Posts Tagged ‘Social Networking’

Starting Out the New Year in a Posterous Style: Life Streaming

No, this is not a luxurious product or expensive commodities I’m selling you. And no, no one has paid me anything to say what I’m about to tell you. But I gotta admit that I’ve been flirting with a bifurcated heart recently. And that is instead of blogging, I’ve been “lifestreaming” on posterous.com. If you’ve never heard of Posterous or lifestreaming, you should check it out. It’s bound to revolutionize the way you organize information you want to share, store and send.

Blogging through my Gmail account is one of the many features Posterous offers. (No, Posterous didn’t pay me to write this blog post in case you’re wondering.) But I realize that if I come across a really cool news story, do some further digging into it, jot down some quick thoughts and make it available to others to jump on the same topic, Posterous does exactly that for me. The multimedia posting is even a bigger draw. You could practically post any video, images, podcast and feeds at your finger tips, again, via email.

My lifestream can be found on adamarcom.posterous.com and by sending an email to my posterous account, my lifestream post will go up instantly (between 1-2 minutes). I use Adamarcom as it’s my Twitter handle and it’s easy to remember. You can also integrate your Posterous stream with your Twitter and Facebook feeds. Honestly, I can’t find a better tool than this to help organize my virtual life three-way likeso. (And yes, Posterous supports posts on WordPress as well, though for me personally, Posterous is more of a bookmarklet style of blogging, and I’d rather keep my WordPress a bit more analytical and incisive than merely bookmarking my favorite resources and industry news, so I’ve decided to keep them separate.)

My most recent stream is on the top-growing retail sites and categories in December 2009. The information is HIGHLY RELEVANT to brands as we go into 2010. The reason is that our December holiday spending is a good indicator of commodities and information we consume regardless of the economic sentiments around us. If we visit those retailers and retail categories in spite of a slowed economy, a shrunk paycheck and a slightly damped mood, I think we’re onto some valuable insights here. A little further digging will get you into the psychographics of your customers and help you craft the best marketing strategy into the new year.

Another interesting lifestream I did was on “Eye-tracking” for those interested in SEO and SEM. If your website is a key channel of information and e-commerce for your business, Eye-tracking results are always going to be key to unlock the priorities of the different properties, elements and advertising assets happening on your website. Especially if you’re about to redesign your website in 2010, eye-tracking should definitely make it to the top of your list.

For many of us, 2010 will be a HUGE year of customer relationship building — face-to-face AND via social media. Consider Posterous and many other up-and-coming social tools (which I’d continue to keep you posted on in the days to come) that can help you do your job better.

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Is Your Brand and Rolodex Online?

Over a recent trip to Detroit, Michigan, I had the opportunity to sit down with Scott Monty, head of global social media at Ford Motor Company. It was Twitter that brought us together, but it was his candidness that made our meetup a meaningful and memorable one.

We discussed about companies, social media and branding. So in the next couple of weeks, I’m going to put up blog posts that cover these various topics and share with you insights from and analysis of each one of them.

Insight #1: Are your sales and marketing superstars on all major social media networks?

The idea of personal branding is centuries old, but the practice of it is evolving. “The long-term strategy is more than just a super Rolodex,” said Scott Monty of Ford Motor Company. “You need to establish a presence on all major social media channels.”

Traditional, old-school sales folks will tell you they can bring to your company a book of business, or a “super Rolodex” as Scott Monty put it, to help you win more business. If you hire someone in that vein of acumen, you could probably do yourself a favor by asking one more question: What’s your online presence like and how well is your brand established on all major social media channels?

If the person gives you a I-have-no-idea-what-you’re-talking-about look, then walk way. You’d do yourself another favor by saving 15 minutes explaining to him or her what social media is and why it is so important to have your personal brand presence online.

Think you’re being too tough to ask a 50-year-old sales rockstar this question? No, you’re not. Traditional sales and marketing concepts and experience are still relevant, but the practice of it has evolved online, and will continue to do so. If the person doesn’t have an online presence, where do you think your company will head to – stone age? You need someone who has the understanding, interest and conviction to take your business and brand online.

But before we dig deeper into business branding, let’s talk about the relationship between personal branding and business branding, which is so often misunderstood, but which holds the key to successfully separating yourself and your company brand from competition.

Scott’s personal brand was established before he joined Ford. (Check out @ScottMonty on Twitter and his blog on www.scottmonty.com) “There was a misconception about me that I utilized the Ford brand to establish my brand. But nothing is farther from the truth–I have my own personal network and online brand established long ago, and when I joined Ford, I took my personal network and connect my friends and peers with the Ford brand which they wouldn’t otherwise be associated with.”

A year after joining Ford, Scott not only continues to thrive in his personal brand, he has also taken the Ford brand to a different level—social media. Ford is now becoming a brand known to the younger consumers and have caught on the long-tail buzz as a reliable, trusted and quality brand.

Many business owners feel that if their sales and marketing superstars have their personal brands, then they must not be serving the purpose of the company. That’s ABSOLUTELY unfounded thinking. In fact, if they look closer at how branding, PR and marketing are done these days, a personal network of thousands can boost and drum up support and interest of tens of thousands on a geometrical scale, making whatever your campaign is much more successful than ever.

So let’s take a look here at the distinct features, upside and downside with regards to social media branding if you’re still wondering what they all mean:

Social Media Branding Distinct Features Upside Downside
LinkedIn A combination of traditional Rolodex and instant updates. Group discussion feeds are available at your desired frequency. Plenty of discussion groups to join. Receives real-time feeds of what your network of contacts are up to on the Home page. You can expand your network via tapping into your 2nd and 3rd degree contacts. Still not the most user-friendly interface. Group discussions yield limited participation. It’s difficult to look up event information and events you’ve RSVP’d once it’s done. People typically do not accept your invitation unless they’ve already made a connection with you prior.
Facebook Allows you to create personal network groups and make your posts viewable by those in your group only. You can join other people’s groups and receive real-time updates of their feeds and discussions. Everything is instant and done in real-time. Information is shared the second you post it online. You can tap into your group participants’ network as you try to expand your network of influence. Users seem to be more open to accepting new contact invites in this channel. Though easier to add contacts, the quality of contacts may not be consistent with that of your LinkedIn connections. Facebook interface and functionalities may require users to spend a bit more time to dig deep and interact. Only practice can make your art of Facebooking perfect.
Twitter Real-time information in 140 characters – short, fast and sweet. Great for building up a vast network quick and make real-time announcements. Single-layer platform doesn’t allow you to do much other than leveraging contacts’ updates to expand your knowledge and your circle as well as to work through contacts to see what opportunities they can bring you.
Blog In the true journalist style, a blog becomes your newspaper or magazine to voice your opinion and share content at your desire. Gives you a sticky presence online and perhaps the best form of personal branding to date. It’s essentially your own platform that gives you the flexibility to write, post and show what you want to share. High commitment tool that forces you to deliver high-quality content at all times.
YouTube Viral videos on steroid!! YouTube offers you a fast and furious way to get a reaction and prompts call-to-action for a campaign. YouTube links can be embedded cross-platform on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. This is a great companion to your existing content and sharing opinions in real-time. Successful videos can get hundreds and thousands of views overnight and generate a ton of publicity. Video quality varies on YouTube. Viraling videos and coming up with ingenious content requires professional video skills, strategic thinking and strong commitment to execute. If done inappropriately, videos can cause backlash.

Become Part of the Statistics: Integrate Social into Your Business

Courtesy of NYTimesAre you over 55 and an active computer user? Then welcome to the fastest-growing-demographic club on Facebook!

Take a deep breath, here are the latest stats of U.S. visits to Facebook reported by Hitwise:

  • Facebook has a year-to-year growth of 194% from its U.S. visits in September.
  • Its market share among all social networking sites has also grown from 55.2% –> 58.6%
  • Monthly active users reached 88.3 million in September.
  • 45% of users are now 26 and older.
  • Fastest growing demographic: 55 years old and over

Hands down, Facebook is by far the most cross-generational, cross-functional and cross-everything social networking site that has ever existed in human history, though the history of Facebook merely began five years ago.

According to comScore, 16.5 million adults over the age of 55 engage in social media. And in just one year since AARP unveiled its social networking platform, about 350,000 users created 1,700 groups.

So are you evolving your business forward like the rest of the marketplace is? Or are you giving yourself the excuse that you’re not part of the Internet age and simply can’t see the bigger picture of how social networking sites can help advance your business? (Don’t want to get too philosophical here, but are you focusing on the trees and missing the jungle? Trees can be your current customers, the jungle is the industry trends, business climate and your potential customers. )

For those who embrace the greatest and latest with social media, are you jumping into Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and becoming active, connecting and building relationships? Are you establishing thought leadership through LinkedIn groups, Twitter follows and Facebook fan clubs? Are you ready to conduct business, communicate and handle transactions on social networking sites with your customers?

“Are you serious about transacting on Facebook?” you might ask. Dead serious (see 1-800-Flowers’ recent e-commerce launch on Facebook). Many brands and companies are already doing so on social networking sites. And if you do have a presence on these sites, make sure you dedicate time and resources to keep them current and reflective of your latest business offers. Take advantage of your fan base and followers to create excitement about a new business launch or incentive program. And top off these efforts by measuring activities and results across your social networking sites and your website or blog. Don’t expect these tools to work for you without your first putting them to work to your advantage and measuring what they can or have produced for you. 

Here are things that Fortune 500 companies and big brands are undertaking at the moment, but let’s make sure we as business owners and managers are not too far behind:

  1. Create brand messaging for your business product/service online.
  2. Measure visits, dialogues and transactions online.
  3. Analyze results over time, identify seasonal activities and user peaks.
  4. Reach out and connect with industry experts and interact with them.
  5. Share your insights and ideas with peers and associates in your field.
  6. Dig into new tools and constantly retool and refine your presentation and messaging across media.
  7. Stay current and experiment new concepts and methodologies in bringing your business up a notch!

Seek Out Your Customers, Be Where They Are: Engage and Be Social

Figuring out my "social" prioritiesWhere are your customers hanging out these days? Chances are social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. (And if your customers go to three particular tradeshows a year, and only those three tradeshows, make sure you’re there also.) With the time and resources people are spending online, everyone’s trying to figure out a way to monetize the relationships they have. But before we go into monetization, let’s think about relationships for a second.

I always think the concept of “following” vs. “followers” on Twitter is revolutionary – you’re not just friends or colleagues with people who follow you or who you follow, but you’re actually cultivating a clout – a group of followers – while you become another person’s following.

What do you do with your followers? And if your followers happen to be your customers, what would you do differently in your interactions with them online? Chances are, you will interact with each person fairly equitably. Every Tweet is posted instantaneously on every follower’s status page, so your communication with any one person is shared and displayed. (Unless you go the route of DM – where you Direct Message the person; but what’s the point of DM if you can email each other.)

So what’s the insight here? Social media compels marketers and business owners to behave differently from before – every decision and point of interaction made is in relatively full view of other people (some competitors, too). The relationship-building process becomes open, rather than competitive, i.e. you’re no longer an exclusive commodity to your customer and neither is your relationship with your customer an exclusive one because your customer can be followed by Nth number of people just like yourself.

The open nature of online communication brings us to rethink the way we’ve been doing business or marketing our products and services. Our engagement with each customer is now driven and fostered by relationships, not by hardselling or advertising. And these relationships require commitment – a commitment to continually engage our customers in meaningful and reflective conversations, continuous service/product improvement and deeper relationship building. And some of these relationships may translate into better performance or financial rewards, while others may not. (Charlene Li of Altimeter Group recently released a study on the breadth and depth of the 100 most valuable brands’ engagement across 11 different online social media channels http://www.altimetergroup.com/2009/07/engagementdb.html )

So when Topsy (a Twitter-based search engine) said on its blog today: Influence is the New Web Currency, I think that ties right back to what we’ve been saying about relationships, engagement and open communication – the three elements that make influence possible.

Instead of figuring out what our customer loyalty index is, maybe we should ask, “What’s our influence index?” to be more relevant, engaging and social.

Resources:

1) Measure your social media influence: Take the Engagement Survey http://www.engagementdb.com/Rank-Yourself

2) Check out the brand engagement report at http://www.engagementdb.com/Report

Assessing high and low commitment levels of social media tools for your business

Are you getting your daily dose of social media in the right proportions?

Stumbled upon this wonderful pyramid posted by Lee Aase on his SMUG blog. I’m drawn to the two arrows in particular – one pointing up as the Commitment level, and another pointing down as the Quantity level. If you’re interested in Lee’s observations, check out his blog. But here I have some added thoughts as to the implications of the different tiers of social media activities.

Courtesy of Lee Aase and Valeri Gungor

Courtesy of Lee Aase and Valeri Gungor

Does the higher commitment level always yield higher gains? I’m not sure. I think both the quanitity and quality of gains can go up and down the pyramid, depending on what types of gains you’re looking for.

Via Twitter, some recruiters are finding candidates while some candidates are finding jobs. Level of commitment – pretty low. Tweeting a job listing is not rocket science, and may take as little as 5-10 seconds to do. For the candidates, the amount of time required to click through the link, read the job post and respond to the job might not be all that much different from checking a job post on Careerbuilder or Monster. However, the advantage of responding to a tweet is that you’re building instant rapport with the tweeter, i.e. the recruiter. That rapport can be further developed via more tweets going back and forth. That’s where social networking begins.

Using the same example of job listings and job search, let’s take a look at the interactions between Twitter and Blogs. Checking different blogs to keep abreast of the latest job postings take a much higher level of commitment, and I’m not sure if people post job listings or talk about the jobs they’re hiring on blogs so much. However, via blogs, one could end up landing on more job postings with links on the sidebar, inspiration from the blog posts, or identifying names and company names mentioned on the blogs, but the level of engagement is more significant and the commitment to keep checking back is undeniably higher than checking into Twitter.

So what’s the point I’m trying to make? Yes, blogs require a higher level of commitment, but the lower level of commitment required by Twitter might not yield any worse results than blogs.

If you’re a company thinking where and what social networking sites you want to be involved with, then consider this: Twitter might not be as scattered or schizophrenic as one might think. The next time someone says to you Twitter is not fitting for your business, that it’s a tool for young people only (which by the way it’s not true at all, see the latest Comscore study on the changing demographics of Twitter users), ask them why they say so, how they can apply the tool for your business and make it work, and what commitment level is required. You might be surprised by how much low-level commitment tools can offer you.

Should CEOs blog?

UberCEOThis seems to be a decade-old question since the inception of weblog and the wider spread of blogging during 1999.

Whenever I’m asked whether a company should have a CEO blog, images of the CEOs I’ve worked with would flow into my mind. My response is always: yes for some but no for others.

I’ve worked with a handful of CEOs over the last eight years, mostly in roles with direct accountability. In working alongside them, I’ve also had the opportunity to work with their counterparts – CEOs in other companies. Most CEOs are open, visionary and inspirational. And some are particularly engaging and dynamic. They take time to listen to their staff and build strategies with full support from them. They inspire employees to become “little hearts” of the company and transform the workplace into Magic Kingdom – fun, professional and happening. (Type 1 CEOs)

But there are also CEOs who simply don’t engage or inspire. Their focus is on themselves and personal success. Their ideas and decisions come down on their staff like blazing fires – consuming everybody’s energy and focus. (Type 2 CEOs)

Type 1 CEOs should start blogging if they haven’t already, but I wouldn’t recommend Type 2 CEOs to blog because the voice of their blogs will come off the same way, burning off every bit of interest in their readers.

Why? Because blogs are powerful tools – they penetrate the deepest thoughts and enliven your thinking into visual images. Successful bloggers create positive images, empowering messages and empathetic viewpoints. The most popular blogs are always painfully honest, honestly incisive and incisively inspirational.

I have trouble reading CEO blogs that simply aren’t believable. Their tone and content tell me how interested they are in people’s lives and what other people are thinking. Yes, Seth Godin will tell you “no one cares about you” (they only care about what they’re going to get out of you). But if I’m reading your blog, I’d somewhat care about you as a person or the impact of what you’re saying will have on me and others. I may not be aware of your company or brand right away, but I’d certainly be aware of your tone, your actions and how your experience impacts my thinking about your company and brand.

Don’t just blog because you have to, be good blog material first.

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What the heck with the hackers? Twitter and Facebook got hacked this morning.

This was no Live Free or Die Hard starring Bruce Willis, but some large-scale hacks took place this morning on both Twitter and Facebook. The exact time the two sites went down was unclear, though Facebook was back in business much sooner than Twitter. My routine in the morning is to log into Tweetdeck while I wait for my work emails being uploaded. After several failed attempts to load tweets up on the deck this morning, I tried log into www.twitter.com but the site was said to be not found. Damn those hackers! Surprised and confused, I moved onto my emails but felt unsettled about the “denial of service” of two of the world’s largest social networks at the same time.

I looked up “hackers – computer security” on Wiki: A hacker is a person who breaks into computers, usually by gaining access to administrative controls. The subculture that has evolved around hackers is often referred to as the computer underground. Proponents claim to be motivated by artistic and political ends, and are often unconcerned about the use of illegal means to achieve them.

As I read on, I discovered a few things I didn’t know about hackers before, quoting Wiki: Several subgroups of the computer underground with different attitudes and aims use different terms to demarcate themselves from each other, or try to exclude some specific group with which they do not agree.

So great! Hackers disagree among themselves that means we have both good and evil hackers. There are the “White Hat” hackers who are non-malicious hackers who hack to test their own computer security systems…I can bear with that, since all major corporations employ professional “hackers”, otherwise known as computer/network secruity experts, to safeguard their business infrastructure and critical data.

Then there are the “Grey Hat” and “Black Hat” hackers. As their names suggest, they’re either borderline illegal or outrightly illegal by committing vandalism, credit card fraud, identity theft, piracy, or other types of harmful activity.

The last but not least category are the “Hacktavists” – who are probably most closely associated with this morning’s attacks on the two world’s largest social networking sites. Though unconfirmed at this point, this type of large-scale attacks reportedly began occurring back in July when a series of cyber attacks were launched against computer networks in South Korea and the U.S. by North Korean hacktavists, i.e. cyberterrorists. Today’s attacks on Facebook and Twitter were alleged to be instigated by cyber warlords between Russia and Georgia (the country, not the U.S. state).

I’m not trying to speculate who the hackers are out there and what their motivations are (although one may find on Twitter today some Tweeters making speculations and calling out hackers’ names), but be darn clear that our lives are never the same as before – Twitter and Facebook have become an integral part of our social and global identities and we’ll band together to fight for the freeodm to say what we want to say and when we want to say it on those sites.

I never realized until this morning that my life has never been the same ever since Twitter and Facebook. When I couldn’t connect with my fellow marketers and friends, I felt attacked…but victory sided with the open and just. Thanks to the hard work by our Twitter and Facebook guardian angels, who quickly brought the sites up again after a couple of hours. You guys did a heck of a job!

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