Friday, 30 December 2011

A checklist for outsourcing social media

There's been a lot written about the PR meltdown caused by Ocean Marketting (sic) Ocean Stratagy (also sic) and (currently) Ocean Deep Sea or Ocean Distribution. They treated their client's customers in the most appalling fashion. You can read the origins of the storm on Penny Arcade here and here.

Understandable the Client N-Control wanted to sort out the mess very quickly and have hired a new PR company that are doing a great job. (see the press release they issued)

There are a whole host of blogs doing the rounds about the fine detail of the events, but my attention was caught by this excerpt from the press release:

  • N-Control immediately proceeded to extricate Mr. Christoforo’s access to their email and social media accounts, a process that is still ongoing

In July last year I wrote a blog alerting folks to the need to ensure that if they're outsourcing their social media then they own their own feeds and content. You must have to have access to your own social media! Misuse by a third party is rare, but if the proverbial bus takes out your consultant then how do you get access to your stuff and talk to your customers?

Do you really want your company posting things like this? (from the former official feed of N-Control)

A checklist for you:

  • Do you have the log-in details for all your social media platforms?
  • Have you tried them recently? (They may have changed!)
  • Are the email addresses that the accounts run from accessible to you? 
  • Have you actually read your own feed(s) lately?
  • Can you access all the correspondence being conducted on your behalf whenever you want to?
  • Do you own your domain name?
  • Can you prevent your outsourced partner from deleting your website?
If the answer to any of these questions is "no" then you may have a problem...

Friday, 18 November 2011

Let's stop "crying wolf"

We've all seen the posts haven't we? Massed capital letters - usually copied and pasted complete with spelling mistakes. Something like this one:


Or the ones that are appealing to your softer side:


I'm making a plea for people to check out the validity of these "warnings" and " appeals" before they post them on their social media pages.

There are a number of excellent sites where you can find out if you're crying wolf if you post the information:

Apart from reducing the sheer number of false alerts, it should reassure you that most are just idiots trying to see how far they can get their hoax to go.

93% of people won't bother to check before they post - will you be one of the ones that does?

Friday, 28 October 2011

Being human, not a bland brand

It's said - frequently - that people buy from people. So, developing a personality for your business on social media makes good sense. Being human can make all the difference between having a social media presence and making social media work for your business.

You can always take the'safe' option and repeat your selected business messages across all platforms and only use the medium to broadcast, rather than interact. The problem with 'safe' is that it's not as successful on platforms like Twitter and Facebook as imbuing your brand with a personality. Using social media as a form of electronic leafleting misses the point of the social element entirely.

Making occasional comments about the weather, the traffic, local news and so forth may seem inane, but it helps people to build a picture of your everyday operation. It also gives people an opportunity to react and talk to you. (Not on LinkedIn though, that's a "business only" culture)

Bemoaning the cold cup of tea after getting stuck in to a project can elicit empathy (we've all done it!) It's not useless information, it's a snapshot of how you and your business actually work in day to day life. If you can become so involved with your work, you must care about what you do...

Not convinced? Try some of these "safer" gambits to begin your foray into interaction:

  • Invite opinions on the local LEP or other local business initiatives
  • Asking for supplier recommendations is a great way to start a conversation - and to get some good quality information.
  • Promote events for local charities 
  • Answer other people's questions (whether related to your business or not) 
  • Track down your hyperlocal enthusiasts and promote their work

One word of caution: unbridled, strongly opinionated posts are not always suitable for business. I advise clients to have a set of "no-go areas". As an example my personal ones are:

  • politics
  • religion
  • sport
  • swearing
I decided on these as they are areas where my personal opinions are not strong enough to risk alienating a potential client by expressing my views. Everyone will be different and have different boundaries. Just give them some thought...

Give some conscious consideration to the balance of your posts on social media. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy - and a bland brand!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Twitter simple essentials

If you want to be a success on Twitter then there a number of quick and easy things you can do to ease your way into the community. Here are a few essentials to get you started:

Don't be an egg!
Make time to upload a picture for your avatar. If you're shy about using a picture of yourself at first, then use a logo or a picture of your premises or a flower, a dolphin, a cat... you get the idea. I personally wouldn't use a picture of a child - ever - on Twitter, but that's your call. (Remember, I advised against it though!)

There is a perception, common to inveterate Tweeters, that 'eggs' are accounts that aren't to be taken seriously.

A coherent biography
If your tongue is firmly in your cheek when calling yourself a ninja or a guru then you might get away with it. On the whole, an honest description of what you do will go down much better. Don't forget to add your web address too.

No Auto-DMs
I've blogged in more detail on this subject here. To save repetition, the summary is: Don't automatically send a direct message to everyone that follows you.

Talk to people as well as broadcasting
If your timeline is full of self-promotional tweets then people are less likely to interact with you. If they see you talk to other people, they're more likely to talk to you.

Check your feed
Not looking at your Twitter feed because, for example, it automatically echoes your Facebook feed is a waste of Twitter. You may well be spewing out content, but your engagement levels are non-existent. People that love Twitter communicate on Twitter as their first choice. They don't want to have to log-in to Facebook to talk to you about something they read on your Twitter feed.

Update regularly
If you don't say anything for weeks at a time, people will be used to you not answering and not joining in the conversation. Also, what does it say about your business? It implies that you can't be bothered to finish what you started. "Reserving your name" on Twitter if you have no intention of using it can impact negatively on your company image.

Enjoy yourself
Twitter can be interesting and fun. if your timeline doesn't interest you then it's time to unfollow a few people and find somebody else to talk to!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Avoiding the DM spam

With the current rash of compromised accounts it seems timely to remind people what sort of things to look for to avoid being phished. (not hacked - see previous post!)

Account harvesters rely on social engineering to get you to give them your ID and password. By making it seem that a contact is sending you the message it gives you a false sense of security. You're far more likely to sign in to a site your 'friend' has recommended.

When you get a random tweet in your public timeline with just a link on it, from someone you don't know, then it's easy to spot. When you receive a tweet or Direct message from someone you know it's less easy to spot. Here's a few things to think about:
  • Is it 'out of character'?
  • Would they normally use the public timeline and not Direct Message?
  • Is the spelling OK?
  • Have you seen any 'chatter' on Twitter about DM spam?
Sites such as Mashable often lead with stories of the latest phishing outbreaks (such as "is this you"). Take a look before you click.

If you've clicked on a link and are asked to 'sign in to twitter to see this page' (or similar) think carefully before you do. Check the web address: is it really an official twitter site? Chances are it's a disguised web address to try and fool you into parting with your log on details.

Sometimes, smartphones do take you to the site rather than open the page in the app you're using - this is a rare occurrence and, in general, you're safer not logging in.

If you're in any doubt, tweet the person back and confirm whether or not it's really from them.

So, the worst happens and your account starts spewing spam, now what?

Change your password.

It's also a really good idea to go into the settings page on your Twitter account and revoke access as well.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Auto DMs, please don't

One of the most sure fire ways to hack off the majority of the Twitter community that I know is to use the "Auto DM on follow" function.

When you find someone you're interested in talking to on Twitter there are a variety of ways people use to decide whether or not to follow them. A, strictly unscientific, straw poll of tweeps gives some insight into the process and the criteria people might use:
  • I know them in real life (can be negative or positive!)
  • I like the retweets I've seen of them in my timeline
  • They're following me and I like their bio
  • I loved the reply they sent to my friend (this assumes you copied in the other recipients)
  • They made a lovely comment on my blog
  • They're local
  • They share the same interests/causes as I do
Additional criteria for following businesses:
  • There aren't too many sales tweets in their timeline - they talk as well as sell
  • I took a look at their website and they seem interesting
  • I'm interested in buying from them, but I want to see what they're really like first.
Of course, not everyone will apply all these criteria - and I know there will be other factors that aren't included here. However, you can assume that a (real) new follower has taken an interest in you for a reason and has done some level of decision making and, therefore, research about you.

Now, having made a conscious decision to follow someone, you then receive the Auto DM in response.

Let's go through some typical contents of these DMs:
  • Thanks for following me - anodyne but not offensive
  • Hope you find us interesting - really? do you think we followed you because you're dull?
  • Find out more about us on our website - a link to which is already on your Bio?
  • Buy our stuff at really great rates = 'unfollow'
What gets missed by people that use the Auto DM function is the passionate dislike of the things that many of the Twitterati have. I recently asked the tweeps I interact with for their opinions on these 'welcome' DMs. Here's a selection of the more printable responses:
  • Instant unfollow, I hate auto DMs
  • Unfollow & block, these people really don't get Twitter
  • It's SO old fashioned, nobody uses them now, they're awful
  • Such a lazy thing to do, what's wrong with talking to people?
  • I loathe auto DMs, I have to pay for the texts to my phone and these things cost me money!
  • What's the point of them - its' all in their bio anyway
My personal take on Auto DMs and the awful 'thanks for following me @newfollower' tweets is - just don't.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Two years and still standing

Ariadne's Thread is two years old! My "start-up" business is all grown up. I'm taking time to reflect on the journey I've taken and, on the whole, I wouldn't change it for the world.

People talk about the "roller coaster" of running your own business. I now fully understand the incredible highs when it's all going well - and the real challenge of pushing through the slow and difficult times.

The downside of being a business owner is undoubtedly the financial insecurity, especially in the early stages, and that's not a stress to be underplayed. However, I'd been planning my launch into the world of private business for a while and managed to mitigate the worst of the problem.

The first 6 months were full of nail biting financial anxiety. Holding my nerve and believing in myself and the business was what got me through this phase. Getting my first contract was a huge breakthrough. It's lovely that, 18 months later, I'm still doing work for them.

I love the independence of running my own business and the freedom to set my own agenda. Being your own boss means that you work for the most demanding person on earth and that's where the fun starts.

So, what does this business owner want to pass on to people that might be starting up? I've picked five pieces of advice that I've found useful - or wish I'd taken....
  • Get as much advice as possible. You don't have to act on all of it!
  • Get to know as many other business owners as you can, both in person and online
  • Keep a very close eye on your cash flow
  • Keep your records up to date. An extended bout "at the spreadsheet" at the end of your financial year is not recommended.
  • Be flexible about your business offering and allow it to develop, but not become muddled.
Time to get back on the track and ride that business roller coaster!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Keeping retweets real

Twitter retweets are something I covet. There I've said it...

They're a great way to get your information out to a whole new set of people that might be interested. There's also that rather contented feeling of having said something that people value enough to share with their followers!

Some of the most interesting feeds I follow consist almost entirely of retweets. Where there is an effort made to select relevant and good quality information, I'm happy to carry on following and letting someone else winnow through the mass of information on the internet to find me something interesting to read.

However, some folks are retweeting anything and everything in their feed. When someone repeatedly starts retweeting the autotweets from their feed (see my previous blog) then you know you're only seconds away from an unfollow - or at least I am.

Then there's that really annoying habit of retweeting any and all follow friday mentions.

Or the one where a person retweets the fact that someone retweeted them.

How about the people that just can't keep their mouse off the Twitter retweet button?

Sending out some good quality retweets is vital when using twitter for business. They help us show what we find interesting and important both as a business and as a person. Retweets demonstrate our values, our expertise, our humour and much more. Your reputation as a business on Twitter will be greatly enhanced if you actively consider the content of retweets as part of your overall strategy.

So, next time you're reading your feed - think about what you choose to retweet. Keep those retweets real!

Edit: Since I first wrote this blog Twitter has introduced a feature whereby you can turn off retweets from specific accounts. It's useful to keep your feed manageable. It's also worth trying to be the sort of person that doesn't get their retweets muted!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

TMI - too much information!

Sometimes, when we're on a site we find something so interesting we share it using Twitter or Facebook or our other platform of choice. This is great and what social media thrives on. (As well as pictures of cats and discussions about coffee and wine!)

However, some folks are less selective. They have every application, website and forum option that can echo to Twitter switched on. Here are my top 3 pet peeves

I uploaded/liked/subscribed/commented on... sometimes all four in quick succession. Not only that, if the person is on a browsing session, or updating session, this can be repeated endlessly over several hours. (I've unfollowed them by then!)

Don't get me wrong. I like YouTube. I can waste spend hours on it. If I like a specific video or channel I may well like/subscribe etc, but I only share the really good stuff with my followers and friends.

Again, I enjoy using Spotify. If I'm looking for a specific song and someone sends me the link, that's brilliant. What I don't like is reams and reams of tweets every time someone hits the play button, often for hours on end.

Whether your poison is Gowalla or FourSquare, just be reasonable on the poor folks that have to read your stuff! If you're somewhere really cool, or there's an advantage to you broadcasting the information then please go for it. If you're in the local railway station every night and morning it can get very, very boring!

So, which ones do you love/hate? What have I missed out... Quora maybe?