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6 Things You Need To Know About Running A Social Media Program: The Channels

This is part 4 of 6 in the series “6 Things You Need to Know About Running A Social Media Program”. You can read part 1 “The Client” here, it has a full introduction. Part 2 “The Product” is here, part 3 “Your Audiences” is here.

I’ve created this list of “things you must know” mostly based upon very positive experiences I’ve had, but also from negative ones…things that I’ve either experienced myself or seen others do.  This isn’t a tactical post, I think I write plenty of those.  Instead, this is my advice to those that are going to lend their expertise to others, and hopefully by checking these off you will avoid some common mistakes that often result in unmet expectations, from one side or the other…or both.

Know The Channels

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Ustream, blogs, forums and all of the other communities in social media each have a different feel, and as such have different rules and therefore different results should be expected.  I’m going to go on record as saying that, in my opinion, trying to target all areas is a big mistake unless you have an incredibly well resourced team.  For most of the Fortune 500 companies that I work with we target a handful of channels based upon the brand needs and expectations…I don’t think there is such a thing as a cookie cutter social media program.  Why?  Because the need of every client is different (remember that part I wrote about knowing your customer?)  That said, there are a few basics that should be covered, but once you have established those you’ll want to match specific needs with specific communities.  If you try to be all things to all people you’re going to get spread too thin.

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6 Things You Need To Know About Running A Social Media Program: The Audience

2306001896_7e0ce6e0f5This is part 3 of 6 in the series “6 Things You Need to Know About Running A Social Media Program”. You can read part 1 “The Client” here, it has a full introduction. Part 2 “The Product” is here.

I’ve created this list of “things you must know” mostly based upon very positive experiences I’ve had, but also from negative ones…things that I’ve either experienced myself or seen others do.  This isn’t a tactical post, I think I write plenty of those.  Instead, this is my advice to those that are going to lend their expertise to others, and hopefully by checking these off you will avoid some common mistakes that often result in unmet expectations, from one side or the other…or both.

Know Your Audience

Your audience is not “everybody” unless you are selling oxygen or religion…and even then there are plenty of people that don’t want either.  If you really think you can reach everybody, you are sorely mistaken.  You’re also going to be working 24/7 and going broke, because you cannot target everybody.  Now that we have established that, this is another great conversation to have with your client.  They probably have a pretty good idea of who their target audience is; make sure you understand who they are going after.  If you’ve done your homework (by knowing the product) then you can and should add to this conversation.  Once you understand the person that you are trying to reach you can start developing a strategy that will include some social media channels but not others.  Your strategy should also tell you when you should be active online (based upon when the target audience is), how often to engage them  and what sort of external resources you should link to that will add value to the community. If your client has no idea who they are targeting, I would suggest that you consider working this out with them before you start, it will prevent a lot of frustration from both sides.

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6 Things You Need To Know About Running A Social Media Program: The Product

222-facebookThis is part 2 of 6 in the series “6 Things You Need to Know About Running A Social Media Program”. You can read part 1 “The Client” here, it has a full introduction.

I’ve created this list of “things you must know” mostly based upon very positive experiences I’ve had, but also from negative ones…things that I’ve either experienced myself or seen others do. This isn’t a tactical post, I think I write plenty of those. Instead, this is my advice to those that are going to lend their expertise to others, and hopefully by checking these off you will avoid some common mistakes that often result in unmet expectations, from one side or the other…or both.

Know The Product

I think this is the single biggest mistake that I see over and over and over again…lack of product knowledge when you are doing work for somebody else.You may be running a campaign for a durable good or a service. Sometimes it’s just brand awareness so there is not one thing you are pointing to, just the brand. No matter what it is, if you don’t know the ins and outs of what you will be marketing you are doing your client, their customers and yourself a huge disservice. I’ve been invited in to too many conversations that go something like this:

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6 Things You Need To Know About Running A Social Media Program: The Client

111-social networksPart 1 of 6

Over the years I’ve run a lot of social media programs, sometimes for companies or services that I own or manage, sometimes for organizations that have hired me to consult or drive their efforts in the various online communities.  This article is primarily aimed at those that do the latter, although several points can apply to the former.  That is to say, if you are a consultant or work at an agency whose primary focus is running social programs for somebody else, I’m writing this for you.

I’ve created this list of “things you must know” mostly based upon very positive experiences I’ve had, but also from negative ones…things that I’ve either experienced myself or seen others do.  This isn’t a tactical post, I think I write plenty of those.  Instead, this is my advice to those that are going to lend their expertise to others, and hopefully by checking these off you will avoid some common mistakes that often result in unmet expectations, from one side or the other…or both.

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Embrace The Crowd Or Die

TowerRecordsIf I were to ask you what social media is, you would probably pause for a moment then give me a pretty decent description of user generated material; you would use words like listen, engage and share…and more than likely you would mention (or at least think of) Facebook and/or Twitter.  Do you think it would be difficult to describe social media without these two services? Although social media is so much larger than any one company, there is no doubt that many companies make up a critical portion of this ever growing, ever changing landscape.

Imagine then what social media would be like if Facebook decided to keep their community confined to college students only.  What if Twitter really did make you answer the question “what are you doing?” and excluded external links, retweets and other crowd-sourced behavior? The reason that social media is the way is it today is because Twitter and Facebook, along with countless other services, adopted to the powerful voice of the crowd. They didn’t let pride or “what they knew to be true” hold them back from making smart, and undoubtedly difficult, business decisions.  Embracing the crowd is always challenging, it means you lose a certain amount of control…and to many that is a scary proposition.

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My New Role In Social Media Marketing and Strategy

logo-v1Those of you that have been following my adventures for a while know that I put my heart, soul and mind into social media.  Since writing my own blogging platform a decade ago (the billion dollar idea that I never capitalized on…) to my almost-obsessive fascination with brand interaction on channels like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, I am constantly observing and strategizing ways to make the interaction and engagement between companies and customers better through social media. I have spent quite a bit of time over the last couple of years consulting businesses of all types and sizes regarding their engagement (or lack thereof) within these online communities.  From Fortune 100 companies that distribute hardware all around the world to non-profit agencies that are doing their best to make a difference in the world, I have worked with groups to lend insight, support, ideas and action to social media programs. Given all of that, I’m quite pleased to announce that I have taken a new role within the industry.

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Interplay Between Search Marketing and Social Media

SM Funnel GroupM Search and comScore, Inc., (NASDAQ: SCOR), a leader in measuring the digital world, announced today the results of the first study ever conducted by comScore looking at the relationship between social media exposure and search behaviors. Conducted in tandem with social media agency M80, the study, “The Influenced: Social Media, Search and the Interplay of Consideration and Consumption,” reveals the dramatic correlation influenced discovery of brands through social media has with search behavior, including more lower-funnel searches and increased paid search click-through-rates (CTR). A white paper exploring the results and implications of the study is available on the GroupM Search blog, SearchFuel.

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Did You Know 4.0 [Video]

With so much information moving around online communities these days, it’s not often that I watch and then re-watch a 5 minute video. This morning I did just that, with the video embedded below called “Did You Know 4.0”.

You won’t see babies rollerskating or a funny wedding entrance in this…what you will see in a lot of data coming at you quickly. Data that talks about the changing communication landscape, the convergence of media and the massive impact that social networks are having on day to day life. I think it’s all incredibly fascinating, and is a brilliant and useful follow-up to another powerful video, “Shift Happens”. If you are connected to media, social networking, marketing or crowd communication in any way, please check this out and let me know what you think in the comments…not just about the video (which is top quality) but about the concepts and statistics brought up in it.

Creators, Reporters and Consumers

customer serviceI’m often asked about online behavior and how businesses can tap into certain market segments to find new customers, whether for their services or products.  It’s interesting to me that so often the online world seems so foreign to those that haven’t used it for much more than paying an electric bill on a website, and the questions I am asked usually end up being some variant of “what exactly does the online person look like…who are they?”  These questions come to me from seasoned business professionals that have sold tangible goods or services to people in real life; people they could see, talk to, shake hands with and ultimately sell to.  Why then, would they presume that the online community is so different?

The “real world” primarily consists of three groups of people in the goods and services lifecycle: creators, reports and consumers.

The Three Real World Groups

Creators represent the smallest segment, and most people that come to me for business and marketing consultation are in this group.  They are the makers, the business leaders, the companies that are producing something that they want to get into others’ hands. In the virtual world there are a few standouts like Amazon and Zappos (or is that now Zamazon?), but there are also millions of smaller players, and they aren’t necessarily distributing products; many service companies now what to sell you ideas to make your life better or service professionals to do work for you.  It doesn’t stop there; non-profits have hit the scene with causes and social ideas that they are creating and distributing through social networks and other online venues. The creators make the things that we need…or think we do.

Traditionally, the consumer lifecycle has been in three very distinct groups

Traditionally, the consumer lifecycle has been in three very distinct groups

Reporters represent the pundits, the talking heads, the reviewers and the public square criers. These are newspaper sites, blogs and other groups that tell us about what the creators are doing, because frankly most creators are pretty lousy at getting that information out themselves.  These groups usually have massive audiences (distribution channels) and produce content rapidly, in short and easy-to-digest segments (most readers lose interest before they hit the 600 word mark).  What is interesting to me about this group is that they are often hailed as collective industry leaders, change agents and cultural guides…yet very rarely do they produce any original content beyond a pithy opinion at the end of a press release usually written by the a creator.

Consumers by far represent the largest of the three groups, yet are the hardest to talk to.  As creators and reporters argue back and forth about how the one needs the other more, the reality is that neither group can survive without the consumers and they know it.  The consumers read the blogs, try the goods  and ultimately spend the money that keeps the other two going.  If you were to look at the online world as a cocktail party, the creators and the reporters are making all the noise and seem to be the life of the party, but they are surrounded and outnumbered by the consumers on a staggering scale, though usually the consumers will only sit quietly by, observing and occasionally writing something in the comments section.

That was the world before social media.

The New Class of Hyrbrid

Now things are different, and in a dramatic fashion.  You see, no longer do these three groups need to be so separated…there are a couple of new groups that have entered the scene: hybrids of the existing classes.

New Media and easy internet publishes has created hybrid classes within the consumer lifecycle

New Media and easy internet publishes has created hybrid classes within the consumer lifecycle

Creator/Reporters:  whereas the old mom and pop manufactures (those that didn’t have massive PR and marketing budgets) were really confined to smaller, local markets and relied heavily on personal word of mouth advertising, now they are able to reach a global audience with the same ease as their seaminlgy-overwhelming big box competitors.  In the real world, a small company that makes mismatched socks in sets of 3 could probably only survive on a boutique street in a trendy neighborhood.  Thanks to the web, companies like Little Miss Matched can not only survive, but thrive! They can use outlets like Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about their products, then let the users from around the web continue to comment, report, review and react to their brand.

Reporter/Consumers: up until recently, consumers didn’t really have a voice.  I grew up in a small town, and the only way one could praise or condemn a company was either a letter to the editor in the newspaper or a chat with the neighbors at the park.  Seriously.  Now what do we have?  Consumers can (and will) set up blogs, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages with just a few clicks of a mouse to share these same thoughts, but usually on a much larger scale.  Sometimes the “reports” of the consumers are circulated around a small group of friends on Twitter, and sometimes they make big waves around the world, such as the case of “United Breaks Guitars”.  Big or small, it doesn’t matter…the ability for the consumer to report is incredible and powerful, and should never be taken for granted.

The Takeaway

People that are stuck in the first model, where the groups are in three distinct buckets, are missing the point of social media.  No longer is there merit in a company complaining that they just don’t have the ability to reach out like the big companies.  While there are some obvious truths to a complaint like that (have you seen the prices of Super Bowl ads?), for the most part a little bit of time and money can produce incredible, far reaching results and allow you to skip right over the previous middle man that was the reporting and communicate directly with your customers…or future customers!

Likewise for the consumer, bad customer service and shoddy craftsmanship in overpriced products really should not be tolerated any longer.  This is not to say that you should constantly complain on Twitter about every little corporate pet peeve or bad experience you have…because I do not personally advocate that.  It does mean that you are closer than ever to the companies, and you likely have the ability to reach out to them.  I try to stay positive online and praise companies far more than I condemn them, hopefully this is no different than life outside of the keyboard and monitor.  Before I rant about bad service online, I do what I can to reach out to that company.  Sometimes this takes place on the phone, but hopefully now I can reach most folks on Twitter.

With the new connectivity that we are experiencing globally, leverage the opportunities that are before you, whether you are a creator or a consumer.  Jump into the conversation and tell your sphere of influence what you think…what you like, dislike and hope for.  That, my friends, is the joy and responsibility of social media.

(Photo used under Creative Commons License http://www.flickr.com/photos/purpletwinkie/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Why You Must Deal With Negative PR

One unhappy customer has created a PR disaster for United Airlines

One unhappy customer has created a PR disaster for United Airlines

Have you seen the uber-popular YouTube video “United Breaks Guitars”?  I’ve embedded it at the bottom of this post so you can, it’s well worth 4:36 of your time to see this creative and funny look at poor customer service.  Seems Dave Carroll from the band Sons of Maxwell had his guitar broken while flying on United Airlines, and just a handful of days ago released a music video detailing his complaint. If we take what he says as truth, he spent a year trying to get some resolve and was repeatedly told “no”.  Personally I believe him because I’ve dealt with similar issues while traveling, and the corporate “no” is just too common.

If you run a business, big or small, you need to pay attention to what is happening in the world. The days of burying customer complaints are over, you need to develop a social media strategy to handle social media issues.

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