Your Social Media and Community Best Practices Are Bullshit

As I’ve spent a lot of hours interviewing with a lot of companies over the past few months, I’ve realized a trend in the types of companies and people I’d potentially like to work for and the ones I have to fight the urge to roll my eyes at.

boy-rolling-eyes

When I get pressed to discuss industry best practices in social media, I’ve literally started responding with “I don’t care.”

This might seem abrasive or arrogant, but frankly, people who ask these questions are the types of media professionals that don’t “get” the new waves of digital technologies that are constantly evolving. It’s like trying to keep up with SEO. If you introduce me to someone who’s been an expert in ever single change and best practice in SEO over the last 8 years, I’ll point out someone who is either full of shit or on some Rain Man level of information retention. You don’t want a historian who simply tracks changes over time running your social and community building programs if you’re trying to do anything interesting. You need someone who’s willing to learn, absorb and try new things, regardless if they are or are not in vogue with the rest of the industry.

Everyone is making this shit up as they go along. EVERYONE. I don’t care how much of a savant someone might seem in articulating the current state of social media, when it comes to predicting how tight behemoths like Facebook and Twitter make the collar on marketers, it’s anyone’s best guess until algorithms are changed and everyone sees how bad their marketing reach really is.

I suggest employers ask candidates what their thoughts are on specific problems. How would they solve them? Ask them what annoys them about the current state of affairs in marketing. Don’t ask them to recite what Brian Solis  Gary Vaynerchuk are going on endlessly about lately.

If I, or any of the other candidates can’t look at your product or service with a fresh, objective, un-biased set of eyes and figure out a unique marketing strategy or approach, their value to your organization is and always be limited.

The companies I have been most excited about are the ones who don’t want anything to do with the status quo. Those are the places to be.

Kudos To Facebook For Being The Ultimate Expression

Facebook has so genuinely and clearly pulled ahead in the popularity contest that is the marketing industry. It has truly diversified its platform and functionality to be the perfect ecosystem for both consumer and business to meet at the table and exchange ideas, data and in all likelihood down the road… money.

I always held a strong candle for Twitter. It has served me well over the years as a communication, discovery and relationship building tool. I’ve made countless friendships, both meaningful and superficial on Twitter. But I’m a bit of an outlier and big, profitable internet businesses are not cultivated on the long term by servicing my kind.

I loved how Google+ gave it a go. I still love how foursquare is going strong and servicing my needs. But it’s just so clear that Facebook has become the actual reality of how relationships are articulated online for a majority of the world.

I never saw this coming 8 years ago. Makes sense, because if I had that kind of insight, I’d be a very rich man. However, I do believe the rate at which the world is changing how it communicates digitally is going to just speed up and potentially get more interesting and weird. So, I don’t see Facebook standing atop the anthill forever. I am so excited to see where this leads.

New Blog Design

Hey everyone, thanks for continuing to visit me at http://notsoliteral.com. I’ve decided to update my blog design for a more “micro-blog” feel. It’s not to say I cannot write in long form, but I wanted to go with a simpler design for a change. Feel free to let me know what you think. I love feedback! Also, stay tuned for some more updates! Cheers!

Fresh Findings Friday: Grace(ful) Plate Has Launched!

This week, my endlessly talented girlfriend launched her new food blog called Grace(full) Plate. She’s been so excited about this new project and I couldn’t be more happy for her. She’ll be posting all sorts of restaurant reviews, recipes and food stories, so come check it out and get hungry!

Fresh Findings Friday Introducing The Boulder-Denver Community Manager Meetup

This past Wednesday  marked the first of the Boulder-Denver Community Manager Meetups which took place at The Cup on Pearl Street. It was an idea that was introduced to me via Chris Vieville by way of Cali Harris.

After a few meetings between Chris, Cali and I, we realized that having a meetup around the profession of Community Management would be something that many people could benefit from. Despite comments that the job has been around for a long time, in reality, growing businesses through Twitter and Facebook-like social networks is not that old of a profession really. I’d say 3-4 years at most.

Either way, the Boulder-Denver Community Manager Meetup is not a gathering of gurus. No gurus allowed actually 😉  More like, we want people to come talk about what their interests are about Community Management, their struggles performing in or acquiring a Community Management job and general ideas about how we can all be better businesspeople and marketers.

Oh, and we’ll have some fun events at fun locations too (beers, snacks, non-profit events anyone?)

So, cheers to Chris and Cali for approaching me and making this event happen and thank you so much to everyone who came and is interested in coming in the future!

**UPDATE** for now, we’re going to have the Facebook page as where we’ll update. We may be starting a blog or something else for information, but come “Like” us on Facebook now for updates on future events and happenings!

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Boulder-Denver-Community-Manager-Meetup/135351839850117

Email Newsletters Should Be Interesting… and Not Frequent

I’ve been spending a lot of time in my email inbox lately and it sucks.

No, unfortunately I’m not getting flooded with consulting inquiries or job offers. I’m not getting emails from long lost friends wanting to catch up. I’m getting newsletters and it’s pissing me off.

Instead of deleting all of these opt-out emails, I am instead opening them and un-subscribing. I am un-subscribing from every single newsletter that comes into my inbox.

Supposedly we’re entering into an era when you don’t find news, instead news finds you. You’re supposed to put yourself out there selectively to be approached by creators or curators of content. I see this being done in simple ways such as building out a social network of people who are exactly relevant to your interests and aspirations. If you’re following someone who matters to you, then you’re likely to find information from that person as they post it, rather than monitoring a huge, unmanigable feed of data.

I guess we allow ourselves, or I do anyways, to be opted-in or opted-out of newsletters because we assume something interesting and useful will probably be in these newsletters. But, newsletters are invasive. Unless there is a beneifical call to action in them, it takes too much time to open up a newsletter and scroll through it to see if it’s relevent. Each post in that newsletter should be a blog post instead. You can get people to that blog post by Tweeting and posting the links on Facebook.

When you email “blast” people, keep in mind that you’re blasting their attention spans that are probably short. Mine is frayed at the moment and I’m taking rash-steps to alleviate it.

Why not try “pulsing” your audience with content and messaging rather than “blasting” them?

Price Chopper’s Immature PR Practices

All brands, take heed. Do not EVER do this. Such a bad idea.

Remember the annoying little guy in class when you were in 5th grade who wanted to hang out with the cool kids but couldn’t hang? You know, everyone starts joshing, horsing around, throwing charlie horses and suddenly the same kid is crying and running to mommy to tattle tale?

Yeah, Price Chopper is that whiney little kid these days. My friend Jenn Pedde sent me a link about how Price Chopper (a national supermarket based out of New York) made a major PR Fail and I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

To sum up what happened, a customer was visiting Price Chopper and decided to complain publicly on their Twitter account how the shelves were not stocked well and that the customer couldn’t find what they came to the store for.

Instead of doing what a community manager is supposed to do, basically apologize for the stores appearance and see how they could resolve the issue, Price Chopper’s PR department did a little research, found out who the customer worked for and asked them to basically discipline (fire) their employee for bad mouthing them online.

You’ve got to be kidding me!

I see some people online using this as a cautionary tale saying that you shouldn’t put your employer’s info in your social profiles so that stuff like this won’t happen. That is SO besides the point! Here’s why:

  • I’m self employed and work in marketing right now. So, I’m tearing into Price Chopper because they did exactly what I’d advise my clients NOT to do when someone complains. I’ve seen restaurant owners do this kind of shit before when a customer complains publicly, but a national supermarket? They should know better.
  • Price Chopper had no right to go after someone online for expressing their opinions online, especially when the complain was a valid one and something Price Chopper should actually work on. Those are thug tactics better reserved for mobsters and politicians than actual professional business people who want to build customer bases, not alienate them.

What I find humorous is that I used to work at Price Chopper. They were the first job I had that wasn’t under the table. I spent 2 years pushing carriages, bagging groceries and ringing out product at the register. I don’t recall them being a particularly innovative or forward thinking company to work for on the ground floor of the business, but I see there isn’t much variation in that all the way up the corporate, even 10 years later.

JRManifesto – The Longevity Of Social Touchpoints

As I’m riding the commuter rail from Worcester to Boston on my way to catch my flight back to Boulder, I saw some really cheese-ball ads on and off the train that made me think about the “measurable” associated with community management development via social media. Where do you measure your impact or ROI?

I think the perspective of what a well developed social community is important in deciding whether a business should invest money into a social media strategy.

My perspective is this: the value of a single perceived interaction between a brand and a consumer through social media is greater than if a person drives by a billboard advertisement 100 times in a year.

The social media space allows for numerous dynamic engagement opportunities for brands to reach out to their current and potential consumers. There are a huge array of tools that allow you to monitor conversations that are directly or indirectly related to any idea, keyword or brand or person.

Some would say that there is too much “noise” in the social media space, even though it is so new to our world. I’d say the noise is negligible for brands and consumers because of the ways we listen. There are countless radio frequencies, television channels, billboard ads and other types of invasive, one way attempts of communication. People can’t shut their eyes when they drive past an advertisement, so they tune it out, ignore it and maybe even develop some resentment towards the brands that use hokey, tasteless ad techniques to get your attention for a split second.

There are plenty of goofballs in the social media space. It’s literally impossible to grab a hold of every message that is being sent out through the numerous channels. But, the difference between traditional advertising and social media community development is that people are purposely tuning in when they turn on their computers and some so finely that they’ll seek out exactly what they need and want through search engines.

So when a consumer signs up for Twitter or Facebook and starts to figure out how information flows and which tools to use to seek out specific keywords, hashtags or web-pages. If that consumers eyes come across your presence in social media without any sort of potential for engagement (a.k.a. you haven’t tweeted since 2009 or every message in your timeline consists of a link back to your blog and no @ replies), they will move on and find some other brand to buy from.

An example I like to use is of a national retailer that I’ve been a life-long customer of, L.L. Bean. My backpack broke after many good years of use and I happened to Tweet about how my stuff fell everywhere on the train. I mentioned L.L. Bean in the Tweet and within several minutes, their PR manager @ replied me reminding me of their return policy and that I could get a new bag whenever I wanted. It’s not like L.L. Bean was following me on Twitter and monitoring every little thing I said on a daily basis, but clearly they had some sort of keyword searches running so that when something like a broken bag or customer service issue came up, they could hop right on it and fix it.

I’ve always been a fan of L.L. Bean for the most part, but the fact that their PR person reached out to me the way she did and to this day will interact with me if I shoot her a message means that I’ll be more loyal to them than other retailers that have no channel of contact beyond stepping in line at customer service or calling a 1-800 number.

All businesses are competing for consumers short attention spans in one way or another. It’s like the eternal battle between good and evil, Star Wars vs. Star Trek, Soy Milk vs. Dairy. Something can be sail for clever ad campaigns that touch the hearts of people during prime-time like those mommy-focused Olympic commercials, but most businesses can’t afford that kind of exposure and it’s probably a better idea to make some friends on Twitter and Facebook than it is to pay thousands of dollars to annoy your potential customers with cheesy billboard ads and radio commercials on their morning commutes.

Every conversation = impact. Every dollar saved on traditional advertisement = ROI

I’ve been on Twitter since May 16 2008…

I’ve been on Twitter since May 16, 2008. As of today, I have 3,346 followers. Last month I had over 3,400 followers. I’m hemorrhaging followers at a pretty steady basis on a week to week basis. To some people, it would be quite alarming to lose that many followers. I mean, imagine losing 60 friends in a month? What’s worse, 60 customers?!?!

I signed up for a service that emails me every day with all of the people who un-follow me. Sometimes it’s not a surprising list of folks who’ve decided my Tweets aren’t worth their time anymore; mostly spammers, brands, people who’ve bought huge lists of influential people to follow en masse and then automatically un-follow if that person doesn’t follow back within a day. I don’t bat an eye. Then every once in a while I’ll see someone has un-followed me that I know as an acquaintance or maybe even as a real life friend. My reaction at this point is usually “what the fuck? Why’d they un-follow me?” Maybe I wrote a guest post for them within the last few years, connected them with a contact in our industry or maybe I gave them props on something they did. Why would someone un-follow me?

The first impulse might be for people, including myself at one point, to try and find this person on email, GChat or whatever and ask them what was up. It’s like in middle-school when you find out you weren’t invited to a sleep-over. You feel a little rejected and hurt and want an answer.

So the answers, when I first started asking “why did you un-follow me?” usually consisted of “I’m so busy, I just can’t follow everyone these days and needed to pare back.” Or, I get the semi-entertaining response of “you tweet too much. I can’t deal with it.” Maybe I’m offensive (my account is personal and I speak freely) or maybe I don’t provide enough value. Who knows?

Regardless of losing more followers on a monthly basis than some people can acquire over several months, my social media statistics keep going up. If someone ever calls me out or complains about something I do via @-reply or private DM, I always respond and address whatever the issue is. I’ve never bought into an auto-follow program, I’ll never beg people to follow me and if someone decides I’m not entertaining or informative anymore, I respect their choice and turn my cheek.

But, I should mention that I’ve gotten some followers back without sacrificing my dignity. I don’t automatically un-follow every person that un-f0llowes me. I keep some un-followers around because:

  • Some people are simply worth following whether the interact with you or not. Their insight, humor or general presence are valuable enough to keep around even when un-reciprocated.
  • Sometimes you fall out of touch un-intentionally.

I find simple re-tweet or giving someone props in an @-reply is enough to at least garner a response, if not a re-follow. You may not be BFF’s again (you probably never were BFF’s to begin with), but having touch points with people who you want to have touch points in a social setting, even if they are superficial, is really what social media is all about.

So what story does this anecdote tell? I’ve got 3,348 followers and I personally follow 3,119 people. I may not be the best at building a Twitter following, but I am good at building relationships and adding value. Outside of a handful of celebrities, authors, artists, athletes and specialists that I follow who will probably never follow me back, I have reciprocal Twitter followings. I distribute content, interact with individuals and value good insights and people who pay me a moment of their attention.

I suggest to get the most out of Twitter, use it to build relationships, not an army of mute faces that may or may not advocate for your brand.

JRManifesto – My Thoughts On Social Community and Relationship Building

You know the really sharp dressed man or woman at the networking events that have expensive clothes on, start name dropping, passing out business cards, talk to everyone (they actually won’t shut up) and don’t listen to a word you say when you actually try to interact with them? Yeah, those people are kind of lame. Brands who do that are lame too and what’s worse, is they’re wasting money on social media campaigns and employees sending out messaging in all the wrong

Relationships do not scale. I live by this rule in my personal and professional life. I’ve worked for or consulted with several prominent companies in the social media space and I’ve seen all sorts of stumbles when it comes to either relationship building or maintenance.

Big brands get excited about Facebook pages because you can essentially post content to them and have anyone that “Likes” your page comment or continuously “Like” whatever you say or post. Facebook pages essentially alleviate some of the measuring and ROI issues that you have with Twitter. With Twitter, you can pulse messages into the ether and anyone who follows your updates can respond in kind. But Twitter relationships always fade when a company acquires lots of followers (thousands, sometimes tens or hundreds of thousands) and start Tweeting PR-esque sound bites to the universe without interacting with the people who Tweet back.

Granted, you cannot interact with every person whom you’ve established a connection with on a consistent basis, whether on social media or in real life. But, some sort of connection pathway must exist in order to keep the initial encounter from withering up and dying.

Here are my main tips in relation to the tools in establishing and maintaining relationships via social media:

  • Blogs have been, are and should continue to be the home base of your brand’s social messaging. You don’t need to post every day (though you should have a regular posting schedule) and you don’t need to write case studies and have epic, 1200 word pieces every time, but continuous and dynamic posts of branded content are so important to keep your brand feeling alive and active to the outside world.
  • Twitter has been a god-send for my personal brand and I’ve known some companies who just absolutely kick ass at using it strategically (L.L. Bean ranks among the best). Twitter is a channel for you to distribute content. Twitter is a place to acquire new customers and relationships. Twitter is not a place to come and bull rush an audience development plan and acquire thousands of followers over night (often by shady means) without having Tweeted @ someone, ever. It’s okay to admit that you can’t be everything to everyone and have conversations with every person who follows you on Twitter, but paring down your community to people who influence your brand and who (you should be thankful and grateful for) are influenced by yours will make it much easier to acknowledge individuals, rather than speaking in generalities to a mob of un-interested bystanders.
  • Facebook allows you to have an ongoing portrait of the interactions between your brand and your “Likes.” You can continually post witty quips about industry news, your clients or your employees and initially get some responses from the people you email blasted to come join the conversation, however, if you don’t actually respond once in a while to comments or conversation strings on your page, engagement will falter over time no matter how interesting your content is. The distinct advantage to having Facebook as a content distribution channel (driving traffic to your blog or elsewhere), is that you can also develop conversations on your walls, which are visible for all to see (for better or worse). Keep branded content flowing on your Facebook pages and ask a quirky or relevant question every now and again to your “Likes.” Those interactions mean something to followers of your brand and they’re also demonstrative to the rest of the world that you listen and interact.

These are just basic tips that I’m offering and may or may not sound like common sense to people both in and outside the social media marketing space. However, I’ve literally seen hundreds of brands mess this up and try to keep up with the Jones’ by setting up social media accounts in haste and not taking the time to understand what the hell they’re going to do with them.

Having a good product or service to market is a whole other topic, but only you can answer if what you’re selling is worth buying.