Monthly Archives: February 2011

SocialMediaIsAboutPeopleCommunciationUnderstandingBusiness

If you are a decision maker, three steps to create the ideal social media solution. Not what you think.

By their very nature, most social media articles and how-to guides focus on ideas for those who are already actively using social media. If you are in that group, I still think you will find these steps interesting. But this three step approach to solving your organization’s social media plan, also works if you don’t even know what Facebook or Twitter is.

The three steps . . .

1. Go through your business/corporate ladder (or just a list of employees). Start all the way the top and go down. Circle everyone on that list who has these six qualities:

  • You trust their opinion.
  • They make good decisions quickly.
  • Have shown the willingness to learn new ideas, concepts and/or technology.
  • Are able to write and edit effectively.
  • Gets along with a variety of people well.
  • Understand your business.

2. Take the lowest paid person in your organization who has all those qualities, bump their salary a bit and make them your Head of Social Media. Have them report just to you.

3. Have them spend the next month doing nothing else on company time except:

  • Talk to one person in your organization every day. Try to plan it so they can talk to people at all different levels and areas of the business including the your lowest paid employees.
  • Have them start their own personal social media accounts and use them daily.
  • Give them the ability to broacast their interest in social media to your organization. And then talk to employees who are currently using social media in their daily lives (including just personally)
  • Have them go to social media conferences, meet-ups or any gatherings were social media is discussed
  • Have them go to meetings that involve your business community whether that be local or industry focused.

At the end of one month, ask them what they want to do.

Then you will have your social media plan.

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That is it.  If you think this is totally unreasonable, let me know in the comments. If you want a little more . . .

Note that the starting point for this process wasn’t social media. The person you choose, can have no knowledge of what is going on in social media. The hard part is having an employee in your organization who, first meets those qualifications and second, who can drop what they are working on to create your social media plan/department/solution.

If you don’t have anybody in your organization that meets the qualifications you might have hiring, management and business issues that you need to deal with before considering social media.

This also works for a small business. If you are the only person who meets the qualifications, and even if you don’t, step three provides a starting point for understanding what is important to your business, your community and what might work for you in social media.

What do you think? Is a month enough time? Can this approach really work? Let me know in the comments.

SocialMediaInvestments

How to invest in social media? It certainly isn’t stocks.

When I first started to understanding the value of social media, I wanted to take that knowledge and use it in my investment decisions.

I started doing Google searches such as “Social Media stocks”, “Social Media publicly traded companies” and the like.

I quickly found that there weren’t any pure-play social media stocks.  Even those companies, who owned social media related brands, were the weaker of the social media platforms.  You could buy News Corporation who owns MySpace, but who wants to invest in MySpace, let alone have to invest in all the other News Corp companies.  You could invest in United Online, but then you would be stuck with what I view as a disaster site, Classmates.com.

After a weekend of research, I determined that there wasn’t really any social media investment opportunities in publicly traded stocks.

Today, a year after all that research, nothing has really changed.  In fact things might have gotten worse.  A LinkedIn IPO is in the works, but no definite date has been established.

Startup and Angel Investing

I determined there are two ways to invest in social media companies:  invest in startups and/or have access to secondary markets were non-public companies are traded.  Both of these options require having millions of dollars in personal equity and are out of my league.

Even if you have those funds, investing in startups is difficult.  You have to be connected with the seed capital or angel investor networks.  Prominent mid-sized angel investors are actually having trouble finding things to invest in as so much money is now being invested in startups.  Dozens of articles have been written about a “startup bubble”.

Russian billionaire Yuri Milner is providing startup funding without even considering the business model.  If a company can get into Y-Combinator, a start-up incubator, the company automatically gets $150,000 in funding just for joining the group.  And the terms of the funding are extremely favorable to the company, not the investor.  It is difficult for anyone to compete with that.

When a social media company finally goes public.

So what about when the company finally does go public?  Then the average person with money in their Roth or 401k will be able to have a fair shot?

Not really.  Yesterday, JPMorgan announced they are starting a $500 million to $750 million “Social Media Fund”.  This fund will provide financing to established businesses with additional investments in late stages before they go public.  This type of funding isn’t really even needed by most of these companies. The secondary market and traditional investor funding largely provide what is needed for these businesses.  But they aren’t going to turn down the money.  This type of fund allows large banks and their clients to get access to these companies before they even go public; taking out another layer of value.

Most of the value in social media stocks will be gone by the time any of these companies get to the stock market.  Social media is powerful enough that these companies may continue to do well. Since the hype for social media is justifiably high, it might make sense to get in for the short term on almost any company that has legitimate social media elements.  The demand is there for these investments, so the price will likely continue to rise, irrespective of traditional evaluations.

How you can actually invest in social media.

The takeaway from all of this is that if you want to take advantage of the power of social media, you have to invest in yourself.    If you have an idea for a startup, get working on it.  Build a prototype.  There has never been a time like this where there is so much money willing to be invested in the next social media related product.  Even if it is a niche product, the demand is still there.  You have to be a creator.

If you don’t have a product or business idea, invest your time and money in social media for whatever business or project you are currently working on.  Wall Street will hopefully never find a way to take the value out of your own social media efforts.

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I am hoping that I have just missed some obvious social media stock plays.  If you have any you would like to share, I would love to hear about them in the comments section.  Also if you have thoughts about investing in social media, please feel free to share them.

 

NowRevolutionSocialMediaBook

7 Highlights from the 7 Chapters of The NOW Revolution.

The NOW Revolution written by Jay Baer and Amber Naslund is being released today.  The content of the book provided my inspiration to review it, but the subtitle “7 Shifts to make your Business Faster, Smarter and more Social” influenced my structure.

To go along with the “7” theme, here are 7 overall things I appreciate about The NOW Revolution book:

  • Has actionable insight that I can immediately put into place
  • Provides additional resources when appropriate, but is largely contained
  • Has depth that goes beyond the normal, daily stream of social media articles
  • Timeless, in that it focuses on process, not the particular technology or platform
  • Provides case studies when possible
  • Well written
  • Entertaining

Now on to some highlights . . .

The book is divided into seven sections and I am going to briefly describe each section and provide my favorite highlight.

1. Engineer a New Bedrock

What it means:  Your organization needs to have the right culture before you can succeed at any type of communication including social media.

Highlight:  My favorite example from this chapter is an extreme one, but it highlights the key principle of empowering your employees.  The Ritz-Carlton allows any employee to spend up to $2000 to resolve a situation for a customer.  That amount of discretion isn’t realistic for most organizations, but it does capture the idea that you have to give as many employees as possible the power to resolve situations and to represent your company in a positive way.  Zappos is another company which is famous for empowering their employees to resolve customer issues and be proactive so issues don’t happen.  And we see how that is working out.

2.  Find Talent You Can Trust

What it means:  Social media is fast paced.  Decisions need to be made on the fly, and that means having talented co-workers you can trust

Highlight: Hiring people already well connected either offline or online can bring the power of their influence and social skills to your organization.  At the same time, if your organization is doing it right, you are providing a benefit to new employees by boosting their profile and in some cases helping them become thought leaders in your industry.  It can be a win-win for both organizations and the individual members.

3. Organize Your Armies

What it means:  Whether you are a team of one or many, there has to be some organized way that you approach social media.

Highlight:  Be willing to recruit anyone in your organization who truly loves social media. Their role can be large or small, but embrace employees who do it well and who are passionate about it.  The way you solicit people in your company is important.  Be careful to solicit social media users in such a way that it doesn’t bring in those who feel obligated to join in.  Obligatory social media use is rarely successful.

4. Answer the New Telephone

What it means:  Just like most businesses eventually had to accept that they could be contacted by customer via the phone, today customers are speaking about and trying to connect with businesses via social media.  This chapter explains how to hear these requests and anticipate issues before they even become direct questions.

Highlight:  One of my favorite stories in the book is about the national Red Cross organization.   Their social media team collects all the media mentions about them each day.  They take the most meaningful parts of the mentions (usually 20 of them), and distribute them internally to their employees.  This lets the whole organization feel involved in the process and provides daily feedback to the entire operation.

5. Emphasize Response-Ability

What it means:  Learning the best ways to respond to customer questions and issues, but also moving beyond that to actually leading the discussion about your organization and industry by creating your own stories.

Highlight:  This chapter does a good job about going through the stages of listening.

  • Ignoring
  • Listening
  • Responding
  • Participating
  • Storytelling

6. Build a Fire Extinguisher

What it means:  How to identify, evaluate and deal with social media issues, particularly crisis.

Highlight:  I have to admit this was the hardest chapter for me to come up with a clear favorite part.  This past month I read Peter Shankman’s book on customer service.  His book dealt with crisis issues in such detail, that I already felt like I had a good feel for the issue.

In the end, I think the biggest takeaway from this chapter of The Now Revolution was “say you’re sorry”.  It seems to be a basic human instinct that if you are trying to the do the right thing in general, and you do make a mistake, if you acknowledge that mistake and say you are sorry, people will forgive and move on.  So in the end, if you are wrong, say you are sorry.

7. Make a Calculator

What it means: Return-on-investment.  How to identify what you want to achieve with social media and how to track those results in order to better meet those goals over time

Highlight:  This chapter was one of my favorites.  It did a good job of truly explaining how to use different metrics and approaches based on what your actual goals are.  It dealt with sales, conversions, leads & loyalty, and provided a step-by-step approach for setting up good metrics practices depending on goals.

—–

Don’t feel like my highlights are representations of the book. Any one highlight is less than 1% of the content of any one chapter.  I just wanted to provide some of my favorite parts as examples of the kind of information that is contained in this book.

The Now Revolution came out today, February 8th, 2011.  It is just a walk, short drive or simple click away from being in your hands and ready to read.  If you are looking for a great social media read that can offer actionable ideas for your organization, look no further.

 

Are we finally achieving truly personalized news? Review of Paper.li

Last week I had a true “eureka” moment when I tried out Paper.li.  I am not saying this product is the end all of personalized news, but in my case, as well as possibly yours, it is as close as I have gotten.

Each day, Paper.li takes all the tweets from accounts you follow and processes them.  They focus on the tweets that have links to articles, photos and videos.  They present this content in easy-to-read web pages that have the feel of a news site. 

Paper.li uses their own internal ranking mechanism to determine what is most relevant, and based on my experience, they do a pretty good job.

Why does Paper.li work so well?

In my case I think it has to do with how I use Twitter.  My follow list is best described as sacred.  If I follow you for any length of time, you can assume I find what you post interesting or meaningful to me.

So by that very nature, I have already put my own curated stamp on whose opinion I value and the content of what they post. This is one of several reasons why Twitter is so popular.  First has to be the ability to connect, but for most people, it is also the ability to custom control what content they receive and by who.

If you do your following via looking at lists, they also offer the option to create their custom pages by list.  You get up to ten unique digests so you can experiment with what works.

Is this product just about news?

I don’t have time to see every photo that is shared during a day, but I can see them all quickly on my Paper.li page.  Toward the bottom of the main page is all the photos that were shared.  I can quickly look through them via a sliding scroll bar and further explore any that catch the eye.  In the few days I have used Paper.li, I have found a number of really cool photos I missed or didn’t take the time to explore the first time around.  They do the same thing for videos.

I am not suggesting that you even share your Paper.li list with others.

I follow a number of different topics via Twitter.  I know I am not so unique in the world that others can’t have similar interests, but I do feel it is the 1 in a 1,000 range. Readers in Lawrence might find some of the local articles interesting, but why not create their own page.  It doesn’t make sense to me to follow someone else’s page when you could get your own customized news related to your interests while including local content.

Potential Issues

If you follow a very popular Twitter account like @Mashable, you can find your main news headlines dominated by this source.  If you go to the topic specific pages on your Paper.li page, you can get more variety, but this is certainly an issue.  While I find Mashable content meaningful, I am not satisfied with them dominating my main news page.

The content itself isn’t focused on Twitter.  While they do provide hashtags that were popular in your feed, they generally only provide links to articles that were shared.  Any information that was contained entirely in a tweet, isn’t featured.  Using Twitter API, I would think that the most popular retweets should be able to be highlight, but that hasn’t been incorporated yet.

I know that people publishing their Paper.li page to Twitter can get old, and the @ mentions for stories you share can start to overwhelm people’s @ feeds.  Thankfully Paper.li makes it possible to opt out of being mentioned on these tweets.  In addition, they don’t default to publishing your digest to Twitter, which I think is the correct move.  If everyone published their daily news page it would be overwhelming, and as I said before, just get your own personalized page.

What about privacy?  If it truly is personalized news, then you might not want other people to see a certain side of you.  Most people aren’t going to dig around into what you follow, but it is a consideration.  It also is limited to what you follow.  Issues related to health conditions, job hunting while employed or even sexual discussions are unlikely to be covered unless you don’t mind following accounts that discuss those issues.

Competitors and the Future

I understand that some are saying Flipboard is doing the same thing, only better.  I don’t have an iPad so I can’t comment on it, but I am certainly interested in trying Flipboard as I get access to the technology or they expand to other platforms.  It seems there is better integration across all your feeds and it is done in close to real time.

Having a couple of companies competing means the future of consolidated, personalized news and content is looking better and better.

Example Page and Your Thoughts

If you want to see an example Paper.li page you can look at the one generated by my @lawrencekslive Twitter account: http://paper.li/lawrencekslive

I am interested in what your experiences have been.  Have you used Paper.li or Flipboard?  What do you think of them?  Do you keep going back?

Social media and customer service are ultimately linked. Three ways to succeed at both.

By Sarah Scoular

When Josh first asked me to write about Customer Service and Social Media I arrogantly thought, “sure, no problem!” As I sit down and try to shape my thoughts and experiences into a cohesive post I realize this is much more difficult than anticipated.

With 2 years experience answering customer service issues via Twitter and Facebook, 5 years experience answering via email and approximately 15 years of customer service experience total, I have plenty to talk about. But how do I make it relevant for everyone? Obviously, the solutions I give our cable and Internet customers (powercycle your router) differ from what a bar like @TheSandbar might tweet to their patrons, but customer service is customer service is customer service.

If your business offers a product or service, whether you believe it or not, you are in the customer service industry. Even if you’re a tiny business of one or a huge conglomerate, you have a customer base, both internal and external. Your job now is to support that product or service by creating relationships with your customers and gaining their trust. How will you reach that customer base? How can you build a bridge to lead them back to you?

The answers I’ve found time and again are:

  • Authenticity
  • Transparency
  • Engagement

Authenticity

Step back and ask yourself, “how do I like to be spoken to?” Is it with a canned answer or script? Probably not. We thrive on human connection. We respond to warmth, genuine caring, and humor. Isn’t it easy to recognize corporate speak? That is because real people don’t speak that way in the real world. Is that truly how you want to be perceived?

In the beginning, I had to get over the fear of answering a post online. Answers were run past $100,000’s worth of salaries before answering in 140 characters and the corporate speak was blatantly obvious to followers. Now it takes seconds in my mind to answer. Don’t over think it, inject your own personality.

Take advantage of real-time opportunities; some of the most positive interactions I’ve had were from replying to a random comment in our Twitter stream or responding to a foursquare check-in. This proves you aren’t a bot and you’re actively engaged with your followers.

When making decisions about products, customers turn to the social web because they trust their friends. CEOs, traditional advertising and marketing executives are not credible sources amongst consumers. Think about it. The last time you purchased a high dollar item did you do your research? Did you read the reviews, not only on the product’s website but also on CNET or Consumer Reports? Did you tweet, asking for feedback about the product?

As a business you have to gain your customers trust. You do this by building a relationship. You can’t buy your way in; you can only break through with genuine connections. It doesn’t matter how good you say you are, your success depends on how people feel you are. Invest in customer service; your agents are the ones that can positively market your brand. If your customer service is actively engaged, truly believe in your product or service and are experts in your brand, you’ve struck gold. You can only succeed by having an advocate of your company at the helm of all interactions.

Be sure to take the conversation offline as well. Trust in a brand is created when you can put a face to the name; I know firsthand most people find it difficult to be negative to once they’ve made a personal connection. It’s important to be a face in the community, attend local tweetups, Social Media Club events and Social Media conferences.

Transparency

I understand, most companies are hesitant to air their dirty laundry. Certainly you wouldn’t want to proactively tweet about every hiccup, as your service could be perceived as unreliable. However, if there is a major issue or problem acknowledge it, ahead of time if possible. People like to feel as though they have the inside scoop and be treated like VIP; we tend to be less critical when we are “in the know.”  If you make a mistake, fess up. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. NEVER delete a tweet, only apologize if necessary. Once you hit enter the world can see and will think you’re hiding something if you delete. Like Grandma always said, no one likes a liar.

Conversely, it’s ok to use facts to expose the other side of the story. For instance, I’ve helped customers who repeatedly complained about service issues yet refused to schedule service calls and fielded billing complaints from customers who hadn’t paid in several months.  In these instances, gently pointing out the facts to show they are not allowing us to help them (without publicly revealing proprietary information) tends to quiet their complaints.

Engagement

So how and to whom do you respond?

It should go without saying but you’d be surprised; proper grammar, punctualization and spelling are an absolute must. You are a professional, speak as though you are a professional and not a 14 year old girl texting her friends. There is nothing that can’t be shortened into 140 characters, if it doesn’t fit it’s ok to break it up into multiple tweets.

Use keyword searches to find the conversation, moderate and respond accordingly. Reach out to every mention or response found; for negative tweets, reach out by asking if there is anything you can do to help. Not only should you be looking for keywords, but look for the context in those searches. Find the conversations around your key search terms. This will help you find the bigger picture and identify other influencers to reach out to.

What to respond to:

  • Direct mentions, whether positive or negative
  • Compliments of your product, service or people
  • Recommendations or referrals to your products and services
  • Customer Service issues and inquiries
  • Retweets of posts

What not to respond to:

  • Generic mentions without positive or negative commentary
  • Posts/forum threads that require membership to respond to, unless it is a customer service issue or misinformation that needs correction
  • Blatant vulgarity or inflammatory comments

Ask followers for feedback and always strive to be better. What do you think we could do better? What more do you want from us?

Promotional posts should look to engage whenever possible. Don’t broadcast without asking questions or directing the post to a certain demographic. Broadcasting without engagement is like screaming with your eyes closed and fingers in your ears. Not very effective.

—————-

These are the practices I follow daily and plan to take with me wherever opportunities to engage with customers exist. I have to give an enormous amount of credit to Ben Smith who has lead me down this path and opened doors for me to connect with Chris Brogan, Jeremiah Owyang, Sarah Evans, Brian Solis and Jason Falls, without which I wouldn’t have the knowledge I’m sharing with you today.

I’m curious what you think. If a company is actively engaged in customer service via social media, does that positively or negatively affect your view of that brand? Would you choose a product or service over another because of their presence in social media? Does it add value to their product?
 

You can find more information about Sarah at her blog and Twitter account.