Posts Tagged ‘conversation’

Flickr credit: Jason Howie

Flickr credit: Jason Howie

I don’t get it. Every other day, one of my LinkedIn contacts endorses me for a skill. Sometimes it’s marketing, strategy, entrepreneurship, media relations and other times it’s “social media.” But why? Social media isn’t a skill, it’s a medium. It would be like typing “hammer” into my profile and saying I’m good at that. What does it mean to be good at hammer? Nothing. I can be a clever carpenter, I could be a fabulous furniture maker, I could be an incredible handywoman… all of them use hammers, but would you describe them as being good at hammering?

Let me repeat it: social media isn’t a skill, it’s a medium. It’s a medium that everyone can wield. Skills and abilities I think I’m proficient at that help me use online sharing tools to my advantage are:

  • Confidence. When we put something out there, we put it out to the world. Those who waffle on the content they’ve shared fail.
  • Thoughtfulness. Content is king, it always will be. Thoughtfulness includes being plugged into your audience and knowing what they like. Sometimes, wielding your social media tool is sharing your cat lounged out in a funny position, sometimes it’s having something intelligent to say about a political candidate you’re supporting. But if you always post about kittens and try to throw a politician into the mix… fail. Unless, of course, you find a cat who does a great impression of said politician.
  • Consistency. This ties into my point above. Consistently posting and commenting on the topics you wish to be engaged in (and also associated with) is important, but it’s also one of the toughest skills to cultivate. We get bored, we want to stir things up as individuals, yet humans generally dislike change and being taken by surprise.
  • Clarity. Knowing what it is you’re trying to say and being capable of communicating this in the least amount of words possible. Very few people will read a novel online unless they’ve downloaded it from the Kindle store. Short, succinct.
  • Analytical. Checking your stats without becoming obsessed with them is another skill to apply to social media use. Learning when to care about your follower count vs how many people liked your last instagram of that ridiculous bacon wrapped cupcake you bought goes a long way. But before you can care about your stats, you need to know your objectives. Are you just having fun (at which point you can skip being analytical)? Or are you attempting to accomplish something specific?
  • Ethical/true to our purpose. If all we cared about were likes and clicks on our content, all we would post would be what people like most. The problem here is that sometimes this information isn’t aligned with our original objectives. Letting the masses guide you isn’t the wisest long-term strategy. Look at some of the stories that end up as the top headlines for traditional media. They post it because eyeballs sell–even if they’re selling crap.
  • Leadership. Social media gives us the microphone. Do you turn it on the audience? Or use your space wisely to connect, share and lead people to something that’s made their day better?
  • Listening. Stand up on a soap box in the middle of a busy street and see how many people you can get to listen to what you have to say. Or, set up your own bistro table and invite people to have a conversation with you. You listen, they listen. Which is more successful for having your message heard?
  • Creativity. Flash mobs are over. Trends start and end faster than the road runner can say, “Meep, meep.” Being creative with how you use this medium, finding original content to share or putting your own spin on a related topic helps you stand out from the masses. Do you post the infamous photo of your perfectly manicured toes at the beach? Or do you build a sandcastle and use it instead?
  • Genuine. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be the person online that people would meet offline. If you’re going to tear into someone from your Twitter account, be sure you’d be willing to do it to their face as well. Same goes for saying nice things about people. In fact, if you say something nice online, take extra care to say it offline too.
  • Open-minded. There are a lot of things we don’t know, a lot of perspectives we haven’t thought of and a lot of triggers that other people have. Keeping an open-mind and a willingness to consider new information as it becomes available keeps us fresh, respectful and relevant to the conversations we’re having and the communities we’re a part of.
  • Quit selling/Don’t be creepy. Conversations are not for selling. They’re for conversing. Do you remember that friend who tried to sell you that product they represent at that last BBQ you both attended? You totally bought it, didn’t you? How about that mortgage broker who followed you last month because you mentioned the word mortgage? Did you call him up and asked for a mortgage? No, because it was creepy. Alternatively, if you were talking to a dentist about golf and not your teeth, the next time you needed a dentist, who would you think of?

What would you put on your list? What makes you a savvy social media user?

 

I’ve just finished the introduction to the book “Groundswell” by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research.  Yes I know, I should have read this long ago.  But my list of books to read is long, and my time short, so I’m just getting to it now.

The introduction talked about many instances where an individual posted something that a company or brand didn’t like, the company or brand followed up with a request that these such instances be removed, resulting in what has been deemed the “Streisand Effect“, where instead of disappearing, the instance multiplies faster than anyone can keep up with it.

The introduction also talked about GM and Bob Lutz’s foray into blogging as a means of connecting directly with consumers.  The book notes that as the blog built momentum, anyone searching for a GM related term would likely come up with the GM blog post relating to that term if one existed.

The likelihood of an individual producing something about a company or brand they like or don’t like is much higher in today’s online world than ever before.  And if the brand isn’t the authority figure for their content, who is?  Or who will appear to be?

After finishing the introduction, I came across an example.  Songs and jingles from my past tend to appear in my thoughts as if from nowhere.  Today I was humming the Juicy Fruit song… you know the one…

“Juicy Fruit… it’s gonna move ya… A touchy kinda rhythm… you’ll feel right through ya… Juicy Fruit… the taste the taste the taste is gonna mooooove ya!”

It’s a catchy tune.  And, as I do with all catchy tunes, I went in search of the Juicy Fruit song on YouTube so it could be posted to my Facebook profile for all to enjoy.

The first result that came up was the following:

Ten year olds making a video about the way they think Juicy Fruit commercials should be.  It’s not exactly brand slandering, but they beat out Juicy Fruit for the most relevant video.   The video has gotten over 18,000 views.  And guaranteed anyone searching for the Juicy Fruit song on YouTube will find it too.  We can’t stop it, the online world is all about user generated content.  It’s part of what makes sites like YouTube such a success.

Not too far down the page, I did find the Juicy Fruit song from a 1981 commercial:

But seeing the 10 year olds first gave me pause long enough to wonder how many companies out there aren’t being proactive in this space?  By proactive, I mean joining in the conversation (in the medium by which the user is participating – via blog, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc.) before an event forces them to join the conversation (a la Motrin Moms).  It’s the internet and people talk.  You can’t just ignore the conversation, you can’t smother it, but you can join it.  And so long as you’ve got a presence, the online world seems willing to listen (if you’re reasonable).   But if you haven’t, they’ll listen to whoever’s talking about you and leave it at that.  So what will it take?  What out there is “gonna move ya” into this space instead of dragging you by the heels?

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I just saw (and in fact retweeted because it made me think) a tweet from @shanegibson that Twitter is the marketing tool of choice for Fortune 500 companies.  Is that true?  I don’t know, but I could see it being a true statement.

So, if Twitter is the marketing tool of choice, what happens when people know that it’s the marketing tool of choice?  What are they going to do?  Continue to flock to Twitter?  I think they’ll avoid Twitter, it’s noisy enough as it is for the average person, now we’re throwing in marketing and ads?  I don’t think so.

Which brings me to an old lesson which apparently some new folks haven’t learnt yet.  IT’S NOT A MARKETING TOOL.  It’s a relationship tool.  If I’m having a bad experience with my product from ABC company and I tweet about it, I don’t want to be marketed or sold to.  I want ABC company to fix my problem or leave me alone.  If I’m looking for recommendations on a product, I’m way less likely to listen to you telling me about your promotion than if you genuinely want to help me find what is going to suit me.

So really, is Twitter, or any social media site for that matter, a marketer’s dream tool?  Sure for now.  But what about as the consumer continues to find more ways to avoid your promotional crap?  What will you do then?  Find another new media to conform to your old habits?  Dare I bring it up again…?  Perhaps instead of trying to sell me something, you can have something useful to say to me.  At the end of the conversation, if your product isn’t the best fit for my needs, but you know the competitor’s product is, I’m going to appreciate that piece of information so much more… and most likely remember you the next time somebody is asking me about who to check out for the product you sell.  Anytime I’ve had that experience in a retail store, I’ve routinely gone back to that store for other things.  Think about that side of social media.  Being helpful, actually paying attention to what a customer needs… finding the win/win rather than the ‘I just want to sell you stuff even if it’s not quite what you need’.

Back in the days before I discovered my inner geek, I was a business student at the U of A.  In one of my international business classes, I remember talking about NAMU (North American Monetary Unit) and the implications of joining our currency with the US and Mexico, kind of like the EU.  Recently, I saw a tweet bringing it up again.  Old conversations circling through in a new platform.

The other day, I queried my Twitter followers for symbols representing Alberta.  I was reminded of social studies in grade school when we explored these topics.

Two recent examples of topics I’ve encountered from topics we talked about in school.  Two topics I don’t think I’ve discussed with anyone since, but both came up on Twitter within a day or two of one another.  It’s kind of like being in class again. Professors and teachers encouraged discussion and conversation.  It opened our young minds to new ideas and dreams.  Brought about different vantage points to a problem, resulting in some creative solutions.  On Twitter, on Friendfeed, Facebook, blog posts, everywhere where there is conversation happening, it’s like walking into a classroom again.  We’re all learning and growing from one another.  We’re all connecting and empowering and trusting and conversing.  Every once in awhile, the vision of a world where we are all connected float back through my mind.  People can solve anything if given a voice and a platform…. so keep on learning… keep on talking… maybe we’ll save the world.

flog a dead horse

Today I noticed that @ChrisBrogan is still talking about robot behavior on Twitter.  And while I think it is a worthy conversation of having, and I understand that the new people just finding this conversation are keeping it fuelled, what I don’t understand is how Chris is able to continue to talk about it?

There are interesting vantage points to every topic.  Certainly a multitude of unique viewpoints, but with so many people continually flocking to the big conversations and with many of these conversations happening around a few key people, I wonder at what point Chris, or other people continuously involved in these types big conversations, start seeing recycled ideas and when they get tired of them?

Every idea is unique and special within the situation it presents itself.  But when the situation goes global, I can’t help but feel that in the larger conversations, the golden nuggets are even harder, rather than easier to find… And that, while I do love finding people with similar viewpoints when I tend to beat to the sound of my own drum on occasion,  are all of these people eroding the ‘unique’ viewpoint I once thought I had?

Maybe I’m getting it all wrong.  It is all about conversation after all.  But sometimes these conversations can feel like the girl who’s over analyzing what she did or what she said wrong when her date doesn’t call her back.  At what point have we flogged that dead horse?