xanpearson

Posts Tagged ‘facebook’

Developing and Defining Your Social Media Strategy

In Facebook, Marketing, Social Media, Twitter on August 25, 2010 at 9:00 am

This article is cross-posted at TheeMailGuide.com

You’ve heard it before, “Conversations about your brand are happening…with or without you.”  Whether or not you have integrated social media into your company’s marketing platform, your organization is already “in” social media.  So what is holding you back from actively participating in this medium?

I was recently approached by a company discouraged with its lack of success in social media.  I asked the marketing staff to describe their strategy.  Their response was, “We set up a Facebook page, Twitter account, and blog.  We post daily and have 1,200 fans on Facebook, but discovered many are hiding our posts.”  Unfortunately, this is a common mistake made by businesses exploring social media.  While those are some of the tools needed to implement a strategy, it’s not a strategy.  Jumping into social media without having a clearly defined plan is an exercise in frustration.  Developing a comprehensive strategy is the first key to success and is composed of defining several elements:

Define Your Goals. Your strategy is the path to achieve your goals; so set your objectives first.  Do you want to expand your customer base, drive sales, build brand awareness, educate consumers, increase brand loyalty, gain insight into your customer, gather product development input or feedback, etc.?  Don’t try to do all of these things at once.  Choose a few viable and sustainable goals for your first year.

Define Your Brand. The social platform offers you an in-depth opportunity to tell your story.  Who are you?  What is your mission?  What do you care about?  Most importantly, what do you want to resonate with your audience?

Define Your Audience. Before you can engage your audience, you need to understand who it is.  Gather the demographics: age, gender, ethnicity, and income.  Where are your current and potential customers geographically?  How are they using social media?  What are they currently talking about and to whom are they listening?

Define Your Community. Your audience is part of a larger community.  This is not just which social networks they are using, but with whom they are interacting within those networks.  Who are the influential players within the community?  Who are the authorities relevant to your industry and which blogs are the most read?   How are your competitors involved in the community?  What is important to the community?  How will you reach out to other experts within the community?

Define Your Commitment. Interactive marketing is a long-term commitment which involves virtually every department within an organization.  From marketing, public relations, and corporate social responsibility to IT, product development and customer service, internal collaboration will be essential to a successful social media campaign.  Do you have the full support of upper management?  Have you discussed the initiative internally with all departments?  What is your time and financial allocation to this platform?

Define Your Voice. If you were selling children’s products, you wouldn’t hire the Marlboro Man to be the face of your company in a television commercial.  The same consideration needs to be given to who will be executing your social media strategy.  Your “voice” will be representing your brand, amplified across the web, in a medium which requires both professionalism and personal engagement.  Will you outsource or execute internally?  What qualifications will you require?  There are a lot of self-proclaimed social media gurus out there and having a Facebook page with thousands of “friends” doesn’t make someone an expert.

Define Your Success. Establishing business performance metrics is essential.  What metrics and benchmarks will you use to qualify and quantify success?  There are many ways to evaluate social media performance:  customer impressions, ROI, increased sales, influence, and engagement.

Whether you are new to social media or have ventured in with little success, proper planning is as critical as execution.  Employing social media marketing is a long-term commitment.  Developing a strategy by defining these elements prior to participation will save you a lot of time, frustration and financial resources.

In future posts I will delve into each of these fundamentals, as well as how to implement a social media strategy.  I welcome your feedback.  Have I missed anything?  What are some of the elements you include in your social media strategy?

Dear Brand…It’s Over.

In Business, Marketing, Social Media on August 23, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Dear Brand,

I’m sorry to have to write this in a letter.  I’ve tried to talk to you, but my pleas have gone unanswered.

There is no easy way to say this.

It’s over.

Please understand, it’s not you… it’s me.

Okay, maybe it is you.

I just don’t feel appreciated.  It seems our relationship is just all about YOU.  There was a time when I was fine with that, even embraced it.  We had some great times talking about you – like when we would laugh at that funny commercial you were in, or the time we were driving down the highway and saw your billboard.  That was hot!  My friends and I used to talk about that one a lot!

But I’ve changed.

I need more.

And, well, you are stuck in the past.  We never really “talk”, you know?  My schedule is crazy and I just don’t have as much time as I once did to do the things you enjoy – like watching TV and reading newspapers.  That’s okay once in a while, but I have new interests, too.  I know you don’t like how much time I spend on the web and in social networks, but it’s not just about you anymore.

I hate to hurt you, but I’ve met someone else…your archrival.

I didn’t plan for it to happen.  We met online in a social network and, at first, just chatted occasionally.  But then something happened…

We connected!  He told me about himself and shared interesting information.  And he wanted to get to know ME!  It wasn’t all about him.  He listened; he cared; and he made me feel valued.  I’d be lying if I said it meant nothing.  He had me at “Hello. How can I help?”

With you I feel our relationship has always been one-sided and you only care about one thing…

What I can do for you.

What about me?  What about what I want?  What about being involved in the things I enjoy?

I defended you to all of my friends.  When they were talking trash about you, I tried to be loyal.  You weren’t even there to defend yourself, and I just felt used.

So this is goodbye.  I hope you understand.  I needed more from you than you were willing to give.

I hope we can still be friends.

Well, maybe not.

Xoxo,

Your former customer

P.S.  This has nothing to do with your silence when I asked you if I looked fat.

Navigating Children through Social Networking

In Facebook, Parenting, Social Media, Twitter on June 15, 2010 at 10:46 pm

I get a lot of questions from parents about whether it’s wise to allow children to have a social networking account.  I completely understand their concern.  We constantly see stories in the news about bullying, privacy flaws, pedophiles, and stalkers associated with social media.  However, social networking is here to stay. It’s an inherent part of the millennial generation’s culture and communication. According to Pew Research, 73% of American teens now use social networking sites (up from 55% in 2006).

We teach children from a very young age social etiquette: say “please”, “thank you”; as well as societal safety: “don’t talk to strangers”, “look both ways before crossing the street.”  For the same reason, we also need to teach children how to use social media responsibly and safely.  However, parents shouldn’t just have a brief discussion with children about the dangers in social networking, let them set up an account, and walk away.  I liken it to teaching a child how to drive a car.  You wouldn’t let your child drive your car on the highway without supervision after a short talk about driving.   There’s a reason young drivers need permits and a probationary period of supervision behind the wheel before they get the freedom of a driver’s license.  There are many times while driving that the student needs to use judgment to figure out how to avoid danger, and it isn’t always black and white.

The same can be said of social networking. Many parents believe viewing a child’s social media account as a violation of privacy.  In a previous post, Social Media Privacy is an Oxymoron, I discussed the fact that any information posted online has the potential to become public.   The “information superhighway” is fast, filled with potholes, and can be dangerous if used negligently.   We need to teach children how to use social networking responsibly.  Consider it Driver’s Ed for Social Media.  Here are three steps to teaching your child how to navigate social networking.

Instruction. The first thing to teach a child about social media is that anything posted online may become public. Talk to your children about the dangers of sharing too much information and to use discretion when posting pictures or writing anything.  Discuss “Personal Brand” (an often used term in social media referring to how someone is perceived by others).  Parents, college admissions directors, human resource managers, school administrators, and police all monitor social networking accounts.  Let children know that anything they write, whether a “private message”, inbox, chat or direct message, can be printed or copied, pasted and shared with others. If they wouldn’t say it in front of an auditorium full of their classmates, teachers or parents, they shouldn’t write it.  Decide which type of social network would be best for your child.  This largely depends upon what is popular among their personal social circle and the child’s age.

The Learner’s Permit: Create your child’s account with him.  Together, walk through the privacy policy and settings.  The best way to supervise and teach your child how to appropriately use social networking will largely depend upon the child’s age and maturity.  Obviously, younger users will need more guidance and supervision.  Depending on you and your child’s comfort level, there are two effective ways to monitor social networking use during this period.  The first is to explain to him that for a while, you need to always have the password, and may log on at any time to check his page.  The second is to agree to let the child set his own password, but he will need to open  and show it to you at any time.  Most children will be so happy to have an account, they will readily agree to your terms.  If they balk at this, explain that if they are posting anything you shouldn’t see, then it shouldn’t be shared on an online social networking site.  (A third alternative many parents use is to connect with or “friend” the child’s account through their own social account.  In my opinion, this is the least effective for new users as privacy settings can allow information to be filtered, which defeats the purpose as a learning tool).

Children and teens will make mistakes. They will post something you would consider inappropriate.  They will “friend” someone they don’t know.  They will share “TMI” (“too much information” for you SMS acronym-challenged folks).  This is all part of the learning process and has less potential to escalate into something embarrassing or dangerous if first experienced under a parent’s guidance.  Over time, you will notice your child using more discretion and will feel comfortable with less monitoring.  At that point, let your child change the password and/or lessen the frequency of periodic checks.

One warning:  As parents, it is often easy to get too involved out of concern.  Parents need to respect a child’s relationships. We have all seen “helicopter parents”: the parents who hover and direct their child’s social circle, interfere with athletics, academics, etc.  Don’t abuse this opportunity. Never post on your child’s site and, unless a dangerous situation arises, don’t get involved with your child’s friends’ accounts.  Use information you may see about friends as learning tools for discussion with your child.    This shouldn’t be used as a way to “spy” on your child and his/her friends, but to teach your child how to make good choices and use social media responsibly. If you see something inappropriate, use it as an opportunity to discuss it with your child.  Very often children will take it upon themselves to talk to a friend about private issues of concern.

Getting A License: You can’t and shouldn’t monitor a child’s social networking site forever.  When this freedom should come is different for everyone.  At some point you will feel comfortable that your child understands and is using social networking safely and responsibly.  I have seen many instances when the child voluntarily starts connecting with parents and other relatives within the social network. Many young adults have said that they use social networks to stay in touch with family while at college.  And many teens find it a great way to “self-monitor” (no one wants Grandma to read something embarrassing!).

This is a technology-driven generation and social media is a critical part of our personal and business culture.  Eventually, your child will engage in it with or without your guidance and/or permission.   Teaching children how to use it effectively and responsibly early on is essential.

Facebook’s Privacy Labyrinth

In Facebook, Social Media on May 13, 2010 at 10:41 pm

This article is cross-posted at TheeMailGuide.com

Under intense scrutiny from media and blogs regarding its privacy policy, Facebook has faced a maelstrom of bad public relations in the last few weeks. In my previous post, Social Media Privacy is an Oxymoron, I briefly discussed the concern with Facebook’s convoluted privacy policy and the need for increased regulatory guidelines. While users of social networks need to use discretion when sharing any information, it doesn’t absolve social networking sites from an obligation to properly notify and explain policy changes in a language easily understood by all users.  When a user signs a terms of service agreement, there is a responsibility on the part of both parties.  Facebook, at the very least, should allow users the choice to “opt-in” to an application that will automatically change their personal default privacy settings, rather than put the onus on the user to decipher confusing language and an intricate series of clicks to get back to where they were in the first place.

There were two great articles in the New York Times regarding Facebook’s complicated maze to opting-out of “instant personalization”. This stunning infographic shows the complexity of steps a user must go through to retain original privacy settings and bar 3rd party websites access to information.  Another articlegoes further to explain that after completing the process, a user’s private information may still be revealed. Summary:

  1. A privacy policy longer than the U.S. Constitution.
  2. Users are forced to click over 50 buttons, with 170 additional setting options, to protect information previously set as “private”.
  3. Despite mastering the maze to opt-out, some information is still accessible to outside websites.

Of the 400 million users on Facebook, approximately 52 million are minors. “Instant Personalization” is difficult for any user to decipher, let alone a juvenile. How many of these users will actually take the time to navigate the Facebook privacy labyrinth? What percentage of parents is aware of the new policy and that their children’s personal information will be shared with 3rd party websites?  Just as the user must adhere to a service agreement, social networking sites have a responsibility to explain policies in a manner users, particularly those under the age of 18, can understand and protect established privacy settings.

Social Media Privacy is an Oxymoron

In Facebook, Twitter on May 12, 2010 at 10:08 pm

This article is cross-posted at TheeMailGuide.com.

In the last few weeks there has been intense scrutiny and backlash in the media and blogs regarding Facebook’s new Open Graph and privacy.  I’ve read hundreds of articles about Facebook’s API, the inadvertent exposing of private chats, and the increasing lack of privacy in social media.

While Facebook’s Open Graph may provide tremendous opportunities within e-commerce, a primary concern with Facebook has been its consistent lack of proper notification and explanation of privacy policy changes in a language easily understood by all of its users.  This new policy allows previously private information to be shared publicly with certain websites.  The onus is on the user to decipher Facebook’s complicated policy and opt out, regardless of previous privacy settings.  For the 400 million global Facebook users, of which approximately 13% are under the age of 18, this is a very valid concern.

There are many issues to be addressed with social network privacy policies; however, those engaged in social media need to understand, that by its very nature, social media and privacy are inherently incongruous.  Social media is a new medium.  New social networks will continue to form and established ones will continue to evolve.  Policies will change.  Social networks will come under increased regulatory scrutiny and guidelines will develop.  However, this is the world-wide-web, accessible to anyone with a computer at his fingertips.  Glitches, hacks and viruses will always pose a risk to those wishing to keep information private, despite declared network policies.  Lesson #1 in using social media: Social media privacy is an oxymoron.  For anyone, business or individual, remembering that fundamental principle is crucial to protecting your brand.  With that in mind, here are some ways to mitigate potential damage:

1.   Don’t say or write anything you wouldn’t want the world to see. Seems simple enough, but I’m constantly surprised by the number of people who consider a direct message on Twitter or inbox message on Facebook “private”.   I recently saw a heated DM exchange between two companies on Twitter.  One company posted screenshots of the DMs in its public stream, creating an awkward situation for both businesses.  So-called “private” messages can be printed and circulated as well.  If you wouldn’t say it publicly, skip the “private” message.

2.   Stay aware of privacy policy changes within your social networks. As we have seen with Facebook, most users simply ignore the notice, without understanding the true implications of the changes.  Do your research. Fully comprehend policy changes and how they will affect your company’s brand, your personal accounts, and the accounts of your employees.

3.   Establish a company policy and personal social media strategy. A company policy not only protects your business, but your employees as well.  Teach your employees about the potential ramifications of social networking.  Personal accounts can have major implications for your company’s brand.  What if your biggest client is XYZ and your CEO just “liked” a competitor’s Facebook fanpage on his personal account?  Unless your CEO opted out of Open Graph personalization, this may become embarrassingly public information.  Advise employees to develop their own private “personal social media strategy/policy”.  Get them to start thinking about their “personal brand” and how they use social media.  College admissions, hiring managers and recruiters are increasingly using social media to get a better picture of applicants.  While you can’t control everything, educate and encourage employees to personally define how they want to be perceived and act accordingly.

4.   Place great consideration into who is representing your brand. There are a lot of self-proclaimed social media gurus; some with impressive credentials, others with limited experience.   When hiring a community manager or social media director, evaluate not only the candidates’ knowledge of social media and experience, but personal maturity, insight, and professionalism.  Will they consistently employ good judgment and discretion in a medium which requires both professionalism and some personal engagement?  Will they take the time to read every link they retweet?  One line or one word in an article can damage your brand and create negative public relations consequences.  Assessing these qualitative credentials may require more reference checks than you would normally conduct, but you are ultimately responsible for what is tweeted and retweeted on your account.  It takes four minutes for a tweet to become permanently searchable on Google, even if deleted later.  Make sure the person behind your brand is representing you with integrity and in line with your company’s objectives.

5.  Never provide personal information that can compromise safety. According to a recent article on Media Post, Consumer Reports states that 56% of Facebook users post what would be considered “risky” information.  Never include your full birthdate with year in profile information (Currently 42% of Facebook users post this full information).  Be cautious when posting your home address or using Geo-location features.   Identity theft, stalkers, and burglaries are each very real and dangerous consequences of lax sharing of information.

6.  Post photos at your own risk. There are many wonderful social sites available to share photos.  However, always be aware that any photo uploaded to a website has the potential to show up on someone’s blog or website.  Pictures can be photoshopped.  If you share photos, be prepared there is always a risk involved and photos may not remain private.

While privacy policies are a vital component of social networks, and users should always evaluate how changes impact their personal information, no one should take for granted that this is an evolving medium on the information super highway.  Whether it’s a business or personal account, what is shared is ultimately controlled by you.  In the words of my editor, Jim Ducharme, “I alone am responsible for my online privacy.”

Are You A Social Media Snake Oil Salesman?

In Facebook, Marketing, Social Media, Twitter on May 3, 2010 at 3:44 am

As a child I used to watch old Western movies on TV with my dad.  I didn’t particularly like movies about cowboys and gunfights, but I enjoyed spending time with my dad, so I watched a lot of them.  In many of the Westerns, there would be a slick traveling salesman, peddling a fake elixir (snake oil) purported to cure all ailments.  The exaggerated character of the “snake oil salesman” was marked by boisterous, obnoxious marketing hype, typically bogus.

Now, as an adult, whenever I see a smooth-talking, insincere person trying to sell something, the image of a snake oil salesman pops into my head.  I see it every day: on infomercials, in business, at the mall, and in social media.  Sometimes the product is great, but the salesperson is too pushy or just comes across as disingenuous.  And therein lies the pitfall for many people and businesses using social media.   Whether you’re a large corporation, small business, or individual trying to drive traffic to a blog, how others perceive you can make or break your brand’s success.  Are you coming across as a social media “snake oil salesman”?  Here are 5 warning signs you may be harming your brand:

1.   You send out a DM to every new follower with a link to your site. Chances are most people will ignore your DM, and you run the risk of being blocked and reported as spam. Would you ask someone you just met face-to-face to do you a favor?  The approach appears pushy and your motives seem insincere.  Instead, start communicating with your followers and build a relationship of mutual respect and trust.  I have many friends in social media who know that I will always RT a new blog post or support them in any way I can.  I welcome their requests, but this came over time, after we had connected and gotten to know each other.

2.   All of your posts are links to your site. This comes across as desperate and, again, spammy.  Social media is not traditional advertising.  If you only want to talk about yourself, buy an ad.  The “social” in social media implies engagement.  Share insightful content with your followers, comment on or retweet their posts, and ask questions.  As people get to know you, they will be more apt to go to your blog or website.

3.  You post random shout outs in stream asking people to follow you, check out a site or RT a post. I see this a lot with newbies on Twitter who think it’s a fast way to drive traffic to a website or accumulate followers.  It’s highly ineffective and most people will ignore you.  It’s the equivalent of the peddler on the street corner shouting at passerbys.  Social media marketing takes time, and you need to put in the effort to establish a social network and loyal following.  If you aren’t willing to do that or don’t have the time, maybe you should reconsider whether social media is the best marketing medium for you.

4.   You use exaggerated claims. These are all over social media and they give the appearance of lack of confidence in the true merits of the products.  “Become the next Donald Trump”; “Earn $3,000 in one week”; “Get 1,000 followers a day”.  This is one of the quickest ways to destroy your reputation/ brand and become labeled a “snake-oil salesman”.   If you want to build trust, be honest.  Tip: If you only have 500 followers on Twitter, don’t post  “I got 2,000 followers in one week using *XYZ* site.”  Just sayin’.

5.   You ignore complaints. By ignoring negative comments on your blog or about your product, you fuel negativity rather than mitigate it.  In the Westerns, whenever someone shouted out “Charlatan!”, the snake oil salesman’s accomplice would come along and knock them out with the butt of his gun (all in front of a miraculously oblivious crowd), while the salesman continued to shout the merits of his product as though nothing happened.  In social media, no one is there to stifle your critics (and your audience will not be as oblivious to your lack of response).  Only you can quell negativity, by addressing complaints and detractors with professionalism and sincerity.  This exhibits confidence in your product and respect for your customers/followers.

Whether you are new to social media or wondering why you haven’t been able to drive traffic to your site, take a moment to reflect on your approach and how you may be perceived.  You can have the best product or the most insightful blog, but if you appear too slick or insincere, you will alienate followers.

Picture courtesy of www.flickr.com/photos/ccohen/4064733771

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29 other followers