Tuesday, 1 December 2015

It's time to drop the distinction between online and offline

I read this piece by Clementine Ford and it got me thinking.

When I first started "going online" it was using a ZX Spectrum and accessing Prestel. It was a time when email was in its infancy and Bulletin Boards were all the rage. Because so few people were able to access the internet community, there was a clear distinction between what you did online and what you did IRL (In Real Life). That distinction should now be consigned to history - along with 300 baud modems!

Taking the UK as an example, 78% of adults access the internet every day. We use the internet as an integral part of our lives, both for business and for leisure. Whether we're shopping online, paying our bills or posting on social media, our "real life" is now inextricably linked to our virtual presence. There is no longer a clear line where one starts and the other finishes.

The sometimes caustic culture of the early digital communities is being rapidly diluted as more and more people discover the advantages of being connected online as well as offline. We are online both at work and at home. Our digital presence is an integral part of our lives. It's not about spending an hour on a Bulletin Board via dial up any more.

What happens online is no longer separate from our "real world" lives - it's intertwined to the point where the difference has all but disappeared. Convergence has already happened for most of us. Shrugging off bad behaviour online as "just the internet" is no longer acceptable. Sites such as Twitter, Facebook (and other social platforms) need to up their game when it comes to addressing anti-social behaviour.

Equally, we need to consider our own behaviour now that our digital selves are far more visible, What was acceptable, even expected, amongst some regular posters in the early days is no longer appropriate.

The internet has evolved. Our online behaviour needs to evolve too.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

5 key behaviours for social media

Whichever platform is your social media favourite there are 5 key behaviours to adopt to ensure that you and your business get the best results.

Broadcast (Sell)
Just not too much! As a business, we need to say what we do. We may have special offers available, or want to promote our next batch of courses. Whatever that broadcast content is, bear in mind that it's akin to advertising and that's not the content people want to consume all the time.

Engage (Listen)
Good quality engagement starts with the online equivalent of listening, which is reading what other people write. This means actually taking time to read/watch their content and not just retweeting or liking everything your business buddy puts out without critical thought. Nor is it about reposting everything that mentions you - especially if the post was automatically generated in the first place. Taking the time to read what other people write and responding to them thoughtfully and appropriately is a skill that you should cultivate. The dividends are worth the effort.

Again, this isn't about mindless retweets/likes/shares of insubstantial content. Be helpful. Solve someone's problem online and they'll know you can help them in their offline business too. Make an effort to raise someone else up, you'll reap the rewards too.

Question/be curious
Ask genuine questions, which means avoiding the faux market research style. Crowdsource information for your next business hire or purchase.

Add value
Find and share good quality information. Create compelling content. Be authentic. Think about who you want to talk to and then search for great articles that'll really help them. Research a catalogue of great content providers that are respected and publish regularly. By adding real value to the people reading your updates, you'll be building up your own reputation too.

Start to behave like a successful, thoughtful person online. Your business will benefit and so will you.

Monday, 20 April 2015

How to check who can send you Twitter DMs

A couple of years ago Twitter announced it was introducing a function that enabled accounts to receive Direct Messages from people that weren't following them. It was met with general apathy and seemed to be dropped. It's now back in action.

The initial worries I've seen expressed are that it would open the floodgates to being spammed by all and sundry. It's worth noting that you have have to opt in to the new service.

If you're concerned and want to check, then just go into your settings and select "security and privacy". At the bottom of the page there will be an option like this:

If you don't want to receive DMs from people you don't follow, just make sure the box is unchecked.

A few people have questioned why anyone would want to get DMs from complete strangers. If you run a busy customer service feed then I can see that it would be advantageous to be able to get DMs from people without having to ask them to follow you. Other than that, the uptake seems to be limited.

What do you think? Will you be opting in?

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Social media is mainstream - now what?

When I started Ariadne's Thread in 2009, social media was seen as new and untested by a lot of businesses. Now that its value and effectiveness is proven, it is an essential part of any marketing and PR plan. People have realised the value social media can bring to both promotion, sales and to customer service. It's critical not just in attracting new customers, but also in keeping your existing ones happy. I no longer have to sit with people for hours and "talk them into it", It's straight into the good stuff. Who should they target? How much time will it take them? What sort of content do they need? How will they create that content?

There are a couple of tactical issues that come as baggage alongside this broad acceptance of social media.

Firstly, there's a lot more "noise" to compete with. Some businesses are still under the impression that it's OK to treat the medium as paperless advertising, or as solely a mechanism to improve their Search Engine Optimisation. The rolling streams of automated updates can get overwhelming and the opportunities for meaningful engagement can be missed. Your content needs to be interesting, relevant and well targeted to rise above this inane cyberbabble.

Secondly, the range of social media platforms has greatly increased. Make sure you know the type of people you want to influence and research where they are likely to congregate online. Your decisions will be heavily influenced by your business sector and your ability to produce appropriate content.

So what can you do?

  • Select your social media platforms with care.
  • Create content that is useful to the people you want to reach and relevant to your business.
  • Take time to make a content plan, it really does help improve the results you'll get.
  • Evaluate the results you're getting and adjust your plan if you need to.