Social Media Faux Pas

The other morning I decided to open up my splendid, shinny little box of instant goodness; otherwise known as TweetDeck. I was absent for weeks and was in need of some major catch up. It happened to be a perfect day for me to jump back in, and I will explain why.

The situation breakdown: I was reading the days tweets when one snagged my attention. The Tweet read @lulugrimm Great way to ensure I’ll never use your product… Pimping your company in a comment on my blog. Wow. I shot @Lulugrimm, Lisa Grimm, a tweet stating that I thought her phrase “Pimping your company” was awesome and her statement was indeed shocking; that people still don’t know how to engage. We continued to tweet back and forth for a while.  After our conversation, I felt somewhat obligated to write a blog post about the faux pas of social media engagement. Because apparently people are still uncertain of what is and what isn’t appropriate.

When, if ever, is appropriate to “pimp your company” on someone’s blog? Umm…NEVER!  Social media revolutionized this old school tactic, well ok it basically tossed it to the curb. Pushing your company on people, no matter how awesome it may be, no longer flies. This is especially true when the product does not relate to the topic of discussion.

If you are still unsure of how to get your message out to the world through social media here are a few suggestions to preventing you from making a social media faux pas. For a more in-depth description of online etiquette and social media interaction, check out my other posts about creating online communities and Developing Social Media Plans.

My suggestions:

  • If you want to reach key influentials and introduce them to your company, product, or message get involved with what they are talking about. Interact with them via social media, learn their interests and find what you have in common with them.
  • Don’t comment on a blog just to say great advice or nice post. Comment because you can add to the conversation, or explain how you gained value from the post. Oh yeah, and DON”T “pimp your company.”
  • Connect with your key influencers, audience on twitter as well as through blogs and other social media sites. Twitter can quickly reveal a person’s interests and areas in which you can relate and help build a relationship.

These are just a few recommendations for those who are still a little unsure about how to interact on social media. It’s all about relationships and sharing information, if you engage and interact there will be a time and a place to spread the word about your amazing product or organization: the time will come my friend, the time will come.

Also, please feel free to add to this list of suggestions I was just going through some basics but I know there are more out there.

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Nonprofits and social media, do they mix?

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I recently asked the CEO of a community foundation if  her organization used social media, and if so how. She replied, “Well, we have a blog.” Granted, the blog was one of the first breakthroughs that let citizen journalists create their own content, but if blogs are the only channel your organization thinks about for social media, think again.

In my previous blog posts, I talk about Twitter, building online communities, developing a social media plan, and how to measure social media initiatives. These strategies apply to all companies, including nonprofits.

As the nonprofit sector becomes increasingly complex and money grows tighter, it’s more important now than ever to brand your organization, programs and campaigns. This requires conveying credibility and value in a way that’s easy to remember and repeat. In doing this, your organization can build long-lasting relationships with donors, volunteers, community members and the media.

Beth Dunn writes about the pressure that nonprofits may be feeling amid the social networking phenomenon:

“Nonprofits all around us are making decisions right now about how to engage in social networks, and many of us in the field have to fight a desperate feeling of running hard just to keep up – the overwhelming conviction that everybody else is winning friends, donors, hearts and minds through the savvy use of social networking sites, and that we are missing out.”

Nancy Shwartz outlines how to brand a nonprofit organization through social media:   

1.   What a nonprofit brand is not:

  • A nonprofit brand is not what your organization stands for in the mind of your network.
  • A nonprofit brand is not your organization’s self-image, mission or logo.

2. What’s a nonprofit brand?

The intersection of…

  • What’s unique about the way your organization does its work and its impact.
  • The interests and needs of your network.

The brand that represents your organization must be authentic, or you run the risk of undermining everything your organization is trying to accomplish. Most people can sense when an organization is being fake and lacking transparency.

3. Branding is…

  • The art of creating a consistent, recognizable and clearly unified voice or personality that conveys your organization’s focus, credibility and unique contributions.

This is important when engaging with audiences, because it allows them to put a “face” to the organization. It helps build trust and promotes long-lasting relationships.

4. Why branding matters:

  • More and more nonprofits are looking to secure contributions, volunteers, board members, clients and customers.
  • The shortage in resources creates a heated competition.

If your organization doesn’t participate in the conversation through social media channels, competitors and people who are against your organization can fill that space with the wrong information. If your organization is present and engaged, people can ask questions and receive valid information.

5. How branding works:

A strong brand makes a substantial difference in developing and maintaining strong relationships with a network.

  • Strengthen or design your brand to ensure you stand out.
  •  Generate action and build loyalty with your audience.
  • Be consistent with your brand to build recognition and avoid confusion.

Now that you have an understanding of how to brand your organization online, it is imperative that you go out and find the tools to effectively market your organization. In some of my earlier posts you can read about how to create a community online, how to measure effectiveness, and how to develop a plan, and find links to other helpful sites. 

Social media is a good idea for any organization as long as it is committed to listening, learning and adapting while remaining transparent and authentic. Also, don’t be afraid to let go of control: become a participant.

Read Lisa Barone’s “Outspoken Media” for a list of social media channels that are useful for nonprofits.

Twitterized: How to Tap into Twitter

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Who would have thought that only 30 years after the Internet was invented, there would be a tool that allows a company to broadcast information to millions of people in a matter of seconds. That same tool also allows companies to listen in on discussions about how people are using their products and what they think of them, allowing a continuous two-way conversation with customers when they have a problem or concern.

If you can’t figure out what I was talking about in my above description I will give you a hint, “tweet, tweet.”

Most, if not all, social media connoisseurs are aware of Twitter and its many applications. I’ll break it down for those who are not familiar. Twitter’s microblogging platform allows its users to stream very short posts or “tweets” (140 characters) that others can follow and respond to. It allows companies (and individuals) to have conversations with influencers who are willing and eager to share what they learn with their friends and many followers. For businesses specifically, Twitter offers genuine interactions with the people who choose to use the company’s products. Twitter is literally a social media tool, but more specifically it is a large community.

Twitter is a great way to connect with customers, but it is not a tool to exploit and bombard people with news releases. There is a strategic way to approach Twitter. I will outline a few steps that advise businesses on how to get the most out of Twitter.

Purpose:

Have a clear purpose and objective in mind to guide your use of Twitter. Figure out whom you want to reach. Do you want to reach key influencers within your field? Or do you want to engage customers? The way you use Twitter will be different for each target audience.

It is important to remember that you are creating an online persona for your brand or company. If you have more than one purpose you might want to create multiple accounts: One to relay news, one to respond to customers complaints, and one to take part in conversations surrounding your field or product.

Following:

Using tools like Twitter take time and patience when you first start using them. Another important thing to remember is, listening is more important than talking, especially when you are first getting aquainted with the tool. There is a search tool built into Twitter that allows you to find people who are tweeting about your company, competitors and any related topic pertinent to your business.

While searching, you can start to follow key commentators and influencers and observe what people are saying. Eventually include yourself in the conversation, but only respond with relevant and informative information. Following influential members will show them, and the tweeting world, that you are interested in what they have to say; in return, it will encourage them to follow you.

Maintain Interest and Engage:

Twitter will only prove beneficial to a company if it offers something of value with every tweet, whether that’s news about the company, advice for consumers of products or insight about a niche market. Twitter users are not receptive or welcoming to blatant attempts at manipulation. It is not a good idea to use any type of obvious self-promotion, advertising attempts, or spin.

Encourage your followers to talk about themselves by asking them questions related to your mutual interests that you think they will want to answer. Show interest in the people who use the company’s products.

When given the opportunity, people show loyalty for companies and products that they feel represent them and people like them. Being real and approachable, as well as taking part in the two-way conversation on Twitter, goes a long way toward showing people what you have in common and that you are willing to engage.

Explore tools:

The Twitter Web site is okay to start with, but once you get the hang of it explore the many different tool options available. I personally like Tweetdeck, which allows you to open multiple searches or groups that update in real time. There are many tools available to make using Twitter easy. This list might be helpful.

If you go slow, observe before jumping in, and know why you are there then your Twittering days shall prove successful and beneficial.

Pistachio is another great reference to use for all Twitter-related questions.

Building and Maintaining Online Communities

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I am fortunate enough to be a part of Kelli Matthews, Strategic Social Media class, in which we discuss new technologies and study how to utilize web 2.0. We often have visitors and we were lucky enough to listen to Matt Neznanski, Hannah Smith and Katie Pontius-Stansberry. The three speakers discussed how to build online communities, as well as the future of journalism in the web 2.0 world in which we live.

Many companies have succeeded in building and maintaining an online community, take Dell for example. On the other hand, there are thousands of companies that have failed. Ed Moran, a Deloitte consultant who just completed a study of more than 100 businesses with online communities, believes the problem is that

“Businesses are focusing on the value an online community can provide to themselves, not the community.”

Building:

There are some important questions to ask before deciding to create an online community. Will people want to join?  Why should anyone care? What do users get from participating? Adding value to participants is one of the main goals for creating a community. If you add no value it is likely that the community will fail. It is also important to fill a need for the people who are going to use the product. This means, before you start the community, research topics of discussion around your product to figure out what drives people’s interests. Once you decide that a community would add value to members, it is important to provide an area where members can create and share content that is visible to everyone.

Starting a Community:

When you create a community, members work together to create content. The ownership is then transferred from the individual to the group, and it is important to acknowledge and reach out to opinion leaders, creators and influencers.

Stansberry presented the process in a simple format:

  • Determine and reach out to your opinion leaders (creators and influencers).
  • Start with a few features and then expand outward as the community grows.
  • Integrate with other marketing, advertising and public relations activities.
  • Reward contributors with recognition (link-backs).

Maintaining a Community:

  • Stay engaged with your community. Monitor and quickly respond to comments.
  • Integrate your community with real-world events.
  • Cross-pollinate with existing social networks.

Growing a Community:

  • Update regularly.
  • Use social marketing tools to promote brand.
  • Give your members something of unique value.
  • Create ambassadors.

The most important thing to remember when building and maintaining an online community: Give power to the hands of the community. Embracing two-way communication is vital to the success of a company’s online presence. People don’t respond well to contrived responses and advertising campaigns; if you open up a discussion and allow members to voice their opinions, most likely, the community will be successful.

Other Blogs:

There are many opinions and tips on best practices for creating an online community. I encourage you to check out

Jeremiah Owyang’s diagram on The Life Process of a Successful Community

Ryan Buchanan’s, Chief Marketer’s, article on Building Your Brand by Creating Community

Kami Huyse’s, Communication Overtones, article Start Small to Make Big Waves in Social Media

Mark Collier’s, The Viral Garden, article Six Reasons No One Likes You Online

Measuring the Success of Social Media

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A problem that a lot of companies are having right now is measuring the success of social media campaigns. An issue that may arise for up and coming PR professionals is explaining to a boss that social media is important and beneficial to a company. I have gathered some information that might help you in case you are ever asked how to measure social media and why companies should invest time and money into it. Hopefully you find it helpful.

Social media is on the tip of a lot of people’s tongues these days. More specifically is the topic of how to measure the success of an online campaign. Most want to attach a number on something when the word measurement is involved, like page views or comments.  That’s a good place to start, but does it tell you anything substantive? In order to be successful and really understand how effective an online campaign is, both a quality and quantity benchmark need to be incorporated into the measurement strategy.

Social media has really revolutionized the way companies can interact with their audience. Marcel Lebrun talks about the art of listening and how effective it can be for a company. On his blog mediaphilosopher he says, “On the surface, listening seems to be about receiving. However, conversational listening sends a message: you are important to us.” Listening to what customers are saying about a brand and responding to their comments personalizes the relationship and allows trust to build. This is exremly important, especially with the increase of demand for companies to be comletly transparent, responsive and honest.

There are certain ways to successfully listen and measure how effective a company is being online. In order to do this a company must observe, listen, engage and respond. Measurement is an important tool to understand for social media because a lot of organizations are struggling to find the results. It allows companies to observe what’s working, what’s not and how they can adjust certain areas to make their product or company better. Once a company is online, they need to determine what they want to measure, whether it’s reputation, conversation or customer relationships. These objectives require qualitative measurement and should generate questions like:

– Are we part of conversations about our product?

– How are we talked about compared to our competitors?

– Were we able to build better relationships?

– Were we able to participate in conversations where we previously had no voice?

To measure traffic, sales and/or SEO ranking a more quantitative approach is required. There are a lot of free tools that can help with this measurement that are available, like:

– AideRSS: allows you to enter a URL and shows you statistics about its posts, like how many times they are shared on social media sites.

Google Analytics: Analyzes a company’s blog traffic, subscriber count etc.

Xinu: allows you to receive statistics like SEO, bookmarking, page views etc.

There are many more site like these, here is a link to a list of others Toolkit

Chris Lake, CEO Econsultancy, has some good tips on measuring a social media campaign and what to look for:

1. Traffic: This is one of the more obvious ways of measuring social media. Who is talking, what are they talking about and is it important to your industry/product.

2. Interaction and Engagement: Participation is a valuable indicator for companies. Interaction can be anything from leaving comments, to participating in support forums, to leaving customer reviews and ratings. Engagement is the company’s part in creating valuable dialogue and conversation and responding to customers’ comments.

3. Sales: Companies can track sales from Google referrals and monitoring customer feedback through sites like Twitter. Dell discovered that it made $1m from Twitter in 18 months.

4. Search marketing: The Search Engine Optimization (SEO) factor cannot be understated. For example a picture, image, video that is placed on a site like Digg can generate a lot of traffic and a link from Digg. Even better it can generate links and tags from many other bloggers, and can spread quickly through word of mouth without the company paying  for advertising.

5. Brand metrics: Word of mouth can help shift the key brand metrics, both negatively and positively. These include brand favorability, brand awareness, brand recall, propensity to buy, etc. Positive brand associations via social media campaigns can help drive clicks on paid search ads.

6. Retention: A positive side effect of increased customer engagement is an increase in customer retention. Zappos, which is a case study in how-to-do-Twitter, is closing in on $1bn in sales this year, and “75% of its orders are from repeat customers”.

Ultimately, the key question to ask when measuring engagement is, are we getting what we want out of the conversation? Jason Falls on his blog Social Media Explorer made a good point about what companies want from social media. When you ask businesses why they are participating in social media, what do they say? If they say that their only objective is “to make money, then they will fail because currency in the social web is found in both relationships and content.” The goal is to participate in the conversation, to enhance your relationship with your audiences and become a trusted member of the community that surrounds your brand. He ended with “Your ROI is what you got out of the conversation, not what you got out of their checkbook.” These are just a few things to think about when trying to figure out how effective a company.