Self discovery in social media-10 questions to ask yourself.

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Hey you, yea you. before you go and read or write another post that is about another post that is about another post, that chances are, was  about another post, lets ask ourselves some questions. Better yet, before you go and tell someone what you “do”, and before you fold the term “social media” in to that, at least ask and answer these questions.

  1. Are you willing to admit that social media is no longer the darling new kid on the block? It’s not new, you are.
  2. Are you tired of being the “me too” person/ or are you tired of that person? or do you even know that you are? How could you be different? What makes you, you?-Bring THAT to the table please.
  3. What does a social media junkie mean exactly? That you spend an incessant amount of time online? We need something better than someone who likens themselves to a junkie.
  4. Why do you follow the people that you follow on Twitter? To learn, to emulate, to share, to echo, to stalk, to sell to? Is there a rhyme or reason/ or are you just glad to be playing in the sandbox? Contribute.
  5. What are you hoping to get out of social media? To learn, to emulate, to share, to echo, to stalk? Is it a business reason, family, personal? How are you using the tools that define social media to define you?
  6. What original thought if any, are you bringing to the table? What is your opinion? I know what theirs is, so I don’t need to hear it from you.
  7. If you truly believe social media is about Facebook and Twitter, then be sure to fix your bio that says that you are a social media expert, enthusiast, consultant or other..
  8. What do you think social media is? Right now…today. In your own words.
  9. What are you telling people? If they asked you, what would you say?
  10. If you could change one thing about it, what would it be?

Ask these questions, if not for yourself, then at least for the others out there that are struggling with trying to keep the client focused on what is possible and what is real and what is “doable” with social media. SMB’s hear the buzz but they also need to hear the skinny.

Twitter and the lack of context

Context

(kŏntĕkst) n.

  1. The part of a text or statement that surrounds a particular word or passage and determines its meaning.
  2. The circumstances in which an event occurs; a setting

For the longest time one of the reasons that I loved Twitter so much was the free flow exchange of thoughts,  ideas and opinions that occurred in a staccato like fashion.  Recently, this has come back to bite me in the ass and has me completely changing my tune. Why? Well for a number of reasons, not the least of which I now feel I have to watch what I say, when I say it, how I say it, and the “context” in which I say “anything” on Twitter.  Sure, we have to do that all the time anyway right? But in the Twitterverse, part of it’s charm is the fact that there are a lot of free flowing streams of consciousness that you can wade into. Problem is, the water goes from 3 feet to 12 feet really quick.

Before I had decided to write this post I already had a couple of really good examples of this simmering topic brought to my attention. Not the least of which was my own. My “trouble” started when I essentially was voicing my opinion on a topic with someone I admired very much and whose opinion and knowledge I valued. To sum it up, I was rebuked and my opinion was dismissed in a way where I had figuratively checked the mirror to see if my nose was bleeding. I took it personally.

So having thought that I perhaps did something wrong, I tried to “correct” the situation by asking if I had said or done something wrong and if I did, I did not mean it. I had apologized. I even went and looked back on my tweets, searching for the hidden meaning and “context” and wondering, where was context lost. In the meantime, No response. I tried to engage that person in another conversation or exchange on Twitter. Nothing. I apologized again. Nothing. I apologized one more time, for fear of losing this person’s virtual friendship and nothing. Wow..Twitter sucks. No it doesn’t. Lack of context does.

You see 2 things collided. I misinterpreted  some tweets, I assumed our perceived Twitter relationship allowed me to voice such an opinion and it obviously didn’t. That was mistake #1 and #2, was that person did not hear the tone, inflection and “the way” I was voicing my opinion. All lost in 140 characters. I said I was sorry and it obviously was not enough. That part was disconcerting to say the least.

Daria Steigman a communications strategist from DC wrote a fantastic post titled “Context and the Twitter echo chamber”, in which she pondered the following,”

Have you ever deleted a tweet because you were afraid it might be taken out of context? I did, and I’m not sure I made the right decision.

Wow, Daria has not been on Twitter that long, but she still feels the need already to self censor and question what she is about to tweet for fear of the context that it might be taken in. I know, you’re probably saying, “Well shouldn’t everyone”? Yes and no. We should definitely think before talking or tweeting, but we should also not censor what we think or feel strongly about for fear about what others might think or interpret or misconstrue in regards to its context.

Context is a fickle thing. Twitter notwithstanding, in the online world, it rears it’s ugly head regularly in chat, IM, or e-mail. We are not privy to tone, inflection, or circumstance, and on Twitter this is magnified as brightly as a self serving tweet from Guy Kawasaki.  Om Malik has written that to a certain degree, Twitter only enhanced an already chaotic scene in Mumbai.  He was having difficulty assigning  proper context to the vast amount of tweets and retweets, assumptions and speculation that were coming in from Twitter. It made the situation worse for him and he wondered, how does one make sense of the torrent of information?

I think you make sense by having direct communication with an individual, if possible, if there is a problem. I’m learning that I do have to watch what I say. The more people that follow you the more your thoughts and words can be misconstrued.  For awhile I thought, is it me? Am I the only one experiencing this? Maybe not.  I asked marketer Beth Harte, who frequently writes about the subtle nuances that are Twitter, what she thought about Twitter and context..

I have had tons of tweets misunderstood or misconstrued  Why? Because the tweets aren’t threaded. As well, when people join in the conversation, you can’t always see when or at what point they jumped in. And sometimes two people who were part of your conversation, start having their own, on their own- and you can’t see that always either. There’s a lot that is lost

Boom. There’s a lot lost. I was talking to community manager Sonny Gill that it’s sort of like going up to two people in a bar who are facing each other and obviously having a conversation and you step right in the middle and just comment on what the other person just said.

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Sonny’s thoughts were interesting, he stated:

I think IF we watch what we say, we’re gonna end up taking a step back, individually and in the industry. Don’t believe we need to watch our step when we tweet.

So the question begs: Do we start to watch what we say or do we just let it fly? Rae Hoffman who has a very popular blog and and an even better Twit Stream, will fully admit as much that her tweets are not for the sqeamish and tweets “to follow if you dare”. Transparency.

Liz Strauss, whose opinions and thoughts I respect as much as anyone in the space, and who truly has the ability to bring thinking, clarity, insight, and understanding to almost any topic, adds this:

People don’t yet understand the “social” in social media means that they are dealing with real relationships with real people and real business relationships at the same time. This crossover of business and personal is revolutionary and more “small town” than corporate. It requires individual maturity — an ability to be personally invested with out taking things personally.

She goes on to say that:

Threaded conversation could very well make it worse. … because they will make the issues / slights /  social miscues harder to walk away from and easier for the larger group to see

Liz couldn’t be more accurate. A lot of us, myself included, have blurred the lines of what we truly use Twitter for. Is it a tool, is it personal, is it for business? Is it all of the above? Maybe, just maybe that’s where the loss of context can occur? We have so many conversations going on in so many streams, or we insert ourselves into so many streams, that we lose the context of each one, because each is different, but we charge forward anyway, blindly into the conversational abyss of someones tweets.  So what to do about it?

Paul Chaney, Director of Internet Marketing for Bizzuka who writes a killer blog and knows  15 do’s and don’ts about Twitter has this thought:

It’s difficult, if not nigh impossible, to convey context via a text-only medium, particularly one that only allows 140 characters.
Thats another reason video will become more of a standard form of interpersonal online communication. You can see and hear the person’s actual intent, tonal inflections, facial expression.

I think that once a conversation begins to get out of hand it’s time to take it to email for further explanation, or even a phone call to smooth ruffled feathers.   Saying “I’m sorry” always goes a long way too

Paul always has a way to bring levity and sage wisdom to a situation or a conversation.  Perhaps what is truly needed in conversations where context is lost, is an effort on both parties to clear up the misunderstanding through perhaps a more effective means of communication that does not involve 140 characters.

In the end,  there will be more and more instances of context lost as Twitter continues to scale. Most will shrug it off, some will take it personal and some will it work it out but as Liz Strauss adds,

At the moment I take heart in the fact that tweets die quickly … they are, however, discoverable in court.

Lastly, It’s only a matter of time for something like what Liz has mentioned to happen and to that point a chiropractor is suing a Yelp user over negative reviews. Context anyone?

So I ask you esteemed readers,  Do we need to watch  what you say? Do we need to start policing our own tweets? Have your tweets ever been taken out of context? If so, what did you do or not do about the situation?

Social Media could be the savior for SMB’s

help-copy

6 days into 2009 and I’m sure we all have our goals set or we’re busy finalizing what we are going to do. I make these lists and I write down thoughts at a furious pace and still, in the back of my mind, I’m constantly wondering what everyone is collectively thinking right now. By everyone, I’m really referring to small and medium sized business owners. The economy sucks and business is wayy down..

They have to be wondering where the business is going to come from or how they are going to get business utilizing their existing forms of advertising, sales, and marketing. The problem is,  how effective do those continue to be? Were they ever? Do they know they are not working? Do they utilize metrics or do they fly by the seat of their pants to measure their effectiveness? Do they understand that there is more for less out there right now? Or is it less for less? Their heads have to be swimming. I know mine is.

Initially I would have said No,  SMB’s are not aware of their advertising, sales and marketing effectiveness, but in that sense I was referring to “as it pertains to social media”, as in how effective could all these initiatves be if they were using social media, and that is completely true. SMB’s do not know much about how social media might be able to turn the tide.The power. The effectiveness. The impact.

But they do know plenty about what is and what isn’t working in regards to their  sales and marketing initiatives. I love what Christian Maurer says about this:

In today’s business climate, sales organizations think that they have to increase their activities to counteract the increased reluctance of customers to buy. These increased activities will however not necessarily be rewarded by higher revenue.One might end up trying to get more juice from an already squeezed out lemon

So enter Social Media. The darling of the last few years. We go from product centric to customer centric. But how do you articulate that social media could be just what the doctor ordered? Well I could wax eloquent on that question for awhile but I’d like to refer you to Kyle Lacy’s 4 part series on social media marketing for the small business as a primer. It’s a wonderful piece and more so, it exposed me to a great blog for small business called The Marketing Spot. I highly recommend you add it to your list in 2009.

Ok so back to you Mr. and Mrs. SMB how do you go about learning whether Social Media is the cure for what is ailing your business? And how do you do it quickly because you don’t have time to ramp something like this up. WHAT DO YOU DO FIRST?

-You could try and learn about “It” on your own but you need to know what “it” is. This might help.

-But then after you figure out what it is, you then need to know who you can trust or what to look for in a social media consultant, because you don’t have time to be doing this, right?

-Once you figured out what to look for, then you need to decide “who to look for”

-So now that you have “that” person or agency selected, now you have to have a strategy and they have to share that with you, so that you know exactly what they are trying to do for you and your business.

A blueprint of how that person works is a good thing to have, it lets you know exactly how they work and it is a key component that we talk about all the time and that’s transparency in social media. Amber Naslund does a great job of discussing her “blueprint” in this post.

-Now that we have the strategy and the blueprint, it’s time to implement. Don’t worry though, your accomplished social media strategist knows just what to do.

OK, so you know what it is, you know what to look for, you know who they are, you know what they’ll do and you know how they’ll do it. But the last thing we have to do is we still have to measure what they’ve done.

-We talk all the time about how to measure social media but here’s a simple framework for measuring it’s effectiveness.

With that in mind, I end with this; As long as you know upfront what you are trying to accomplish and you adhere somewhat to these steps above, you may just have figured out how to incorporate social media into your SMB marketing  plan! But don’t stop there and don’t rely solely on your social media expert/strategist. Take the time to learn as much as you can as you go, so that you can understand the sea change that is happening within the worlds of PR, marketing, advertising and communication.


10 websites to get you started in 2009

mousetrap1

In the new year its all about doing what we do better, streamlining it and being more effective, here is a list of websites and blog posts that just might help you get that ball rolling.

Lee Odden whom I respect very much has just posted an article about 6 social search engines. The great thing about this, is that I have not heard of any of these before and I love when there are new shiny things out there that might make what we do better. Let me know what you think.

Contrary to how some of you might use Twitter or better yet, the way you add followers, I like to check out who’s following me before I follow them back. With that being said, Taly Weiss started following me the other day, and as I’m wont to do, I checked out her bio and then checked out her  blog site, Trendspotting, This site has so much cool data that it can only help to shape your opinions to make you smarter. I’m glad we found each other.

So staying on the topic of Twitter, if you don’t know what Mr. Tweet is yet, I’d suggest you investigate. Do so at your own risk since it helps you determine who you should follow. You could end up using it all day. But even better, check out Mr. Tweet’s blog too.

And while you’re at it, read this article about the 10 ways that twitter will be changing blog design in 2009. I’m not sure I totally agree with it, but you can definitely see how Twitter is weaving it’sw ay into the fabric of what do online.

I haven’t used this yet but at $139 a year for online  computer and technical support, it isn’t a bad deal. Although iYogi led me to think it was a yoga site.

Here’s a great list of the up and coming companies of  the 2009 Social CRM/CRM 2.0 Space, maybe one of them might help you or your company?

Profilactic is a social media aggregator/lifestreaming service that pulls together just about everything you and your friends create online, it currently supports 190 social sites.

I came across Ennect somehow somewhere, maybe one of its web marketing components  might work for you?

A very good friend of mine Paul Chaney writes a great blog, check out what his 4 goal words are for 2009 and then go check out the company Paul works for Bizzuka

Ok, so now you have 10 sites or blog posts that can jump start 2009. You see if we can’t share the resources that we bookmark, then how else are we going to get better at what we do? I need to rely on you to help me get better. What sites or blogs would you suggest or recommend?