Social Media Specialists Are No Longer Needed

If you’ve been in this business for any length of time, then its time to take your collective aggregate knowledge of social media and add it to the overall mix of what you know and do. We’re at least five years in and I want you to quit being a social media specialist, because you aren’t one any longer. Simply put, and I’ve written about this at various points in the past, we’re all becoming social media generalists.

I used to be  an SEO specialist until  what I did just became a small  part of the daily mix of things that I did for our clients. There was also a time where I used to do nothing but manage PPC campaigns until it just became part of each clients overall web marketing strategy.

We all did something before social media

We all could mildly claim that we are or were bloggers at one point in time, except that it’s now merely part of what we do for our clients and respective companies. Same with video/vlogging, same with social media optimization, same with email marketing, same with creating websites, designing logos, writing copy, and creating tag lines; at one point in time it was unique and special but now-it’s just a sum total part of the collective us. We’re pulling from our collective experiences now. It’s natural and expected.

By now social should be a small part of what you do, but not all of what you do- At least for some of you. In fact, and I know a lot of you who fall into this category, there was a time where you owned social media and no one else could touch you. You were oracles of the social media soundbite.  Not anymore, social media knowledge bearers and practitioners are multiplying like rabbits and they know the game just as well as you do except…

You still have an advantage...

When I first got started in social it was for reputation management purposes and even then it wasn’t as much about the conversation as it was about understanding social media and its relationship to search… or I should say a blogs relationship to search (Facebook and Twitter weren’t even part of the conversation yet) Back then, a lot of you SEO’ers were merely concerned or wondering how to hyperlink signatures with keywords-I know that’s what I did, but then I evolved and so did you. Case in point.  I can bet all of you who have had a blog longer than a year can now spot a noob to the blog scene. How? When you get comment spam from people who insist on hyperlinking their generic, lame, weak, comment to a no-follow keyword based signature, you know… and you ask “Did they really just do that”? You’ve evolved.

Let’s digress

Things are changing. skill sets are changing- for example, if you are a PR practitioner, when did it become imperative that you understood how to not only write for your client, but also how to write for search? Or where the title of the promo piece was as important as the content contained within? Or better yet, when was it asked of PR practitioners that they had to understand the value of making connections with people in social networks? or starting blogger outreach campaigns? The PR person of today has many skills across multiple disciplines. They have to have them to survive.

Things change, people learn and skills evolve.

For Marcom people adding social to the mix is just another in the long list of things that are now just part of the job description. Yes we all still have to deal with the pretenders in the space, the snake oil salesman if you will, but for a lot of us, social is just part of the mix now. There was a time where I hated hearing the comment, “Yea but there is no ROI in social”; Now? I love to hear that comment so that I can fire both barrels of justification back at them. I’ve evolved and so have you. Marcom people need to know social, marketing, writing, PR, email marketing, advertising and design. Do they have to have deep knowledge? No, but give me breadth if I can’t have depth.

The next act

You see for a lot of you, your baseline level of knowledge in social now sets you up for what’s next. For those of you with an agency background, social is now just a part of what one does when creating a campaign. In some cases it’s the cornerstone, in others, it augments. Same with design. It’s a given that sites will have social components now-The hard part used to be finding people who could carry out the idealistic social initiatives aligned with the campaign, not any more. The troops are waiting for their marching orders.

Now social media failure isn’t so much based on the unknown or the person with a lack of knowledge, as much as it is based on a weak strategy, poor management, the wrong KPI’s or bad tactics. For a lot of you, you are the ones that will lead the charge into the new era of well rounded, seasoned generalists with skill sets that cover, tech, social, marketing, pr, and web. That’s the person I want and that’s the person that brands need.

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United Airlines PR nightmare

The airlines industry is an easy subject to pick on, to bash and to trash. Of course they don’t help the situation when they have to deal with PR nightmares. Check out the video that currently has, 388,659 views, and then read the whole story at the jump.

Dave Carroll is a musician who makes a living with his guitar.

Check out the comment from a spokesperson with United Airlines after the video went viral:

“This struck a chord with us,” said Robin Urbanski, spokeswoman for Chicago-based United. “We are in conversation with one another to make what happened right.”

It struck a chord? Ya think?

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Is it really about being transparent?

avoidance

In Business, I don’t really have a hard time saying “I’m sorry”, I just don’t like saying it, because it constitutes either failure or the inability to “do” something. It conveys that perhaps you did not hold up your end of the bargain. And yet, a lot of people cannot say it or do not say it, or, do everything in their power to avoid it. That makes things worse.

I don’t like saying “No”, because it means I can’t or won’t do something for you. I am refusing to do something for you. Some people do not like to hear No, or in some cases won’t take No as an answer. Others, instead of saying No, agree or say yes, when they really shouldn’t. That’s not a smart thing to do.

I don’t like saying ‘Goodbye”, because it signifies that our current engagement is ending or over and sometimes you don’t want it to end. Other times saying goodbye is exactly what’s needed a “good” bye. Sometimes, it’s just time.

In life, and in business,  some things are painful to do. We don’t want to do them because they hurt or we fear that we will lose business.  The three things that I mentioned above are all communications issues aren’t they? But in each scenario, its a form of communication that is often times necessary but avoided. Which again, makes things worse.

Sometimes we do have to say No.

Sometimes we do have to say I’m sorry.

and Sometimes we do have to say Goodbye.

What happens to the marketing person, the social media specialist, or the PR pro that decides to incorporate those three words into their lexicon?

They get Respect. Street Cred. and probably more business. Is this about being transparent?

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Social Media begs the following 50 questions:

Below are 50 questions that prior to the creation of social networks, had no home. But now, all of these questions have a relavent place in the hiearchy that is “social networking” and thus needed to be answered. Because, though there are millions upon millions of people out there that know about social networks, there are millions that are clueless. Before we start answering these questions, are there any that I might have neglected or forgot to ask? Let’s get to it then.

  • What is a social network? For this answer we head to Youtube. You can watch it now, or come back to it.

 

  • Is it like MySpace? Well maybe we should qualify what MySpace is!
  • What’s Facebook?
  • Is it like blogging? Hmmmm…first, let’s explain what blogging is!
  • How does it work? Social networks are  networks of relationships that we have formed that tie us to others that may have a something in common with us. Think the 6 degrees of separation game. Think about what happens when you meet someone new. You ask where they work, where they grew up, where they went to school etc etc. Eventually, you realize that this person knows the girl that you work with and is a relative of your best friends boss.  Even though you’ve never met before, you’re both part of the same social network — a friend of a friend if you will. So, Social-networking sites “make off-line relationships more transparent” by allowing us to see (with pictures, videos and links) who our friends are, who our friends’ friends are, and who our friends’ friends’ friends are — all in a supposed easy-to-use format. Like a MySpace or Facebook. When you create a profile on a social-networking site, you are putting yourself out there and saying, “Hey world here I am, who knows me? and who wants to be my friend? and who do you know?” You can use the social site to:
    • look up old friends; make new ones
    • share music, photos and videos
    • join groups based on interests such as politics, hobbies, sports, religion or pets.
    • find jobs or love; or network with other professionals.
  • Are you on MySpace or Facebook? If you are 18-34, This might be one of the key face to face questions you may ask of someone within the first 5 minutes of meeting them.
  • What do I do with it? Here is an interesting response from Marcel de Ruiter and his blog Shaping Thoughts
  • How many social networks can I join? According to Mashable, last year there were 350 that they thought were worth mentioning, but I imagine that that number has grown exponentially. Pick your niche and I bet you can find a social network for it!
  • How many hours should I spend in social networks? Although Jennifer Laycock has some thoughts on this, I’d say this depends on what you want to get out of your social network. Depending on the number of social networks you join, you really should pick just a few and develop those. It really should amount to time spent once you are home from work or school. But not to the extent that your school work or your job performance starts to suffer.
  • How can I grow my business with social networks? Entrepreneur.com has a great piece on how to grow your business using social media. But make sure you have a firm foundation and understanding of what you are getting into before setting out. This also will allow you to ask better questions, should you choose to have someone grow your business with the help of social media.
  • What is the value proposition of being in a social network? According to Jill Konrath “A value proposition is a clear statement of the tangible results a customer gets from using your products or services. The more specific your value proposition is, the better. ”  However Jim Long seems to have nailed by saying that “At the end of the day, isn’t the value proposition that it connects people on a deeply personal level across time and geography? I think so, Jim…
  • What do I get? It all depends on what you want. Just like anything else, what you get out of it is in direct proportion to what you put into it.
  • Am I spending my time properly by being in or on a social network? A great post on this sits here, titled “Avoiding information and conversational overload from social media” My thanks again to Jennifer Laycock
  • Am I using it right? There is no right way or wrong way, though if you do nothing with a page that you have created, then chances are, not much will happen with it. Remember, the essence of social networking is to find your voice and find others who have the same voice. Finding others just like you is one of the primal instincts of mankind and animals alike. We like to run with our packs. Find your pack and the experience will be golden.
  • Am I using it wrong? See the above answer.
  • How do I know the difference between Facebook and MySpace?. Chris Salazar has an excellent post on this exact question, so for those who truly do not know the difference between the two check it out.
  • Do the developers really know what I want and care about on a social network? Of course they do… to a certain extent. Social networking sites are not successful unless they know or have an idea what people want. And ever since Facebook opened up their development platforms, the widgets are flying in. Widgets expand the things that you can do with your page and actually help you network with others.
  • Do I care what they do with my information? You should, so watch this:

 

  • If I am not on a social network, will I be scorned? Absolutely not. One of the biggest constraints to SN is the allocation of time that one has to set aside to “do this”. If you don’t have time, then thats fine. That would generally mean that you have your days and evenings filled with work, school and family obligations, in which case, there is nothing you can do about it and bridges will not be burned if you are not part of a social network.
  • Should I worry about social media and its effect on children? If you are a parent, if you do not do anything, then it’s like swimming in an undertow, you swim at your own risk. To not monitor what your children are doing online, not only in a social network setting, but in general, is foolish and ignorant. For more information on this subject try Connect Safely
  • What about predators in social networks? All you need to know on this subject can be found on the link, but if you are a parent you need to be vigilant and if you are a kid, just be smart.
  • Is social media measurable? According to Jeremiah Owyang “For many marketers who want to deploy a campaign on a social network, access to server metrics isn’t always available. As a result, they have to often visually monitor the interaction on the site, or measure click throughs to their site. In some of the more sophisticated platforms, a crude dashboard is provided.”
  • Is there a niche site out there for me? If so what can I do with a social networking site that is geared especially to my interests? There are tons of niche sites, in fact, in this blog, if you do a search and just title it top social sites, you should find something, better yet, here are the latest numbers for February of the top 25 social networking sites.
  • Isn’t it the same thing as chat and online forums and bbs’s? Yes and no. That is more Web 1.0 and social networking sites are more Web 2.0. Bbs’s are and were more static and had zero real time applications to them. Chat is and was real time but did not have the other tools attached to make the chat expereince more interactive and fullfilling. Social networks are more about sharing and creating and communicating. Its more about user generated content. Chat is just what it is, it’s talking and nothing more, to a certain extent.
  • It’s difficult for me to use, isn’t there a simpler way of doing it? Its going to get easier. As each iteration of social media evolves it will become more user friendly, more intuitive, and easier to set up. Remember, we are talking about something that is still really in its infancy.
  • Are there social networks for minorities? There are, though social networks are not, for the most part, geared towards any specific race, creed or color. There are some social networks, however.  that are geared more towards people of color. A primary example of this would be Black planet
  • If social networks are so cool, then shouldn’t they be available to the disadvantaged? That’s a great question and one that needs to be thrown out there for more discussion. Stanford University, touches on it here, but not to the level that it really deserves.
  • Will society eventually look down upon people who are not associated with a particular social network? I hope not, but if were to look into my crystal ball, it would seem to be heading towards a society where each person has a social network that he or she is a part of. To the degree that eventually your ID and who you are is also supported by your social network. Similar to Second Life, your social network will define you as much as your offline persona.
  • Why do I need it? You don’t. It’s a choice that you will come to on your own, once you get done reading the news, answering your email, doing a search, paying your bills and looking for flights.
  • What should I do with it? Again, it’s entirely up to you. Do nothing or you can do a little, or you can jump in with both feet. It’s your choice.
  • How is it going to improve my quality of life? The quality of your life is often defined by your friends and family and your job. Taking those 3 into the context of a social networking setting you could: Connect with friends you have not seen in a long time. Improve your relationships with existing friends.  You can connect with relatives that do not live close by. and lastly you can connect and use the power of social networks to either network with colleagues, find a new job, or improve the job or career you have now. How’s that?
  • How far can I take it? The possibilites are really quite endless.
  • What is the shelf-life for a social network? As of this writing, the big boys have no reason to believe that things will not get even better. However for the niche sites, because the business model is often supported by ad revenues, it will be tough. Though niche sites have a great value proposition, the numbers in regards to people will have to be somewhat strong for them to survive. And that remains to be seen.
  • Should I wait before I jump into a social network? You can take baby steps. You can try out some smaller sites or niche sites or even a shopping site for instance to just get a feel for what types of information is required, how much of yourself you want to put “out there” and what to expect in return. You will find that the larger sites are much more active, but in some cases, might be overwhelming. Take your time. Poke around.
  • If I was to use a social network, what would be the best one to use and why? A good question, Obviously the top 2 are always referenced but start with this top 25 and see if in the list, there is one that might catch your eye.
  • What separates a good social network from a bad one? Users, tools, content, and the technology. Is it always down? aAe there many users to begin with? What are some of the tools, widgets and applications they are offering that make a social network so fun to use? do they have a lot, a little? Ask yourself if this is the right group for you and go from there. Do some sleuthing, sign up and see, if not, just walk away.
  • Whats a widget and why do I care? You should. It’s what makes a social media experience that much richer. To quote Wikipedia just once, “A widget adds some content to that page that is not static. Other terms used to describe web widgets including: gadget, badge, module, capsule, snippet, mini and flake. Web widgets often but not always use DHTML, JavaScript, or Adobe Flash
  • Whats a mashup? Almost to the tee, a mashup is a way of combining more than one type of app with another to create a completely unique application.  It combines data from more than one source into a single integrated tool;  thereby creating a new and distinct web service that was not originally provided by either source. A classic example of a mashup is the combining of peanut butter and chocolate.. what did we get?   Fill in the blank____________
  • Does that matter to me? Yes and know, eventually all that you will want may be the result of a mashup.
  • How do I even attempt to create my own “page”? Thats the beauty of CMS and user generated content. No offense, but developers have really dumbed it down so that it really is quite simple to create and make your own page. And if you make a mistake, you can always go back and start over. Nothing is rarely etched in stone.
  • What kinds of time does it take to devote to social networking? Your time management skills will be tested, especially if you find your voice and your peeps. Eventually you may find yourself doing nothing but rushing home and jumping on your machine to check out your page and any action that might be associated with it. If it starts to hinder work and school, then you need to chill. Plain and simple.
  • Will corporate America take over social networks? It has to a certain degree With Newscorp buying MySpace and Microsoft sinking millions into an ad deal with Facebook, it’s inevitable that it is to happen. There is a lot of money at stake to be made and to lose, and corporate America isn’t about losing propositions. Can you say Murdoch and Gates?
  • Is there a place for social networks in society? Or is it a fad? They are here to stay. Though the social networks that you see now, may not be the social networks you see in 5 years. A lot can and will alter and change the look and feel and especially the technology running these networks, so stay tuned.
  • Don’t web developers just use it for driving traffic to websites? Some do. Social Media and Search engines have a major love-fest going on and it did not take search marketers long to figure that out.
  • Aren’t social media sites like just for collecting names so that I get hit on by advertisers? Yes and no. But right now that is the revenue model for most highly trafficed sites. Don’t forget, all of the sites we are talking about are free, so how else are they supposed to make money? Advertising and having access to the user information drives that train.
  • Will it help me get a job? There is a nice niche group of business related social networking sites. So the answer is yes.
  • Can I get famous? Maybe for the wrong reasons, though some seem to have carved out a niche for themselves say for example on You Tube.
  • Can I get a date? It’s possible, there are some social sites geared towards dating. Facebook actually has that potential, so we’ll go ahead and say yes.
  • Can I make lots of money? Again it’s possible. The potential lies within you, to leverage it the way you see fit.
  • It’s used to build brands right? Absolutely. Marketers are starting to realize that using social networks to build, promote and grow brands is and can be a very effective way to reach a sometimes unapproachable and skeptical audience.
  • Social networks are set up to influence purchasing decisions right? They can be. They can be used to support and promote products that ultimately you the consumer may buy. More and more marketers are setting up product-centric social networks in which the users are consumers and buyers of that product.
  • Why should I join one? Because everyone else seems to be talking about it and to not at least experience the power of it wouldn’t be any fun.

 

Well there you have it. Some answers are better than others. Some require more elaboration than I was willing to give and ultimately, I  may have left out a few that did not come to mind. That’s why you people are here. To help me out, to grow a powerful KB for those who do not know enough about the power of the social network.

Cheers

Social media and reputation management

Ironically, I just came across this article titled 9 essential tactics for reputation managment using social media that came out the day after I wrote my post on what can be done to manage a blemished reputation using social media.

Can social media alter or change a company’s negative public perception

One of the great things that I love about Linkedin is that you can share information pretty freely with your peers. Of course isn’t that what social networking is supposed to be? One of the many ways that you can share and exchange information is by merely asking or answering industry specific questions.

As I was reading some questions and answers earlier today on Linkedin, I received a phone call from a client who had a client who had a problem. The problem was that this client who had been in business for over 15 years, had some disgruntled customers who had decided to take their grievance or beef online in the form of a forum and blog post. It was more than just one person but it was not an overtly large number.  One of the issues appeared to be that instead of calling or going directly to the client to vent or air their grievances, they decided to just go right online and post it. “To let the people know”!

As luck or the SERPS would have it, some of these posts and forums take on a life of their own. They morph into something larger than it really needs to be, and as I said the SERPS will keep these posts alive a lot longer than they need to be. In that pretty soon, when someone might do a search on Company A, instead of getting Company A’s website as the top search result, they get the angry blog post instead.  This effect that it has had on the company, it’s image and it’s ability to do business is and has been, to say the least, “not good”.

Don’t get me wrong, in some cases, this form of  online vigilante justice is completely warranted as a way to warn others, of unscupulous companies. But what about the companies that have been in business for over 15 years who do things on the up and up, and they just so happen to anger someone? They anger someone who knows how to blog.

Their reputation is forever linked to a SERP that reflects a possible isolated incident for all the world to see, and for all the world to come up with the “3 second impression”. i.e scan the results, read a negative blurb and come up with a negative impression. In other words; especially in the online world, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Or do you?

So I was asked if I could help. I’ve actually done it for other clients and it’s a tough haul. Like George Clooney’s role in Michael Clayton, I had been asked to go in and “clean up” a situation. So given that the call came in as I was answering a few questions on Linkedin, I thought that Linkedin might be a good forum to ask the following question: Could social media, given that it’s sites can be spidered very quickly by the search engines, be a way to alter or change a company’s negative public perception?

The answers have come in fast and furious and they really do hit on the touching points of what social media is, what social media can do and  what it cannot do. And as much as it is the 6th Estate, it still has some unwritten rules. But lets take a look at some of the responses and you tell me what you think.

This interesting answer to the question comes from Andrew Munro: I think the answer is “it depends…”. I’m fairly certain that a social media blitz will not be “enough to stem negative press” but it may help. One thing to be aware of is that changing any sort of negative perception requires a lot of time and energy. It’s not a quick fix. You need to identify what aspects of the perceptions are key and hen determine how to set about changing those. A first step would be to identify who the key influencers are on the subject, then think about how you build relationships with them to either support them (if positive) or to encourage them to change their views (if negative). Those are the individuals who – through their blogs etc – can help to change perception for you. ANother thing to be aware of is that you need to be subtle and considered about this. Any appearance of trying to manipulate opinion, buy opinion, deceive etc etc etc will blow up in your face and worsen the situation. Think carefully about what you are trying to achieve.

The next answer from Louis Rosas-Guyon  who says: “If the company addresses the issue frankly with an open and honest approach then they stand a solid chance of recovery. Americans love it when the guilty apologize. However, if the company adopts a position where they try to spin the situation or to attack then they are doomed to failure. I have always found it’s just better to tell the truth. It is amazing how quickly people rush to forgive you.”

Next up is Sallie Goetsch who really is blunt in her assertion that “Unless the company fixes the problem(s), *nothing* will stem the tide of bad publicity. And it’s better for any company to have a social media presence already established than to suddenly create profiles on all the networks and start sending “We don’t suck, really” messages out on Twitter.  Nevertheless, it seems that one company with a consistently bad rap, TSA, has managed to improve its relations with some of its public by means of a blog with open comments. Do everything you can to get your side of the story out–including using social media, but not forgetting more traditional media. But first, fix the problem.”Last up is Erin Berkery who states: “While not every company can alter their negative perception online, there are steps that can be taken both to improve public perception, and the performance of the company.
For example if a company finds a forum discussing their bad performance, it gives them a chance to answer in a specific and tailored way to people who often have had direct problems with their service.
I’ve worked for companies with web forums, and they would regularly post ‘How are we doing?” topics. This would allow them to address what comes up, and (if needed) apologize and deal with it in a professional way.
It also is a good place to explain nuances of the company that the consumers may not understand. It is useful why certain practices perceived as ‘bad’ might actually be better for the consumer.
However, in all of those situations the companies were actively looking to improve themselves, not just their image. If it’s just a PR blitz just to get the word out, many tech savvy people who are in social networks will not be impressed. Also if it is not followed consistently-for example if someone is in a forum for two days explaining why the company performed a certain action, and then never returns, the perception will be ultimately worse than if they were never online. “

So essentially what you are seeing is that all of these people, myself included, feel that though you can stem the negative perception, your best way to “react” to it is to be as proactive, forthright, and honest as you can in re-creating and expounding on your “real” or desired public persona. You are never going to please everyone but if you are upfront and address the issues in a social networking environment, it can go a long way in repairing and heading off any further misdirected public perception. What do you think?