Monday, 13 December 2010

The secret ingredient to social media success.

Are you on Twitter because you feel you ought to be because you're in business?
Do you have a Facebook page for your business because "everyone else does"?

If you're a business, what do you 'do' social media for?

I expect you're thinking of things like:
Search engine optimisation
Generating leads
Greater visibility
Customer service
Customer retention
'Click funnel' to your website
Old fashioned not to do it
It's cheaper than other forms of marketing & PR

Do you endlessly chase metrics for success and attempt to nail down RoI? (Good for you if you do!)

Does all this hard nosed business stuff ensure that you'll succeed in your social media ventures? Well, actually - no!

So what's my secret ingredient for social media success? Enjoy it!

Social media is exactly that, social. Get out there and mingle. If you're enjoying talking to people and interacting with them the rest of the business stuff (which is still important) flows much more smoothly.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Too much of a good thing?

Is there such a thing as too much social media?

I'm not talking about the incessant spamming of some Twitter feeds nor the relentless updates from some people on LinkedIn. Nor am I talking about the automated updated variety where the same thing is splattered across hundreds of sites. I'm talking about how many types of social media people can use properly (in my opinion) at any one time.

If you're a techie/geeky/nerdy type like me, then juggling 6 or more points of presence online is relatively easy and fun.

However, many people are aware that their business needs social media but have been led to believe that they need to do everything - all at once - to "get RoI on their SEO". Excuse me while I go and hit my head on a brick wall for a while...

... that's better!

Social media is not solely about trying to trick Google into thinking that you're interesting!

Every person will have a skillset that can be best used in a specific area of social media. Chatty types will love Twitter and some people are natural bloggers, go with what you enjoy to get you started.

One thing, done well, will produce far better results than 6 things that are started and then abandoned. Dip your toe in the pool and then dive in - the water's lovely!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Is your business ready for Generation Y?

There's some debate as to when "Generation Y" came into being. My personal preference is to cite the start of the 1990s. Whatever the academic niceties of the exact timing, the characteristics of this generation cannot be ignored by business.

Imagine a world where the Internet has always existed. Phones have always been mobile. CDs are cumbersome. You have always been able to shop online. Your first port of call for information is always a search engine, not a book. You don't buy a newspaper, you read your news online. If you don't like what's on TV, you find something you do want to watch on the Internet. If you want a takeaway, you order it online and someone delivers it to your door.

On demand, online, 24/7... Welcome the world of Generation Y.

These young people are now in the workplace and at University. They're an influential lot too. How many parents/grandparents have joined Facebook so they can keep in touch with Generation Y? How many employers are facing a rising pressure to accept social media to be as much a part of work life as the ubiquitous watercooler?

Now, consider your business from their viewpoint:

Can you be found - easily - online?
If the answer is "no" then Generation Y won't come looking for you. There will somebody else there to pick up the business.

Is your virtual presence polished?
Does your shop/website work flawlessly?
Do you make it easy for people to conduct business online with you?
Do you engage with your customers in several ways online?

"No" to any of these will mean that Generation Y will scroll passed you to someone that does business the way that they want. You'll also have to keep an eye out for the online fallout - Generation Y share their opinions freely!

A step change in consumer behaviour is a rare occurrence. Make sure you don't get left behind.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Manners matter

I'm increasingly puzzled by the behaviour of some businesses that use social media. Why is it that when they enter the online world they leave their manners and customer care on the virtual doorstep?

To get the most out of any form of social media you need to interact. A string of announcements on a Twitter feed may tick a box that says "we do social media" but it's a missed opportunity of gigantic proportions.

I've had a number of businesses come to me lately because they want a Facebook page. When I start to ask questions about how often they want to update it, what their brand guidelines are, what level of access they want to give their "likers", and so on, they are horrified.

"We just want a Facebook page" they say "we don't want to have to do anything to it!"

That's like having a dedicated customer care telephone number and then not bothering to answer it. (Well, ok, some companies seem to do that too!)

Most businesses will plough resources into answering the telephone, emails, letters and web site requests. Why then are they so averse to talking to their customers using social media?

It's all fine and dandy to have customer care slogans slapped all over your marketing literature and on your website, but if you don't have the good manners to take that ethos seriously and carry it across into the virtual world then you'll lose customers.

The clue is in the title - Social Media

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

GIGO is back in town (not that it ever left)

Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Did anyone else have that hammered into their heads while learning to program?

If you mess up what you put in to a system, it doesn't matter how good that system is, the output is simply not as good as it could be.

I've come to believe that social media works on a similar principle. The quality of the content that you become associated with reflects on you and, if you are a business, on your company too.

Plugging a generic business feed into your Twitter account and leaving it to autotweet gives an impression to others of how you interact and work as an individual - or as a company. If that's the impression you wish to give, then there isn't a problem. However, most businesses cite the desire for interactivity and feedback to raise brand awareness when talking about their social media strategy.

Are you just filling your social media presence with "stuff" for the sake of being able to say that your company is "on Twitter" or "using Facebook"? If so, then you're missing a huge business opportunity.

If you use automated feeds to fill up your social media presence, take a long hard look at the content. If you're unsure about it, then imagine it as a series of adverts or leaflets going out to customers. Do you really want this stuff representing you to your contacts and clients? If the answer is no, start being more selective in what you choose to use.

Good quality content for your social media presence is vital.

Does it take more time? Probably. Is it worth it? Definitely!

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that social media works on GOGI: Garbage Out, Garbage In.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Who does your social media content belong to?

A while ago I wrote a post about Fweeting. It generated a lot of interest and some constructive comments. As a social media consultant, part of my business is running the social media presence for companies that choose to outsource the function.

As always, different consultants have different ways of operating. Healthy competition is not a bad thing, in my opinion. It keeps us consultants on our toes and means that clients have a good range of people to select from when they're looking for a service provider.

Having said all that, I was actually quite shocked to find that some social media companies ask clients to pay a lump sum at the end of a contract to "buy out" their feeds (such as Twitter and Facebook). The alternatives to not buying out a feed is to renew the contract with the original social media company - or have it deleted. If I'm honest, it hadn't occured to me that the feeds could do anything else except belong to the client.

My business model is structured such that the social media feeds belong to the client and that I keep the content fresh, interesting and up to date. At the end of a contract, the client decides what happens to their social media presence. They are free to re-engage me, run it themselves, get someone else to run it or delete it if they so wish.

If you're looking to outsource your social media, I'd advise you to ask your consultant to clarify this issue for you.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Restricted vocabulary

There are certain words I try not to use on Twitter.

You might expect that this is down to a self imposed code of standards - like not swearing, or not discussing politics - but that's not the case.

I avoid certain words/phrases to save myself the time & effort of blocking the spam sales followers and tweets that they attract.

Here's my top 5 to avoid:
Digital marketing

I suppose a tweet like this:

"Digital marketing for apple iphone at golf clubs improves SEO"

May become popular for follower collectors!

Which words do you avoid?

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Twitter 101

I make no apologies for this post.

Has it been said elsewhere, by other people? Frequently!

Are people that are new to Twitter the only ones that need to take notice? Sadly not!

6 golden rules to tweet by:

1. If you want to be retweeted verbatim, don't use up all 140 characters in your original tweet. Up to 100 is great, 120 is ok.

2. Shorten your web links. Filling a tweet full of web address means you have less room to talk.

3. Asking for people to "DM me for details" limits who can respond to you to just the people you follow. Or, you have to open your DMs to anyone and that can lead to LOTS of spam.

4. People really, really, really dislike automatically generated DMs appearing in their inbox when they follow you. Just because you "can" do it doesn't mean you "should" do it!

5. Interact, don't just broadcast. Social media is exactly what is says on the tin - social! Like any form of networking, you get more out of it the more you put in.

6. Don't be an egg. Take half a minute to upload a picture or logo

Sunday, 2 May 2010

5 excuses not to use social media

1. I don't have time.

Do you make time to go to network meetings? Or to design a leaflet? Then you can make time to "do" social media. Take a long thin slice through your week. Now you have time.

2. I don't know what to say.

Remember those network meetings & marketing leaflets you make time for? Use those as a basis for your initial few weeks. You know your business and the questions people want answers to. You have a lot to say. Your problem could, in fact, be selecting what to use!

3. My customers don't use Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn etc

Perhaps it's true that your current customers don't use social media. How many more do use it? More to the point, how many people that can refer you to new customers use it? Do you know, or are you guessing? How many of your competitors are ahead of you?

4. It's too risky & uncontrolled

So is all networking, you're just used to the ways of managing the risk in the more traditional formats. Transfer what you already know into the new arena.

5. There's no evidence social media works

Yes - there is. Quite a lot of it in fact! There are whole blog sites literally groaning under the weight of evidence. Good places to start are sites like Unmarketing and Social Media Today.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Save the clicks!

I used to advocate the "3 click rule"

Well, it's not really a "rule" - but it was the guidance that I used to give my Internet and HTML students back when I used to be a University Lecturer.

In those days of antiquity (Way back in 1997!) there was this emerging beast of opportunity called "The Internet". I used to teach the technical aspects of incorporating sound and video into this stunning new pool of information. In order to do that I had to touch on web site design. I'm not a graphic designer. I can't draw and my colour co-ordination is dreadful! By "design" I mean navigation etiquette and functionality.

Before the advent of reliable drop down menus and style sheets, we relied on frames (shudder) and other such delights. Everything was designed with dial-up access in mind. Streaming was still in it's infancy. Getting your customer from your front page to the place they needed to be required intense research and more knowledge of how people think and interact than perhaps some designers were used to.

In order to focus the minds of my students on this aspect I introduced the concept of "3 clicks to anywhere". So - how is this relevant in today's highly functional and automated information "cloud"?

Let's take Twitter as an example.

I love seeing what people are linking to and reading the fascinating information that is all around us. That's what makes Twitter great. The interaction of people and the sharing of knowledge, information and opinions. However, like a lot of internet users I'm a little impatient and want this treasure trove to be easily accessible.

Consider this chain of "clicks" that was required to get to a destination full of lovely information:
Original tweet >> Twitlonger >> Facebook >> Facebook "warning page" >> Information (5 clicks)

This is particularly frustrating on a mobile phone as the response time can be a lot slower on GPRS if no WiFi is available. My "3 click rule" is 2 clicks too long nowadays!

Let's start thinking about our readers again. Make life interesting and easy for them and they'll keep coming back. You've gone to all the time and effort of gathering your "twibe" around you. now it's time to look after them properly!

Monday, 12 April 2010

Is it wrong to Fweet?

Fweet being the new mashup for Fake Tweet apparently.

There has been a spirited debate in my Twitter stream lately about whether it is "ethical" to have someone tweet for you rather than run your own feed. Some people are vehemently against it, likening it to have someone else attend a network meeting in your stead. Others are more relaxed. It's certainly made me think about it.

I run Twitter feeds for clients. The look, tone and content is guided by the client, but I have leeway to build relationships with other companies within the feed. I won't offer opinions on behalf of the company unless I have checked with the client first. I don't feel that this specific sort of feed is ethically wrong. Many companies are represented by an employee rather than "the boss" on Twitter and I'm just outsourcing that service.

Then there is the other side of the issue. Tweeting for another individual.

Is it "OK" for a Celebrity or a Captain of Industry to hire someone to pretend to their fans to be them? I don't think it is. That's misrepresentation isn't it? Also against the T&C of Twitter?

I've concluded that if you outsource your tweets as a company that's OK. Anyone within that company could potentially be the nominated tweeter and the feed is not purporting to authored by an individual.

Pretending to be a Celeb... Not my scene!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Hyper marketing

One of the reasons I wanted to start my own business was so I could steer by my own moral compass.

I believe in offering what's required to a customer in preference to selling them a service they don't need, but would make me more money. Lately my belief in that position has been sorely tested.

I've seen companies charging huge fees for hours and hours of training on sites such as Twitter. It seems popular, assuming that the courses are full and run every time they are advertised to do so!

Having spent many years in education, I know that the end benefits for the customers are less than if they had attended a series of shorter, less expensive 1-2-1 tutorials.

Don't get me wrong. Many group training sessions are very well run and provide an excellent introduction to Social Media. It's the ones that test the boundaries of credibility as well as the customers' finances that I'm talking about here. (think 4 figure fees!)

So - why are the overly expensive, extremely extended, group training courses preferable to a lot of customers over bespoke 1-2-1 sessions? Here lies my dilemma. I perceive the difference to be hyped up marketing.

Is this something I really want to try?

I'd love more business so let's see what it might sound like:
"Maximise your client engagement using Ariadne's proven 6 steps to credible interaction and improved product uptake. The three days that will change how you do business forever! Now only £1500!"

Would you buy that? Because I'm not at all sure that I want to sell it!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Hacked and Phished are different!

Short post about a pet peeve of mine.

Many folks on Twitter have recently posted "Sorry - was hacked - all ok now" or similar.

Truth is this - they were NOT hacked.

They gave their details away, voluntarily, to a phishing scam. This is quite different to having someone hack your ID and password unaided - or indeed deliberately breach the security of the hosting service.

When you give your details away, however inadvertantly, you have been phished.

If you click on a link within Twitter that then requires your ID and password to "log in" again the chances are high that it's a dodgy link. Think before you type.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Spontaneous reputation combustion

It's been said in many Social Media blogs - including this one - that even the most solidly built and carefully crafted virtual presence can be demolished by an ill advised blog or tweet.

I witnessed one such spontaneous combustion a few days ago. One of my followers (don't bother looking they're not there now!) uses Twitter, predominantly, for social interaction. Like a lot of people they have links to their business on their profile and mention it occasionally in their feed.

On the day in question this person engaged in a rather contentious, but short, exchange with another Twitter user. This is not, in itself, likely to cause mass umbrage. Twitter is a great place to engage in constructive debate - if you remember two things:

1. Your tweets are not exclusive to the person you are in debate with (unless you use the Direct Message function)

2. Other people can - and will - join in

By the time the individual had been retweeted, and had topical hashtags added to their comments, they were in way over their heads. They had been caught up in a Twitter tidal wave.

Their followers started to drop away. People they had been talking to for months blocked them. There was talk of not using their business as a supplier from local tweeps. Days later, they are still getting tweets from disgruntled people.

So, how many tweets does it take to damage your business? In this case 6.

Be careful out there...

Friday, 26 February 2010


Occasionally things happen when you're running your own business that, initially, can be upsetting. They can even progress to being vexing, but eventually mellow to a humorous anecdote with a side order of food for thought.

Ezinegate started when someone that I've worked with sent around their monthly E-Newsletter. (No names, no pack drill!) They made some comments about a number of businesses - other than their own - which were less than flattering.

My company specialises in Social Media. This was one area that was targeted thus:
"Then we have the social Media experts who are usually broke, but have thousands of friends on Facebook of followers on Twitter. They are all about building relationships, but struggle to offer something and ask for the sale."

At first - I'll be honest - I couldn't help but take the comments personally. I soon got over that as I know that this person is not daft enough to make a personal attack on anybody! Whatever I may now think of them, they run their business effectively.

Then I was vexed at what the networks we had in common would think. Now, it's become a something to laugh at and the negative emotion is long since spent.

It has, however, made me think about how Social Media is perceived by businesses that have yet to take the plunge. It has also made me think of what assumptions are made about companies and people that offer Social Media services.

People who meet me (yes, I do go out of the house!) are quickly disabused of the code bashing hermit stereotype. I'm not a pale, ghostly figure chained to a keyboard - social media is as much about people as any other sort of networking. The fact that it uses technology as a way of facilitating interaction can be misconstrued.

So - what did I learn from Ezinegate?

I think that there is a need to actively challenge the negative assumptions made about social media and the people that use it. It's a mainstream business tool, not a minority curiosity. We're clawing our way out of a recession and every inch of advantage needs to be fought for and held on to. If I need to change the view of business one person at a time I'll do it!

Will you join me...?

Monday, 15 February 2010

Back to reality

I've been swamped with jargon this last week. What's worse is it's someone else's idea of snappy terminology and not a natural area for me to dabble in.

In order to get as much information as possible for myself and for my clients, I entered the twilight zone of the "deal closers".

This has nothing to do with re-imagined vampires that sparkle in the sunlight! It has even less to do with normal human interaction from what I can ascertain.

Apparently, I need to "master the art of the soft close".

Up until a few days ago my knowledge of "soft closing" was limited to kitchen drawers. I think I would have been more comfortable had things remained that way!

If - as I am led to believe - the era of the hard sell is over, why do we have people dressing it up as new wave "customer needs gratification"?

I've looked at the path that leads to masses of timed tweets, auto DMs and pseudo relationships. I turned around and resolutely walked away. I'm back on my own path.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Against the anodyne

I've been doing a lot of research this week to ensure that my new client's Twitter feed gets real results.

I did some market segmentation based on the results of this research and it has proved to be really effective in targeting tweets. Based on the initial click through data, I've also optimised the time the tweets occur to hit the correct timezones. I'll keep monitoring and adapting this.  Already I'm in contact with some great people and I'm engaging them in conversation.

Hang on a minute. Why am I bothering?

I could just set up a load of timed clone tweets, press "go" and collect the client's money couldn't I? That seems, to me, to be what some social media "specialists" do for their customers.

Apart from the fact my "moral compass" doesn't point that way, all it would serve to do is convince my client that social media doesn't work. They wouldn't recommend it - or me - to anyone else. It would be a one off contract with no hope of renewal. Even worse, there would be another social media sceptic in the world!

Social media gets its name for a reason. It's about interaction, people and engagement by them and with them.

Anodyne feeds don't fulfil people's needs. They don't work. Please don't use them!

Monday, 25 January 2010

What does your email address say about you?

Quite a lot apparently!

The feedback from the people I do business with, contacts on Twitter and from my friends was surprisingly consistent.

A "freebie" address such as Hotmail, GMail or Yahoo is considered ok for start ups and sole traders - but only as a means of contact. People are generally very reluctant to part with cash if no other dialogue occurs. Not to mention that most online payment services won't accept subscriptions from a "floating" account. The reaction is somewhat ameliorated if they know the person, but there is still the perception that they need to get a "proper" email address.

Almost equal wariness was accorded to businesses only using their ISP providers email. Again the understanding was there that this was ok within strictly defined limits. However, people were more inclined to "trust" these addresses more than the floaters.

Another consistent reaction was mild annoyance when companies have a website, but use a different domain name for their email addresses. The most common response I received when I asked for a reason was that it was "lazy".

However, the strongest negative reaction I got, across the board, was not to what appears on the right hand side of the address - it was the "name" that could really rile people!

Top 5 most despised:

You have been warned...

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Tarnishing the Twitter glitter

One of the main strengths of Twitter is the access you have to so many people.

However, the obvious counterpoint to that is that they also have access to you! (Unless you protect your tweets.) I use Twitter in a business/social hybrid model, so I prefer to have an open feed.

Good quality retweets are the gold dust that makes Twitter glitter.

I've found you need to be selective in what you retweet, but also be fair and return the retweet favour where possible. Receiving genuinely interesting information from your followers is part of the pleasure of Twitter, as is sharing your information with them.

However there is a dark and unpleasant entity lurking in the shadows - the auto retweet bots. These beasts hide in the "cloud" and pounce upon unsuspecting tweets and take them over for their own ends.

Some retweet bots are relatively harmless, like the "knitting" or "coffee" ones. (Don't ask!)

The ones I really have a problem with are those that add their own link to your original tweet and make it look like you endorse them. How many people would bother to check the original content? For example: One of my tweets was hijacked to direct people to a video of someone performing a very bad cover of a rock classic.

I particularly dislike it when bots pick up on my fibromyalgia and then purport to offer a "cure". Peddling nonsense has always been an internet speciality and Twitter is an ideal platform to promulgate the genre!

I know that by choosing to engage on Twitter that I take have to take the rough with the smooth. However, that doesn't stop the intense irritation nor the righteous indignation flaring up on occasions.

All I can do is hit the block button and hope my Twitter glitter isn't too tarnished.