Archive for the 'communities' Category

Does Transparency Need a Filter?

opaque

If we thought millennials shared too much, what are we to think of the YouTube generation or as they might be called, Gen C? Better yet, what are we to think of anyone with zero filter nowadays? A product of the times? Good for them, they’re just being transparent?

I ask that because recently a friend of mine was on a call in which there were multiple participants.  He mentioned that one person took it as an opportunity to share their dirty laundry, their clean laundry and anything else that might be bothering them. All at the expense of the others on the call and at the expense of the allotted time for the call. He said that at best, some of what he was talking about might have been relevant. At worst, it was awkward and uncomfortable.

Funny thing, this was not a millennial nor a Gen C’er. We think the aforementioned groups share too much and have no concept of what should and shouldn’t be shared in social media, but I digress.

Some might applaud this “transparency” as a new way to do business where we can all share our thoughts and feelings, but when is it too much? Even in a loose business setting, which this was not apparently, and especially on calls, time is fleeting. Personal forums for airing what bothers you on a conference call is not the time or place. It’s a matter of etiquette and being respectful of others’ time.

This has nothing to do with no filters and transparency and everything to do with understanding what tact is in a business setting. Clearly, there is a difference between being tactful, being blunt, and being transparent and having no filters. The key is to understand which one you’re supposed to use and when you’re supposed to use it.

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There are no take backs in social media…

 

Originally I was going to write about how NFL players not playing this past Sunday were tweeting during the NFC championship game about  how Quarterback Jay Cutler seemed to NOT want to go back in the game because of a perceived injury to his knee, how he was not tough, how he was soft, how he lacked heart. Little did they know that he was actually hurt. They were reacting more to his body language, to what the camera showed us or by what was being said or not said during the telecast. Little did they know that thousands were reading what they were tweeting.

I was going to talk about how the players NOT PLAYING  tweeted things I’m sure in hindsight they wish they could have taken back about one of their peers. How they didn’t know the impact this was going to have. How Jay Cutler couldn’t even defend himself given that the game was going on. It was compounded by how quickly it became viral over the course of the next 24-48 hours. Some players retracted what they said through additional tweets AFTERWARDS but the fact of the matter was that the tweets are there to be seen, searched and read by thousands. FOREVER!

Well if this authority figure or this well known former or current player said it or thought it or tweeted it, it must be right? It must be true. Right???

Yep I was going to talk about how athletes should be careful of what they say about themselves or others especially on social networks. Until it happened to me. This is one of those valuable lessons that includes more than public figures. It’s about you and me and how we treat others. And I feel awful about it. Let me give you a quick background.

I joined a private group in Facebook. It was a fun irreverent group of like minded professionals initially talking about the stuff, the challeneges , and the issues we face every day. But the tone of the group slowly shifted or evolved into something I didn’t really recognize anymore. I felt somewhat uneasy about the change and actually thought about leaving the group prior to; but I still fired up the machine to see what was being talked about and to contribute.

What happened was I got caught up in the bashing of a colleague and peer who I have respect for. He wasn’t there to defend himself. He wasn’t part of the group. It wasn’t fair. It’s one thing to critique a blog post-Hey we all write crappy ones from time to time, but taking it down a notch was not fair. I didn’t defend him, I joined in and kicked him too! It was there for people to read and comment on what I said. Most didn’t notice but I did. It’s bothered me ever since.  I know better. Not just the fact that it was on a social network but this has to do with civility and respect.

Afterwards, a good friend who was there and who actually defended this person, took the time to point out to me that I was better than that. She was right. I just wish I had realized it before. Sure it was in a private Facebook group but I can’t take back what I did and naming names does me or this blog post no good, but there’s a valuable lesson here. It’s one in which I’ve told companies about and probably fuels a lot of their trepidation of social media engagement.

Once it’s out there, it’s out there for everyone to see. It’s in ink not pencil

Sometimes, the hardest lessons are the ones you have to experience first hand. The NFL players who tweeted about Jay Cutler probably wish they could take back what they said, and so do I. It’s not part of what I am about. I can do better. I apologize. Like I said, there are no take backs in social media.

What drives participation in a social network?

If you’re a social media consultant like Jay Baer, or a larger organization like Accenture for instance, one of the constant constants in social media is the amount of education required to get people all on the same page, before anything can really be accomplished.

With that being said, once people are “there”, and they “get it”, they can see pretty quickly what the trans-formative nature and power of  social media is like, and what it can do.

But it took a post from the The Next Great Generation to open my eyes to what we are really talking about here and what really drives participation in social networks. It’s amazing that I can be so immersed in it and not really see what is going on. Check out these quotes from the post:

There was no validation that what I did was comment-worthy, no “cute” notations on Yelps, no retweets of my witty Twitter updates

and

Social media validates my feelings and actions. Seeing them online makes them real and takes them out of me, much in the way that I imagine it would be to keep a diary.”

What is the common theme there? Validation. Simply put, what we do in our communities needs to be validated. No one likes to create content in a vacuum. Conversations become just that, conversations, when someone responds to you. We need that reaction. the dialogue, not the monologue. Be it positive, negative or indifferent-the social creature in us needs the juice.

As well, by simply creating and putting it “out there” validates our existence in these social networks. We become “part” of the dynamic of the group, of the community. You are a creator and you’re validating yourself for the group.

Crowds applause-that validates. Social Media flash mobs go nuts over corporate missteps-they validate each other in unison and then are further validated by Twitter, blogs and reaction from the company itself. All forms of validation.

You write a blog post or tweet something or create a video, or write a review-you do it because you want to become part of something and it all rings hollow until someone notices and says something. Blogs were and still are great because not only did it provide a forum and platform for self expression but it also provided instant feedback.  It validated both readers and writers.

Social media engagement is all about validating each other and our experiences and the content that we have created and…shared

Consider:

  • A high number of views=validates
  • A high number of blog comments= validates the topic
  • Trying to creating a video=searching for validation
  • Snarky comment on Twitter=need for validation

The list can go on and on but I have to thank the folks over at TNGG for validating what I had completely missed in this space. You see, it’s the little things that can sometimes go completely unnoticed, and once you notice them, they aren’t so little after all.

Nurture the connection not the platform

watering plant2

I’ve come across in recent days a number of people and their blogs who have struck a chord with me in a good way. I have found them in oh so many ways, but the bottom line is that I have found them. Which gave me cause to think.

I look at what makes us do what we do in online communities, in social networks and as much as I would like to thank the developers for creating a platform in which we can connect, I also realize that.

“No man is an island.”

-from John Donne

It’s the power and the passion of the people that make it work. It’s people being people. I also realize that because of the power of networks and the strength of the people that are within them, quotes like the one below, mean nothing.

You know where you are?
You’re in the jungle baby.
You’re gonna die!

-Guns n Roses,”Welcome to the jungle”

However, I do think it’s important to understand that though these networks can be robust and filled with people, if you don’t engage or try and in engage in thoughtful and meaningful discussions and conversations, you have nothing.  Thus, you might as well be speaking to no one.

“In space no one can hear you scream.”

-Tagline from 1979 movie Alien

Without people and without connections, they, the networks, will die on the vine. And as much as we depend on the platform for our connections, its more important to nurture the connection rather than the platform. Because what if the platform goes away tomorrow? What will you do, or what will you have to show for it?

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

-George Berkeley, Irish philosopher

Social media is free…but I’m not

free

It’s been one of those days… so I’m going to allow myself just a wee bit of time before I snap out of it.  I’m going to vent. It started this morning when I heard back from a prospective client who liked the 5 page social media strategy overview document but…

The “but” was they wanted more specific details on what I was going to do. I told them that I would give them the specifics in time. but that I thought that it was important that they understand the how and the why before we got into the how to and the what for. I did this because we’re talking about a client that knows virtually nothing about social media.

If I would have given them the latter, 2 things would have happened. 1)  It would have been so over their head that they would have not understood and probably bailed and or 2) Believe it or not, they could take the document and either try and implement it themselves, or use it as a blueprint with another company and leverage their new found knowledge. You might not think that happens, but it does, as well as some other things  Why?

The ease of entry into social media is less than zero. I can sign up for a majority of social networks in less than a minute. I can create social profiles in less time. So the assumption with a lot of companies and people is, “What is so hard about being social”? or creating a Facebook page, or a Twitter profile?and you know what? They are right. It’s easy.

Boom.

The thinking is really as simple as the majority of social interfaces that you see. Just create a profile and now you’re part of the social media revolution. You don’t need a consultant or a company to tell you how to do this. It’s easy. Plus there’s all of these killer blogs and sites with free information on social media, all these free tools, you can just figure all of it out on your own.

Sure. You can figure it out until it falls flat and you have one comment on your blog post. You have 19 registered members in your community, or you have 5,000 followers and you’re  following 5,000 but you have 111 tweets and zero conversations. Or maybe that Facebook page of yours has 56 fans but is doing nothing else. Or the YouTube video you made, has driven approximately 24 views.  When stuff is free, you get what you paid for.

There are some seriously smart people in this space. I value what they do and say and we value what we do and say, and we value what we create. But we also are working for a living. As much as we would like to give it away, we can’t. As it stands, the majority of people in this space, give away a lot. In fact, the amount of time that a lot of the social media marketing people that I know, give away, is extreme.  In terms of amounts of their time and resources-there is not a more giving  bunch. That’s the essence of social media.

But… at the end of the day, bills have to be paid and you’re going to have to take that leap of faith.

I’m done venting.

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When the social media relationship ends…

The_Way_We_Were

In my previous post about nurturing relationships, I was skewered a bit for not really pinning down the how’s and why’s as much as I was alluding to going out and just doing it. Ok, I get that. perhaps another post is in order in which I suggest specific tools on how to nurture a relationship via social networking. But in the meantime, I wanted to tell you a quick and true story about what happens when the relationship goes bad in social networks.

It goes like this

About 4 years ago I had created an online community to support the sales and marketing efforts of a CPG. Why did I create it? Initially I thought it just made sense to put up a KB with some bells and whistles, but it quickly became evident that something larger was needed just because of the amount of emails and feedback we were getting. I’d like to claim it was some great epiphany but no, it just made sense.  So the community was born. 5000 members strong.

Mistakes are made

I decided to manage it. You’ll be pleased to know that I was not transparent and I hid behind a cleverly stupid name. Mistake #1.

Mistake #2, though we had created a rules and regulations, TOS, policies page, I did not adhere to enforcing them. I would capitulate time and time again in my efforts to make everyone happy. Lesson #1/Mistake #2, You cannot possibly make everyone happy as a community manager.

As I kept my distance from the community and only appeared on an as needed basis, my stature took on the persona of something that resembled the all powerful and mighty Oz. I would come in periodically, settle a dispute swiftly, siding with the person who I didn’t want to piss off and away I would go. Further alienating people as I went. Mistake #3 Not abiding by the TOS, having little or no affinity to the members of the community, and essentially being completely out of touch with the nuances of the community.

To alleviate this headache, I appointed 3 moderators to buffer the criticism. The problem was I gave them too much power and they instituted their own brand of vigilante justice. Mistake #4 I was now playing favorites and siding with the moderators who may not have had the best interests of the community at hand, since they were not being paid and were merely the “appointed” brand champions of the community.

Mistake #5 Instead of reasoning and understanding and trying to empathize with the passionate members of the community, I would throw down the swift hand of justice. I would warn members and then subsequently kick them out. Some got second and third chances, others did not.

When the social network relationship goes really bad.

Instance #1 The person I kicked out, did a blog post on how he would like to kick my ass and kill me. Now this person did have some issues but instead of me trying to reason with this person, who was by the way, a brand champion- I kicked them out. This person was a very very popular member of the group and  once gone, weakened the core group of passionate users and brand champions. Mistake #6 I didn’t realize how important this person was until they were gone.

Instance #2 Another brand champion was just a bit too busy on the site. Always emailing me, IM’ing me with suggestions, how to’s, criticism, you name it. I took it all in stride but he was always seeing how far he could push things in regards to what he would do for the sake of the group and to his page within the site. I found myself always having to check his page, his comments, his posts, and his avatar to see if he was behaving. I was also periodically geting complaints about him from other members, as well as the mods. Which then meant that I had to talk to him  and tell him to chill. It was getting old.

I had warned him on numerous occasions and he would comply and behave for a bit, but not for long. The last straw was him dropping some code on some of his pages which locked down the site for quite some time. That was it. He had to go. So I kicked him out.

From bad to worse

Did he go quietly? No.In short order he did the following: He found every social site that I was a part of and did everything in his power to make my life miserable. He either trashed me, the site, or the product. When he wasn’t doing that, he was creating multiple and I mean multiple personas, and coming back into the community, and proceeding to again, trash me, the product, the company and anything else he could think of to disrupt the site. It was a community nightmare to the nth degree.

So what did I do? I tried to follow behind him and clean the mess up, but that proved virtually impossible. So I did the only thing I could do. I reached out to him and brought back into the community, back into the fold. Why? Because it was easier to “manage him” within the community rather than outside of it. It was a very unpopular decision. Mistake #7 The best move turned out to be the worst moved followed by an even worse move.

By now, most people had had enough and to be honest, at this point, things were starting to die down. The brand champions were moving on, the passion was waning, and there was nothing really happening at the corporate level-that was keeping people involved and engaged in the community.

Lessons learned

So yes, in a sense, the moderators and the administrators certainly didn’t help things. Nor did we learn from our mistakes or adapt from them. But on a larger level, the community life-cycle, the people that made the community thrive, and the site as a whole, were diminishing, either by my actions or just the natural progression of things. Could it have been prevented? Hard to say. The easy answer is yes, but how long would that have prolonged the shelf life? Relationships begin and end and begin again, all the time. In some cases it just wasn’t meant to be and in others it is. In this one, there are valuable lessons everywhere, you just have to know how to look,  and not necessarily where.

My point is this. All of our social relationships right now are thriving in one way or another but for how long? The natural progression of things dictates that most of them will flame out. At that point what is left? What do we have for the effort? Your takeaway?  Understand the value of purpose before the relationship begins in earnest knowing that there is the distinct possibility that the relationship will end.

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Social Media best practices. Part 1.

Awhile back, Ari Herzog who writes a wonderful blog over at AriWriter.com  asked me to do a guest post on his blog for a series he’s doing on social media best practices. Rather than give him the usual written 500 words on the 7 things, 5 tips, or 4 factors that you absolutely must do in social media, I decided to mail it in and do a 3 part V-log instead. I hope he doesn’t mind! I’d also be curious as to what you might think of my 2 assertions here as well.


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Marc Meyer is a Digital and Social Media Strategist at DRMG. This is my personal blog where I share observations, thoughts and opinions that are all my own.

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