Already, parents and people in general are concerned about the influence and use of social media technologies during the on-going riots in London. And while I’m sure many will already begin to wonder if the likes of Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry mobile phones are more hell-bent than benign, that kind of thinking is where the problems really begin.
Technology, in and of itself, is neither “good” nor “evil”; such things are human attributes only, and no matter what your thoughts are about the internet, for example, social media cannot not be good or bad. The fact is, people make technology bad. If we begin thinking about banning technologies we arbitrarily assume to be bad, then we should have banned the telephone decades ago, Morse code a century ago and the hand-written letter thousands of years earlier.
Using social technologies as a force for change
We only need look at the Obama presidential campaign, which relied heavily on the use of social media and social technologies. And more recently, the Arab Spring uprisings across the Middle East, which also relied on social technologies.
“In the wake of a controversial police shooting, Britain’s capital city has been rocked by two straight days of widespread rioting and looting. As with previous riots — such as those in Vancouver, British Columbia following the Stanley Cup final — everyone seems to be looking for a culprit, with some blaming Twitter and Facebook, and others pinning the violence on BlackBerry and its instant messaging abilities. But that’s a little like blaming individual trees for the forest fire.“
Of course, we can’t just block every service, since that’s neither legal nor practical. However, had the authorities had more flexibility in their powers, and had they co-ordinated their efforts more closely with the owners of Twitter, Facebook and Research In Motion, the creators of the BlackBerry, they may have had at their disposal the right tools to stymie the mass communication of these mindless parasites and killed the whole situation right at the start.
But this is after the fact. That aside, when we look at how we choose to use social technologies, and how they can affect the world both positively and negatively, I for one see a clear and unambiguous argument for the introduction of a common framework of tools adding to social technologies that allow the authorities, during times of crisis, to co-ordinate with the owners of major social technologies to control the flow of data and information.
Do that, and social technology becomes an intrinsic force for good.
For businesses, Twitter is a tool to make and maintain connections in order to raise your profile and win new business. This would include interacting with current clients as well as potential ones.
All posts on Twitter are known as ‘tweets’ and all tweets are limited to 140 characters.
Each tweet a user posts appears in date order on their profile page, with the most recent at the top. Profile pages (unless made private) are viewable to everyone, even those not logged in to Twitter, and are usually Google indexed, meaning that some tweets will appear in search engine results.
‘Following’ a person on Twitter means subscribing to have their tweets appear on your homepage ‘feed’. The more people you follow, the busier your Twitter feed.
The @ symbol is used to denote a person’s username e.g. @emilycagle. Referencing a person in this way within a tweet is equivalent to using the To or CC fields in an email.
How does Twitter work?
Activity on Twitter typically takes the following forms:
1) Comments/news without a link
This means all of the content is housed within the tweet. It doesn’t direct the reader elsewhere.
2) Comments/news with a link Directs the user to another web page containing further information.
3) Retweets (RTs)
This is where a user reposts another user’s ‘tweet’.
‘Old style’ RTs often have a note added to them (in this case in after the ‘<’ symbol):
‘New’ RTs are performed using Twitter’s recently introduced RT button.
Here is a tweet after the RT button (visible in the bottom right hand corner) has been clicked:
Once ‘Yes’ is clicked, the tweet will be resent out to every one of your followers who doesn’t follow the original sender:
Here it is the small square arrow symbol at the beginning of the tweet that signals it is an RT, while the ‘Retweeted by’ entry at the bottom shows which user(s) chose to share the tweet.
With this new form of RT, there is no option to add a note, which is perhaps while the old form survives.
4) Conversational tweets
These are often made up of a combination of the above, but are directed between one person and another:
If your tweet starts with a particular person’s user name, only users who follow both you and the person you are addressing will see the exchange in their Twitter stream.
Clicking on the ‘in reply to’ link in grey under this type of tweet will show you the tweet it was sent in response to, allowing you to follow the conversation in a thread.
Why should businesses use Twitter?
If you are on Twitter as a business, you will have two main goals:
To be known, liked and trusted as a resource and as a product/service provider
To drive traffic to your own site (or to other social media profiles)
In order to achieve the latter to any significant degree, you must also achieve and maintain the former. The only way to do this is to engage in all of the ways listed above, and to do so consistently.
Smart businesses use Twitter to create a helpful, friendly persona that shares the links of others as well as their own and is know to give comments and support, rather than just sharing for personal gain.
If the you don’t already have an account, it’s simple to set one up by simply visiting the Twitter sign-up page.
You will need a photo of yourself, or your company logo, and an email address.
Consistency is key in building a strong social media identity.
Ideally, you should aim to develop a style guide and strategy document which outlines some basic rules anyone tweeting under the company banner should follow. It should state how tweets are to be structured and presented and set out the subjects to be focussed on and what messages you are trying to get across.
You might choose to create an account under the company name, with several people responsible for tweeting, rather than as an individual. If so, you should ideally select a ‘face’ of the firm (e.g. the person overseeing work with small businesses).
To allay concerns that this may be disingenuous, this individual can be presented as the manager of the account, and it can be made clear that they are not the only one at the organisation that tweets.
Gaining followers is a slow process that builds and gains momentum over time. Obviously, you will want your followers to be predominantly from your target audience of prospective clients.
At the outset, the profile of this audience would be agreed so that social media efforts can be targeted accordingly. Twitter is not a numbers game, so the aim is to get a relevant, interested following, rather than simply a large one.
Initially, the quickest way to attract followers is to follow others. However, while there is a certain etiquette that says you should follow back genuine people who follow you, it is not compulsory. This is where conversations come in.
Putting the social in social media
Now you know how to tweet, the conversation can begin. Remember, you are not simply looking for excuses to promote your wares, you need to engage with the people you follow (through comments and RTs, for example) to make yourself known and heard.
First off, you might try using the advanced search function on Twitter, which will allow you to search for other users based on keywords in their recent tweets. This technique can also be used to identify and target people in particular regions.
A particularly useful way to identify interesting tweets and users is to search for ‘hashtags’ (e.g.#wales), which are used to mark tweets as belonging to a particular topic:
Clicking on a hashtag brings up all the recent tweets that have included that tag. This helps users find information of interest to them and can bring qualified traffic to your Twitter profile.
You might also want to try third-party services like MrTweet. Mr Tweet performs an analysis of the common attributes of those you are already following in order to help you find more like them.
Your little black book
Finally, once you get going, you might wish to gather up a list of current clients and associates and then follow as many as you can find on Twitter. You may also wish to put out a notice, or include a note in your next newsletter, to let clients know you are now on Twitter and where they can find your profile.
Managing your stream
Twitter itself is relatively easy to use, but as you follow more and more people, you may find that the level of information you receive becomes unmanageable.
You might find that you are:
Losing focus – facing too many tweets on different subjects
Losing value – finding that you are not interested in much of what is being posted
Losing out – missing tweets from people that are important to you
Twitter Lists, as described above, offer one solution – allowing you to create separate streams for different interests or to reflect different social groups (work, family, friends), but to deal with an ever-growing stream, many people use third-party apps such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to manage their accounts.
Such apps allow the user to create columns displaying different information. Not only can you have your home feed, mentions and DMs on one screen, you can also add extra columns to display only certain friends’ tweets, while another column might display tweets containing your chosen key words from any Twitter user.
Unless the manager of your firm is going to be the one doing the tweeting, it is probably not realistic to have every tweet signed off by a member of the firm.
A system that works well is to create a system of categories whereby it it clear which topics and types of tweets could be made without sign off and which could not.
Typically, the sign off process will develop over time and can be designed to work alongside existing processes at the firm.
Using Twitter measurement tools such as Twitter Analyzer and Twitter Grader you can get a good sense of the level of influence and reach your account possesses. Again, use Twitter’s own search facility to get a regular overview of the comments made on Twitter about your brand, including responses and RTs.
If you have analytics in place on your website, such as Google Analytics or Get Clicky, you will be able to see where traffic is coming from, and therefore get an idea of how much interest your social media campaign is generating.
If you are fairly au fait with analytics, you can begin to use these stats to be responsive in your strategy (e.g. focussing on the type of tweets that prove most popular).
I’m not going to give a target number of tweets or follows here. The first step is to simply make sure you are listening and responding every day, with an emphasis on quality, not quantity. Some days will be busier/quieter than others depending on the material worth sharing or commenting on that day, and the number of conversations you find yourself having.
If you’re struggling to get started, this video should help:
So how did Jozy Altidore and Ryan Babel score social networking own goals? They spoke out of turn on Twitter, when they should have left their legs to do all the talking — and here’s what we can learn from their exploits.
Aside from a recorded interview, or people willing to be a witness to what was said, attributing words to a particular person has always been open to question. So what’s changed? Twitter, as just one example, but social networking as a whole. Why? Because now the accused is the author.
“A huge salary is not a sign of professionalism. Nor is a insulting the competition, getting blind drunk in public, beating up your girlfriend, illicit affairs, gambling addictions, abusive behaviour or questionable TV appearances.
Professionalism is about being dignified and composed in the face of adversity. Being aware of your influence and using that influence in a responsible and measured way.”
For both Jozy and Ryan, publicly criticizing the decisions of their respective managers caused a lot of problems. So, what can we learn from their exploits? First of all, let’s look at the fall-out from their unguarded comments comments:
they undermined their own standing, bringing into question their professionalism;
they undermined the authority of their managers, damaging what trust and respect they’d earned;
their own team mates might now think twice before speaking in confidence with them, knowing those comments could also become public;
their own standing and position within their teams was damaged, leaving them with challenges off the field, as well as on;
they hardly endeared themselves to their fans, their fellow professionals, or the public at large.
Setting aside the football and / or even sport-specifics, this kind of lapse in judgment could easily occur in an customer-facing business (which, by definition, most sports are), if team members aren’t properly briefed beforehand.
Now, there’s nothing any business can do to prevent their staff from starting their own fan Page on Facebook, or having a Twitter profile, but what they can do is be clear about what they expect from them and what the likely consequences will be if those team members do not adhere to the rules of the game.
A lesson in team work
In my ebook, The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media, security specialist Paul Maloney has already provided some sound advice for dealing with the negatives of social media.
Start with the training — show employees what damage thoughtless comments on a social network can cause to them, their colleagues and the company.
Guidelines — detail the things you expect them not to post about, and the things they can post about.
Useful examples — use the example of a guy called Kevin Colvin (a bank intern who’s indiscretions caused him great personal embarrassment and eventually cost him his job) to demonstrate the personal impact, his photo appeared in major newspapers around the world, potentially damaging his future career prospects.
Refresher training — follow up the training with procedures and guidelines to ensure everyone has the same understanding. The policies should detail the consequences of ignoring them, which could be potentially career-ending.
Ultimately, this is about managing people as much as it is about encouraging them to express their skills. To paraphrase world cup winning manager Sir Alfred Ramsey, as a manger, you might not always pick your best best players, but you will try to pick your best team.
British insurance comparison website Compare The Market have something of a hit on their hands with Aleksandr Orlov, their mongoose mascot and face on Facebook. Clearly, cute sells, and can also go viral.
Aleksandr is a cute Meerkat character and founder of Compare the Meerkat, a fictitious company, pretending to be mildly annoyed that the two companies are being confused as being the same.
Take a look at the number of comments and “likes” (votes of appreciation) each of his updates get and you’ll see that they have a hit on their hands.
Rather cannily, Compare The Market know that they need a better bridge between Aleksandr’s Compare the Meerkat and themselves, or they risk just coming over too strong on the commercial front, which is why they have the Compare the Meerkat spoof website, littered with videos, bloopers and the option to join their Page on Facebook, as well as following Aleksandr on Twitter, who has nearly 12k followers.
According to Alexa (not the most accurate assessment of web traffic by any means), the Compare the Meerkat website is ranked in the top 25k, with several thousand daily visits, while Quantcast doesn’t (as of writing) have enough data to go on, most likely because the website is too new.
“In the first 3 days of the campaign over three quarters of the monthly quotes target had been achieved. The year on year uplift in quotes was 45% and vitally, over 50% of the site traffic in the first week was going directly to comparethemarket.com. Finally, the number of quotes is up by 90% on the same period last year.”
Sadly, he doesn’t provide a source for his data. However, I suspect the figures to be a favourable reflection on the success of Compare the Meerkat’s .. I mean, Compare the Market’s social media marketing campaign.
I suspect Compare the Meerkat succeeds because of the non-commercial nature of Aleksandr’s updates, which are usually casual, light and funny. Plus there’s the cute Meerkat being pushed into tens of millions of living rooms all over Britain. People want to share this stuff, which then becomes self-sustaining after a while.
Replicating the viral aspects is always going to be the hardest challenge of all, since the backbone of the campaign is the animated Aleksandr and the videos, which aren’t cheap to reproduce. But the rewards are huge. Even for someone like Compare the Market, the kind of exposure they’ve attracted would have cost considerably more via more mainstream marketing channels.
Using social media to manage your message
In terms of planning and execution, as social media marketing goes, this one went all the way to eleven (a reference to another spoof, of the heavy metal kind). All of the ingredients were there, from the micro-website, to the Twitter and Facebook profiles, as well as the official video on YouTube.
As I see it, there are some basic, entirely reproducible ingredients for social media marketing success:
Tight integration between the various channels (website, blog, Twitter and Facebook profiles, YouTube video etc).
A consistent theme and brand image of you, your business and your core message.
Keep things moving and remain fresh, with plenty of updates, news etc.
So what can we take away from this? I guess most of you won’t have the kind of budget or resources these guys have at their disposal, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn from their efforts — just remember that Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are all free to use, which counts for a lot.
After too much thinking and not enough doing, the Social Media Marketing Technology blog is finally on Twitter!
What does this mean to you? Every time I find an interesting, topical social media article I think you’d benefit from, I’ll post that article onto my Twitter feed. It’s that simple.
What kind of social media articles will I be Twittering about? I look for the social media articles with a business slant — the ones that I feel offer practical advice for businesses, or for those who’re totally new to social media and want to know how best to spend their time, money and effort.
In reality, there are few shortcuts to success. And while social media may be tipping that balance in our favour, there’s still a lot of work to be done when planning, building and then executing your social media marketing campaign.
Like anything else, everything is hard until it’s easy! How does something suddenly become easy? Well, yet again, there are few shortcuts, so there’s often nothing sudden about success! And for things to become easy requires hours and hours or effort, patience, practice and the capacity to learn from one’s failures — of which there will most likely be many.
And on that note, you may want take a look at Business Week’s debunking 6 social media myths, which is a great leveling of the most common myths associated with social media, and here are highlights of those 6 myths:
Social media is cheap, if not free. “Yes, many of the tools that can be employed in social media marketing are free to use.” Ultimately, it’s still time and effort, with a lot of planning and preparation. The apparent simplicity of certain aspects of social media — such as setting up a blog for your business, or starting a Twitter account to name but two — obscure the truly massive and amorphous nature of social media itself.
Anyone can do it. “A surfeit of whiz kids and more experienced marketers are claiming to be social media experts and even social media gurus.” The truly great thing about social media is that the entry cost is low. However, without a plan and the social network to further that plan, just like any other marketing channel, social media marketing could be a very costly venture.
You can make a big splash in a short time. “Sure, sometimes a social media campaign can produce substantial and measurable results quickly.” As always, timing is everything, but if you’re looking for immediate success, then you’re either back to relying on paying big money for big ideas, unbelievably good timing, or blind luck!
You can do it all in-house. “Wrong! You need strategy, contacts, tools, and experience — a combination not generally found in in-house teams, who often reinvent the wheel or use the wrong tools.”
If you do something great, people will find it. “Quite simply, that never was true.” You’re back to relying on unbelievably good timing, or blind luck again — hope was never any kind of substitute for planning. Not only must you know your audience, but you must also understand the terrain and the best choice of tools; knowing where your audience is to be found will prove pivotal in the selection of tools you’ll use to engage with those people.
You can’t measure social media marketing results. “You can use a variety of methods, including mentions on blogs and in media; comments on the content; real-time blog advertising results, and click-throughs to your company website.”
For me, the best aspect of social media is the ability to build genuine communities, which persist long after the mail shot and the press release and the advert have since faded from people’s memories.
In an attempt to avert a “potential PR nightmare” Ford Motor Company read the social media signs and avoided a head-on legal crash, where their reputation would have felt the full force of the collision.
Sure, it’s a given Ford would have won the legal battle, had things gone that way. But in winning the battle, Ford would have risked losing the social media war. And on the web, the survivability of a brand is all to do with winning the hearts and the minds of the very people you’re appealing to. Scott Monty, Ford Motor Company’s social media strategist knew this only too well:
“Ford was threatening to sue The Ranger Station, a fan website run by Jim Oakes that was selling counterfeit products using Ford’s logo. Ford was demanding that The Ranger Station surrender its website URL and pay Ford $5,000 in damages.”
What happened next was all too predictable; Jim Oakes used his social media smarts to whip up a storm of protest against Ford’s heavy-handed approach:
“Ford instantly felt the backlash as the fan community quickly caught wind of the lawsuit and began blogging and tweeting angry comments. Monty jumped on Twitter, followed the chatter and sent tweets to his 5,600 followers saying “I’m in active discussions with our legal department to resolve it. Please retweet.””
And the moral of this story is? Be responsive and attentive to your customers, to your potential customers and to your brand, wherever that brand may be. Because in this day & age, Super Advocates — those that speak the loudest and are the most listened to — come in all shapes and sizes.
Social Networking is a great way for businesses to find new people who’re interested in the same things as yourself.
There’s a lot to be said for being connected to smart, resourceful and equally well connected people. If ever you’re in need of a little feedback, assistance, help or even just a spare pair of eyes, a strong social network will help expedite those things.
So here’s a quick introduction to social networking for business people.
What can I do on a social network?
First of all, before we talk about what the best social networks are, you need to think about your goals:
Are you looking for industry news?
Are you looking for “thought leaders” in your field?
Are you trying to promote yourself / your business?
Are you looking to build a strong support network?
If you have a company blog, then finding new people to comment on your articles, or to write articles for you could be your goal. Or, if you’re a knowledgeable / creative type, maybe you want to share what you know with others. Or maybe you’re trying to gather a collection of like-minded individuals to help you create something truly amazing.
For you, there may be other goals, but it’s as well to think about and then decide how:
you’re going to approach your goal;
how much time you’re going to commit to those goals;
and finally, how you’re going to measure your goals.
What are the benefits of social networking?
In this case, the benefits are sometimes the same as the goals; finding industry news, thought leaders, a venue to promote yourself or your services et cetera. But there are more:
Low cost of entry — most social networks are free to join.
Becoming part of an international community.
Over time, the prospect of becoming a thought leader yourself.
Fast and mostly accurate sources of trustworthy advice.
But like anything else, what you get in return is highly dependent on the effort you put in.
There are possibly hundreds of social networks out there, but the emphasis really has to be on those that offer clear business benefits:
LinkedIn — LinkedIn is an online network of more than 30 million experienced professionals from around the world, representing 150 industries. When you join, you create a profile that summarizes your professional accomplishments. Your profile helps you find and be found by former colleagues, clients, and partners. You can add more connections by inviting trusted contacts to join LinkedIn and connect to you. Your network consists of your connections, your connections’ connections, and the people they know, linking you to thousands of qualified professionals.
Facebook — “Facebook gives people the power to share and makes the world more open and connected Millions of people use Facebook everyday to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet.”
Ecademy — “Ecademy is a Business Social Network founded in 1998 now with millions of users of the site each year worldwide. Ecademy is unique as business people connect both online on the web site and offline at networking events and 1-2-1 meetings.”
Xing — “The web-based business network XING has grown into one of the leading professional online networking platforms. Business professionals use XING to find useful contacts, important information, new business opportunities, employees and ideas. Based on its members’ level of activity, XING is a market leader in global professional online networking.”
Twitter as a social network
Aside from the more mainstream and business-focused social networks, it might be worth considering Twitter, which I’m sure you’ll have heard plenty about recently.
It’s hard to summarize what Twitter is, largely because it can be whatever you want it to be. Quite unlike LinkedIn, Ecademy etc, there are no formal groups; anyone can follow (befriend) anyone else.
I’ve been on Twitter for several years and it is possible to harness the collective knowledge of your followers to fulfill many, if not all, of the goals outlined previously.
Of course, there are more social networks for businesses, which you’re free to pick, choose and explore.
Being a part of a social network is, for the most part, little different to any real world social network. The only real differences are how you interact with your fellow residents — all you need is an internet connection and a web browser (like Internet Explorer, Safari or Firefox).
By setting out what you want to achieve, how and when, social networking can become a legitimate, efficient and cost-effective means of discovery and promotion for your business…