with several Dell employees via social media. If I have an issue or concern, all I have to do is jump on Twitter and tweet them, and a personalized response is likely coming within 5 minutes. I can't get that from Apple or Compaq or any of Dell's direct or indirect competitors. The same thing goes for companies like Radian6 and Marketing Profs. They both have excellent products and services, but they are also using social media to put human faces to their companies.

That's a big advantage of using social media, and its one that very few companies have tapped into.

But that's another post for another day. Let's get back to my recap of last nite's #blogchat.

First, check out Lionel's tweets from #blogchat.

Here are some of my favorite takeaways:

  • Initially, all comments on Dell's blogs were moderated. Now they go live, and are then screened.
  • Making it easy for customers to comment on your blog is key to driving engagement there
  • Dell got into social media in 2006 because customers were telling them they needed to improve their customer service, plus they realized that all these conversations were happening online that they had no say in.
  • Social media won't help improve perception of a crappy product, it will amplify perceptions, good and bad.
  • 3 bottom line goals for a corp blog: Know your scope and objective, know the audience you want to connect with, and be ready for criticism because it IS coming!
  • Dell monitors blogs with tools such as Radian6 to discover support issues BEFORE customers come to them.
  • It's great to have a strategy driving your social media efforts, but there's no substitute for action.
  • Dell crafts its content to be product-specific, because they have learned from studying traffic to their blogs that this is the content Dell's customers want more of. But they also have content that's focused on the customers as well.
  • Lionel sees Dell's blogs and forums being more integrated in the future
This is just some of the amazing nuggets from Lionel. Seriously I said on Twitter earlier that his #blogchat tweets alone last nite were like a corporate blogging encyclopedia! If you aren't already, make SURE you are following @lionelatdell! Thanks again for joining us Lionel, you are indeed The Man!

BTW remember that our next #blogchat is this Sunday nite the 28th at 8pm Central and is OPEN MIC! That means YOU pick the blogging topic you want to cover, and we all go from there! And you can also join #blogchat's Facebook fan page, which is now over 100 fans! Thanks guys, see you Sunday!

Flickr pic via @DavidAlston

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The best way to connect via social media that you aren't using is....

Twitter chats. I am a huge proponent of Twitter chats, because they make it incredibly easy to find and connect with smart people, and have them discover you. There are now well over 100 regularly-scheduled chats on Twitter (most of them are weekly), and the topics are varied from social media to dog lovers to stay at home moms. So there should be at least 1 or 2 that appeal to almost everyone.

Why are Twitter chats so important? Here's 5 reasons:

1 - They let you connect with people that are on Twitter to interact. One of the biggest complaints about Twitter is that you can follow people, but its sometimes hard to really connect with the people on Twitter. Twitter chats are perfect for this, because if you are participating in a Twitter chat, the odds are that you are wanting Sure there are lurkers to every chat, but there's a much higher chance of actually having a conversation with people, during a chat.

2 - They give you the chance to get noticed. This is one many of us struggle with when we first join Twitter. You have no followers, and no one knows who you are. So your tweets go out one. But if you join a Twitter chat, then your tweets go out to the participants in THAT CHAT, if you add the appropriate hashtag to your tweets. So if you tweet every day about social media and it goes out to your 5 followers, that might not help you get noticed very much. But if you join #blogchat and talk social media with us there, your tweets will be going out to several hundred people. So your exposure level skyrockets. Which means you gain more followers during #blogchat, that you can reach afterwards.

3 - Joining new chats means new connections. I typically gain about 15-20 new followers during each week's #blogchat. But last nite I participated briefly in #IMCchat. I checked afterwards and found I had gained about 30 followers in the 45 mins or so that I participated in #IMCchat. Why? Because the network that follows #IMCchat is different from the one that follows #blogchat. So by joining #IMCchat, I was getting exposure to a new group of people. And likewise, I found some new people to follow!

4 - They give you access to industry experts you might not have otherwise. One of the big reasons why I wanted to join #IMCchat last nite was because @SouthwestAir's @ChristiDay joined the chat to give us some insight into how Southwest internally handled the recent Kevin Smith bruhawhaw. This coming Sunday nite, #blogchat will be co-hosted by Dell's Chief Blogger, Lionel Menchaca. So as certain chats become more popular, they can attract participants and hosts to a very interactive environment.

5 - They give you the chance to start your OWN chat! Simply pick a topic that you are passionate about, or that ties into your business, and create a chat to discuss it! And it doesn't have to be a weekly chat, start off with a monthly format and see if demand warrants bumping it up to bi-weekly or weekly. And doing so is an EXCELLENT way to draw attention to yourself! Let's say one of my hobbies was collecting Victorian antique furniture (it isn't, but bear with me). If you were to start a chat about finding and appraising Victorian antique furniture (or maybe just antique furniture), you better believe I would LOVE to join that chat!

And this is something I have seen for months firsthand from #blogchat. When people join your chat and get value from it, they will go out of their way to promote it to others. Every single day on Twitter now I see people helping others get more information about #blogchat. They are answering questions about what it is, when it is, and how to join. Every single day. When I first started #blogchat I had to promote it almost every day for the first couple of weeks, now I only send out 1 or 2 tweets a week reminding everyone of when/what it is.

So if you are looking to build your network on Twitter, and get noticed, I really think you should investigate Twitter chats. They are a terribly underutilized way to meet smart people, and have these smart people meet YOU. And we'd LOVE to have you join our next #blogchat on Sunday nite at 8pm CT, which will be co-hosted by Dell's Chief Blogger Lionel Menchaca! Here's the Facebook fan page for #blogchat which has some more information!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Kevin Smith vs Southwest: Did anyone win?

If you are like me, you missed the latest Twitter soap opera over the weekend, this one between Kevin Smith and Southwest Airlines. I've gone back and read blog posts and tweets from both parties, and from what I can tell, Smith was on standby for a SW flight earlier than his scheduled one. SW let him board that plane, then asked him to leave, citing that he was causing discomfort to the passengers around him, or that as he claims, he was 'too fat to fly'.

Now, as usually is the case with a social media firestorm, what actually happened isn't nearly as significant as how the involved parties RESPOND to what actually happened.

First, there was this blog post from Southwest, entitled "Not So Silent Bob Speaks", which is a terrible title. One thing companies need to realize when they are in a situation like this is that many people are going to take swipes at you no matter WHAT you do or HOW you respond. So why give them any ammo by choosing a title that SOME could see as a swipe against Smith? Bad move, Southwest.

Now as for the post itself, it's apparently been edited since it was first published, but after an initial apology to Smith (which is what you want to see), the tone of the rest of the post seems to be explaining why Southwest was not at fault here. Additionally, the post should have closed again apologizing to Smith, and offering readers to leave their feedback (which they were going to do anyway). And Southwest should have stressed that they handled the situation poorly, and were listening to Smith, and their customers.

While Southwest was leaving this post, @ThatKevinSmith was on Twitter leaving a steady stream of f-bombs and other profanity-laced tweets aimed at Southwest. Now somewhat in Smith's defense, he was obviously upset and felt he had been told by Southwest that he was 'too fat to fly'. He was embarrassed, and had been the victim of a very bad customer service experience. So him being upset is understandable, but after 100 or so profanity-laced tweets, I think he crossed the line from being justifiably upset, to making himself look bad. I won't share the tweets, and honestly the one I included in this post was one of the few that didn't have the f-bomb in it.

Southwest then followed the next day with another post on the subject, which led to a post from Smith on his blog (NSFW). BTW after reading these posts I noticed something very significant: Southwest allowed comments on their posts, Smith did not. And yes, many of the (anonymous) comments on the Southwest blog were slamming the company, while many others defended their actions. But again, it rings a bit hollow to me that Smith wants to use social media to complain about the situation, but won't let us give our thoughts.

In the end, I think both Southwest and Smith handled this poorly. Southwest clearly didn't handle Smith's situation very well at all, and probably never should have let him on the plane, and then weren't completely honest about why he had to leave the plane. At least that's what it seems like to me. Then their apologies didn't seem completely sincere, and Smith went from being justifiably outraged to all but whining on Twitter. And constant f-bombs did nothing to help his cause.

But for companies, I think this is a reminder of how to properly handle a 'crisis' situation like this:

1 - Admit you were wrong, and MEAN IT. Even if you really don't THINK you were wrong, admit that you could have been, and probably were. Because many people will automatically believe you ARE wrong. So address those people in your response. Again, firestorms like this are pushed by the people that are the most vocal, and that doesn't necessarily mean they are right or even interested in being right. But it DOES mean that your response needs to go above and beyond in admitting error, and apologizing.

2 - Tell us how you will keep the same thing from happening to me. How will you FIX the problem? What did you learn from this, and what will be changed as a result?

3 - Invite feedback and let customers know that you WANT to hear from them. I never saw this in Southwest's replies. And you might as well ask for feedback because you WILL get it. Say you're wrong, tell us how the problem will be fixed, then invite us to give you feedback on what you are doing.

4 - Apologize, and remind us that you will do everything you can to ensure that this doesn't happen again. Thank your customers for caring enough to voice their concerns about this issue, and invite them to keep responding.

What do you guys think? Did Southwest handle this correctly? If not, what could they have changed? Was Smith justified in his tweets, or did he go too far?

BTW Sonny has a great post on this episode, check it out.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

#blogchat 2-8 recap: Music Marketing via social media!

Last nite was another killer #blogchat, as the fantasmically amazing @misskatiemo joined us to discuss how artists can use social media to connect with their fans! Music marketing is one of my favorite topics, so I was thrilled to participate last nite. If you missed it, here is the transcript.

Some of the main points, and I've linked to their Twitter names so you can follow these smart peeps:

  • Musicians should connect with fans themselves, fans can tell if its the artist, or their publicist.
  • Fans love it when artists give them a 'behind the scenes' look at how they make music, their performances, secret shows, etc. Social media lets them pull back the curtain. @misskatiemo @krisis
  • Twitter is great for instant communication between artists and fans, blogs and Facebook allow for deeper connections and for the artists to share content in several forms. @grtaylor2 @kikilitalien
  • The end goal of social media usage for artists is to 'sell something', but artists need to understand that its a goal that will likely take some time to attain via SM. @misskatiemo @zzramesses
  • If artists acknowledge and engage fans, it means the fans will promote them to their friends, which creates more fans (Note: Companies can do this exact same thing by embracing their evangelists) @TMariePR
  • Fans enjoy reading tweets from artists, it shows them the artists are 'just like them'. @ICT_GURU
  • MySpace is now mostly used by labels, artists have moved on to other tools to interact with fans, for the most part @misskatiemo
  • @amandapalmer was told by label reps that SM wouldn't work for her. She famously made $11,000 in merchandise sales via Twitter in 2 hours. @krisis
Then, after about an hour of great conversation, something really cool happened. Arlene Wszalek (@Wzzy), who manages Tears for Fears co-founder @CurtSmith was participating, and many people were asking for success stories of how social media has helped artists connect with fans. So Arlene got in touch with Curt, and he joined #blogchat and spent about 30 minutes answering our questions! Please go check out all of his responses as it was truly fascinating to hear how Curt is using social media to connect with his fans, and also WHY he wants to connect with them.

Thanks to @misskatiemo and @curtsmith and everyone that made last nite's #blogchat another amazing event! We will again be on Monday nite next week (Because of Valentine's Day being on Sunday), and if you haven't already, please join the Facebook fan page for #blogchat!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Attention big brands, we had a blast on Twitter last nite, but where were you?

If you were on Twitter last nite during the Super Bowl, you probably had a blast with the rest of us participating in all the chatter around the game, and the commercials. Many of us were using the #brandbowl hashtag to critique the ads in real-time, in fact I was seeing 100 new tweets coming in every couple of minutes. For reference, that's about FOUR times the volume of a busy #blogchat.

But one thing many of us noticed was that the companies buying these very expensive Super Bowl ads, weren't doing anything to engage with us. I didn't see a single ad with a reference to the company's social media presence (someone tweeted that Honda's ad had their Facebook URL, but I missed it). And the only activity I saw during #brandbowl were a couple of companies (Coke and eTrade) tweeting that their spot was coming up.

For all the hype that Twitter has gotten for being mainstream, and all the talk about how big brands are starting to leverage social media, tonite was a cruel reminder that many companies still have little idea of how to engage with potential customers via social media. Anyone that's used Twitter for ANY amount of time knows that its members love to use the site to discuss and connect over any type of event like this. Whether it's the Super Bowl or the Grammys or the season premiere of Lost, we are there and we are talking.

The water cooler is now online. Companies need to understand this, and start engaging with customers in a place where they are already chatting.

Oh well, maybe next year...

Friday, February 05, 2010

Twitter-sourced smartitude; Getting a community site off the ground

This morning I actually had a few minutes to spend on Twitter, so I decided to get a discussion going about community sites. More specifically, what's the first consideration when starting a site, how important is it to be involved in the site itself, and how to sell it to your boss. I got dozens of great answers, and here they are:

First consideration when launching a community site:

  1. MattJMcD @MackCollier making sure people want to be part of your community in the first place.
  2. jonnytee @MackCollier first question - Who's the audience and what's their common interest?
  3. tamadear @MackCollier Whether or not a community already exists--and if they already have an online gathering
  4. brandonacox @MackCollier Do we really want a community site? Or do we want to infiltrate a much larger already-existing community?
  5. space.
  6. cubanalaf @MackCollier Which brand ambassadors will serve as the foundation - community sites have to have a grass roots effect at start.
  7. xybrewer @mackcollier What do "we" have to offer the community? Help? Support? Funding? Information? Access?
  8. GreenSpotting RT @MackCollier: company wants to start a community site, top consideration should B......what value can it bring clients, &let grow organic
  9. Griner MackCollier 1. What will offer that actually has value? 2. How will we drive people there?
  10. turbobrown @MackCollier ease of use. great question, looking forward to seeing the answers!
  11. MacSlam @MackCollier Whether is has a business purpose or not

How active should your company be in the community itself?

  1. davidpaulw @MackCollier Very imp. Just like what Seth talks about in tribes. Communities need leaders. Ppl not companies
  2. MattJMcD @MackCollier agreed. The next thing is what value do you bring to the equation. Communities are based on who adds what, comps no different.
  3. cubanalaf @MackCollier Oh, agreed. I always tell brands that you can't control conversation, but the effect of it. A brand ambassador can be employee.
  4. MacSlam @MackCollier re: participation - v. important - if you don't pay attention to it, why should anyone else?
How do you convince the 'skeptical boss' that you should launch a community site?
  1. CKsays @MackCollier: gotta get data points showing how communities foster a source of trusted referrals for the company and how communities work..
  2. MattJMcD @MackCollier Offer special deals/incentives to comm members. Unique items/pricing. You can track purchases, sales, interest directly.
  3. CKsays @MackCollier: ... to create customers.Also show data points on how online mentions facilitate purchasing. Then take the co's competitors...
  4. GreenSpotting @MackCollier "Skeptical Boss the value from a comm site?" -point him to one that works now, large or small.
  5. griner @MackCollier I've always liked the potential of community sites, but it's so difficult to build audience without a heavy ad spend.
  6. CKsays: and show the boss what competitors are doing (eek, you're behind!) or are not doing (first-mover advantage opportunity!)

Some great answers! BTW this shows that Twitter makes it very easy to crowdsource ideas and develop conversations (it is after all a communications tool). And it also shows that I have a damn hard time cutting and pasting tweets from the timeline to blogger! You can read all the replies here.