Back about a year and a half ago a colleague of mine asked me a simple question. “When are you going to get social”? It’s not that I was anti-social, it’s just that I wasn’t blogging, didn’t have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. The only online community I was participating in was LinkedIn. And I wasn’t really participating. I set up my profile and forgot about it. It gradually dawned on me that given what I do for a living I’d better get in the game. So like I did forty five years ago when I decided to play the guitar, I sought out the leaders in the field and started by emulating.
Identify the Best and the Brightest and (Try to) Do What They Do
The following is a list of ten people I’m following now. I have learned and continue to learn from all of them. I am certain that in six months this list will look different but for now I would like to share it and thank those who are on it. You have all taught me much. So in alphabetical order by last name, here it is:
Chris Brogan – Chris’ name was the first name I heard when I posed the question to others “who should I follow“? He’s been blogging longer than anyone and knows the terrain like no one else. He has co-authored, with Julien Smith (see number 9), Trust Agents, a primer on how to use the web to build influence, improve reputation and earn trust and Social Media 101, Tactics and Tips to Develop Your Business Online. I’ve read both of these books. If you’re truly interested in understanding social media, I suggest you read them too and subscribe to Chris’ blog.
Seth Godin – There’s not much to say about Seth Godin other than he is one of the most influential minds on the planet. At last count (it changes daily) he has written 14 books. He is irreverent, funny and brilliant. Seth’s blog just reached its 4000th post. Back when the algorithm was interesting, the blog was ranked by Technorati as the #1 blog in the world written by a single individual. Do yourself a favor and become familiar with him if you aren’t already.
Ann Handley – In addition to co-authoring Content Rules with C.C. Chapman (mentioned above), Ann is Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, an essential online resource for marketing professionals. She is the author of one of my all time favorite blog posts, 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Be a Content Marketer. Give it a read and you’ll see why I subscribe to her blog.
Guy Kawasaki – Guy has been an influential voice in the tech world for a long time. His opinions are so valued that his blogs can be found on American Express’ Open Forum website. He has written ten critically acclaimed and immensely popular books including his most recent, Enchantment. He is the co-founder of Alltop.com, an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the web, and a founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures. He was a long time Apple evangelist and worked closely with the late visionary, Steve Jobs. He writes about that experience here.
Bob Poole – I recently started following Bob Poole’s blog. Chris Brogan referenced Bob in one of his posts so I thought I’d have a look. I subscribed to Bob’s blog immediately and now look forward to checking back often. I like Bob for a couple of reasons. First of all, he’s my age. Let’s just say we both survived the sixties and lived to tell about it. He is a sales and marketing guy with a very fresh approach. In fact, he wrote a book about his approach called Listen First, Sell Later. I love that. He’s got a sense of humor. I love that too. Best of all, he’s got a link on his website called mojo. I really love that.
Amy Porterfield – Here’s the first sentence on Amy’s About page: Here’s How I Can Help You Grow Your Business With Social Media. I love her direct, no nonsense style. Almost every one of her blog posts begins with the words “How to … ” and she delivers. Her tips and suggestions all work. She knows Facebook better than Mark Zuckerberg (ok, you caught me exaggerating) and has great insight into how to use it as the powerful marketing tool it is. I just received her book (which she co-authored with Phyllis Khare and Andrea Vahl) Facebook Marketing All-In-One For Dummies. The cover says it’s 9 books in 1. At over 600 pages I’m sure it is. I can’t wait to dive in.
Julien Smith – Julien, along with Chris Brogan (see number 1) authored the best selling book Trust Agents. It was the first book I read about the real social implications and potential power of the web. I subscribe to Julien’s blog because he is different. He thinks outside the box, I mean way outside the box. Here is how C.C. Chapman puts it: “A creative individual who not only thinks outside the box, he puts his foot down and crushes it.” What more can I say.
Gary Vaynerchuk – If this list weren’t in alphabetical order by last name, Gary would probably have been first. He has become so ubiquitous on the web that it’s difficult to know where to point someone who isn’t already familiar with him. He is a human tornado. My thinking about social media marketing was completely changed after I read The Thank You Economy. He is a pioneer in the video blogging space and still maintains a video blog. By trade, he is a wine merchant but it’s almost ridiculous to categorize him that way. To say he is a passionate advocate for social media marketing is the understatement of the year. Subscribe to his video blog and you’ll see what I mean.
And Now, Back to You
So this is my Top Ten List. How does it stack up to your list? Who have I missed that I shouldn’t have? If it were a Top Twenty List, who do you think I should add? Talk to me.
Part Four in a Four-Part Series: Common Objections to Social Media
Be Patient. Results Will Be There
At the end of my previous post in this series I hinted that the biblical figure Job would have been very successful with social media. Did you get the reference? Let me explain: Job had in abundance the quality that many of us lack but need more of to successfully manage a social marketing campaign. Patience. Social media marketing has to be understood as a long-term commitment. Unfortunately, this is not a comfortable outlook for today’s business leaders who are expected to produce results quickly. That’s why we find so many marketers today complaining that they tried social marketing and it doesn’t work. Really? How long did you give it? Two weeks? Three weeks. Here’s the answer: you didn’t give it long enough.
Okay, Then. How Long is Long Enough?
Let me share a true story quickly. In my younger days my friends and I became interested in eastern religions. It was New York in the sixties. Enough said. We were enthralled with the notion of spiritual enlightenment, this place of perfect peace and equilibrium. To get there we were told, we needed to meditate twice daily. Once first thing in the morning and again before going to bed. One of our crew was particularly disciplined with his daily meditation. After a month or so I asked him how it was going. I was surprised by his answer. “I quit. I meditated for thirty minutes every morning and every night for three weeks and I’m still not enlightened. This meditation stuff just doesn’t work”. See where I’m going with this? Did he give it enough time? Was the time he gave it appropriate given the goal?
Define Your Social Media Marketing Goals First
Break your larger marketing goals into smaller, easier to manage pieces. Your first goal might be to get people to sign up for your newsletter. In that case you can use your social media tools to point people to your newsletter sign up page. Next you may want to get people to sign up for your webinar. After that you may want people to download a white paper. Once you’ve clearly defined you goals you can come back after a month or so into your social marketing campaign and see how you are doing. Soon you will have a good feel for how long is long enough.
Be patient. I know it’s hard but it pays off
Make sure you understand the social tools you are using. If you don’t, get help
Break your larger marketing objective into smaller goals that can be tracked and monitored
Have you abandoned social media because you thought you gave it enough time and it just wasn’t working? Can you be persuaded to try again?
Part Three in a Four Part Series: Common Objections to Social Media
“Complacency is the enemy of progress.” “If you’re not growing, you’re dying“. We’ve all heard these catchy phrases reminding us that in business, as in life, we should never be satisfied. We must always keep moving forward. So why are so many businesses content to be …. you know, content? How far back do you go? Do you remember your workplace before copy machines? before fax machines? before computers? I’ll bet your boss thought you were doing fine. Maybe you were, maybe you weren’t. Gary Vaynerchuk says it well, “Any company that gets so complacent it thinks everything is “fine” deserves to go out of business.”
Think Your Business Is Doing Fine? How do You Know?
If you’re the owner of a business, it doesn’t matter if you think your doing fine. What matters is what your customers and clients think. And now we have the means to ask them. How did we get this information before? Focus groups, comment cards, surveys, mailers. Sure, those were the only means we had back then but even if customers took the time to respond, it was a one time, one way communication. Now with tools like Facebook , Twitter and Yelp, to name just a very few, we can see what our customers are saying in real time, respond quickly and nurture relationships. As business owners, isn’t this what we want?
Scenario 1: John and Mary eat at the Good Eats Eatery. They’re not happy with the service and not terribly thrilled with the food either. They tell everyone in their circle of friends about their bad experience. They don’t come back to the restaurant and neither do their friends. Without any social channels to communicate with her guests, Stacey, the hard working owner of the restaurant never knew there was a problem in the first place. Sadly, she only knows there is a drop off in business but doesn’t know why.
Scenario 2: Jim and Sue eat at Good Food is Us. They too are not so happy with the service and food. But they’ve been following Good Food is Us on Twitter and post a tweet about their disappointment. Homer, the owner of Good Food is Us, sees the tweet and quickly and honestly responds. He also notices Jim and Sue’s less than flattering review on Yelp. He takes the time to respond directly to them, apologizes, assures them it will never happen again and sends them a gift certificate to the restaurant. When they come in he waits on them personally. The result: he turned two unhappy customers into strong advocates.
You can’t really know if you’re doing fine if you don’t ask your customers.
Don’t worry about negative comments. They are far more valuable than no comments at all.
If you’re afraid to jump into social media, start slowly by listening to others first.
Does this make sense? Don’t hesitate to use the comment box below to disagree with me. Disagreement makes for lively conversation.
Stay tuned to this channel for part four in the series: Common Objections to Social Media. Next week we’ll talk about companies who claim they’ve tried it but it doesn’t work. Hint: Job of the Bible would have been very successful with social media.
Part Two in a Four Part Series: Common Objections to Social Media
Many companies have failed to adopt social media out of fear. They are afraid of what customers and employees will say about them. Not only are these companies missing an opportunity, they are ignoring a much bigger problem. Denying your employees the chance to speak freely about your company is a sure sign that there is something wrong with the culture of the workplace. If you’re a CEO, a boss, a supervisor or the person in your company empowered to make decisions about social media and fear is why you’re saying no, then put social media on hold and fix the bigger problem. Ask your employees the tough questions. Listen to the answers. Take appropriate action. Social media can be the best tool you have for identifying problems and fixing them. Imagine how your company would be different if you looked forward to reading what your employees were saying about it. Sound good?
Your Customers Are Talking. Are You Listening?
You can’t function in a vacuum. Everyone knows that. Yet there are many companies that are still trying to do just that. Another missed opportunity. The question is so fundamental that it seems ludicrous to ask it. But here goes. How do you know what your customers think of your product or service if you never ask them? See where I’m going? Social media channels like Facebook and Twitter are where your customers are. It’s where they are talking about you and your product. But if you’re not hanging out where your customers are, that is to say if you’re not using the same social media tools they are, you’ll never hear them. And if your product or service changes to meet the requirements of your customers, it will be a coincidence and not the result of a planned strategy. Can you afford that?
A Negative Comment is Better Than no Comment At All
You know the old Hollywood adage – negative publicity is better than no publicity. It’s true. You have nothing to fear from the customer who posts a critical or negative comment about you. Why? Because now you know what you have to fix. And once you fix it you have turned a critic into a fan – and perhaps into an advocate. Does that make sense?
Dont’ Be Afraid
Here is a quick summary:
If you’re not adopting social media because you’re afraid of what customers/employees might say about you, you have a bigger problem.
If you’re not listening to your customers through their tweets or facebook postings, how do you know how you are doing?
See negative comments as a positive. A customer who takes the time to post a negative comment can be turned into your best customer
Are you with me? Are you using social media or have you been reluctant to adopt it?
Stay tuned to this channel for part three in the series: Common Objections to Social Media. Next week we’ll see why companies who claim to be just fine without it really aren’t fine at all.
Part One in a Four Part Series: Common Objections to Social Media.
I'ts not a fad. It's a cultural shift
No one can predict the future. But we can make educated guesses based on the evidence in front of us. So here is a bold prediction. Social Media, in some form or another, will last. The genie is out of the bottle. Social Media has given us a new way to do something as fundamental to human nature as breathing (okay, maybe not that fundamental): communicate!We are by nature social beings. We love to talk, to gather, to share. We’ve been doing this since we lost our tails and started walking upright. I think its safe to say we’ll keep doing it. Will the sun come up tomorrow? Probably. Simply put, the social tools at our disposal are making it easier to do what we’ve always done.
Aren’t a Visionary? You Just Need an Open Mind.
It’s easy to understand why blacksmiths in the early part of the 20th century desperately wanted to believe that the horseless carriage was a fad that wouldn’t last. Their livelihoods hung on that hope. Gary Vaynerchuk, in his absolutely must have book, The Thank You Economy, quotes a few less than visionary “visionaries” whose take on the latest trends of the day seem … well just plain dumb in hindsight.
“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.”
— Western Union Internal Memo, 1876
“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?”
— an investor in response to David Sarnoff’s push for radio, 1920
“While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is an impossibility.”
— Lee De Forest, radio pioneer, 1926
Closer to my own world and our own time, I recall the day in 1995 when the IT Director of the company I was working for at the time asked me to investigate this new “internet thing”. I was not in the IT department. The thing was he couldn’t find anyone on his staff who was willing to take the time. They all thought the internet was a fad that wouldn’t last. I rest my case.
Don’t Make it About the Tools
We focus too much on the tools of social media. That’s why we’re skeptical. If we make it about the tools, our belief system is shaken every time a new one emerges. And there will be new tools emerging all the time. Today its Facebook and Twitter. Next month it could be something else. We need to focus more on the objective, on why we are using these tools in the first place. So what is the objective? Okay, here it is. Ready? It’s all about building and maintaining authentic, meaningful, caring relationships. Once we commit to that, it becomes a simple process to determine which tools best serve the goal.
Are you with me? Do you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said. What are your thoughts about the role of social media in our lives?
I just wrapped up a great weekend of WordPress related stuff at the Boston WordCamp 2011 held at Boston University’s Sherman Hall. Man there are a lot of really smart people out there and I’m grateful for their willingness to share their knowledge. For me the sense of community has always been the differentiator between WordPress and the myriad other content management systems out there. Oh I know that there are other CMS communities but I’m talking about COMMUNITY as in the willingness to share, to help, to NOT judge and to make you feel welcome. The T-shirt and the great lunch (sponsored by .tv) were certainly an added bonus.
Who Are all These Smart People?
Okay, I get that you may not care about any of this but if you’re going to hire me to build your website you should feel comforted that I care about it. So, many thanks to the following people who gave their time to make me smarter:
And a special thanks to C. C. Chapman (who has to be the world’s friendliest human being) for not making me feel like a complete dork for asking him to sign his book, Content Rules.
By the way, Boston University deserves a thank you too for allowing the WordPress community to take over the George Sherman Union building at 775 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.
City of Champions
Sidenote: On one of the breaks between sessions I stepped outside, and with the sound of delirious Red Sox fans coming from Fenway Park three blocks away, snapped this picture of a poster hanging in the window of the Sherman Union building. Pardon me for gloating.