Save Social: Walk The Talk

Many of us have been following along, reading the rash of articles being published and shared, all dealing with how to best “do” social. One of these articles, an op-ed piece on Mashable, got a lot of shares across the social media sphere this morning. The author compares the unknown, hopefully waiting in the wings, good guy to Jerry Maguire, which is a nice comparison, but it leads to the impression that there isn’t a force already mobilized to “take back” and save social business. Steamfeed, in fact, is a bastion of strength and ideas for social “done right”, as the bulk of the posts focus and target the very topics that seem to bring out the social naysayers.

social Publishing

photo credit: william couch via photopin cc

My own November theme was “Walk the Talk” and within that theme I posted about and hosted discussion on the variety of ways some “big names” and “popular experts” were being less than socially correct with some of their behaviors and actions. These topics and discussions ranged from Terms of Service violations to buying and trading likes. I thought it fitting to share some of the most “talked about” topics here.

They’ll Never Notice | Those Rules Don’t Apply to Me: Though I probably shouldn’t be, I am still shocked to see how many social solutions “names”, be they big or small, feel that there’s nothing wrong with blatantly ignoring Terms of Service (ToS), especially on Facebook. Contact information in their cover images, no big deal…it’s not like Facebook is really searching it out, so who cares? Right? Wrong. Those pages lost my like. Did that impact them much? Probably not. But I share A LOT of information, from a variety of sources, and those pages shall no more share in my sharing proclivity.

And some of the ways these folks try to get around the rules? Priceless. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a company owner post a side view of their car, complete with door panel graphics so they can get that phone number front and center. Nice try, still in violation. And how is that a cover image that represents your business in the best light? And, please, don’t get me started on the QR codes in cover photos. I’m not pulling out my phone to scan my computer screen, SERIOUSLY. Plus, yeah… kind of contact info and a call to action all rolled into one.

I’m A Little Guy So It Won’t Hurt Anyone: Back to Facebook and TOS, sorry, but a wide variety of infractions take place on the biggie platform. This time we’re talking contests and giveaways. Although it has been blogged and shared and promoted and shared and broadcast and shared time and time again, folks just can’t seem to grasp that they can’t run a contest directly on their page. But, it’s a random drawing, so that’s okay, right? Wrong. That’s a giveaway which falls under the same ToS rules and regulations.

Follower Fixation | Failure to Follow: How often do we see big name experts with tens of thousands of followers who only follow a minuscule 2-300? I see it all the time. What do I “see” when I see this? I see someone who doesn’t see much value in keeping abreast of the thoughts of others. I see someone who is interested in broadcasting their own content and ideas rather than sharing the best content and ideas with their followers. I see someone engaged in a one-way broadcast rather than taking part in a conversation, someone interested in shouting rather than listening.

Love for Sale: Also known as Back Scratch Fever. Likes, follows and the act of circling aren’t commodities to trade like baseball cards or beanie babies. I can’t tell you how many times a day I see something resembling this statement showing up on walls or in private messages:

I have liked your page as myself and as my page, and I would really appreciate it if you would return the favor.

Yeah, ummmmmmm, your business and, thus, your page is ALL about parakeet grooming in Redwood City, CA. I have three cats and I live in Tucker, GA. Where’s the draw, the value, the impetus for me to like your page? And if I was even slightly intrigued, that message, which is basically begging, would quickly change my mind.

The One Way Highway: Also known as Me Me Me Me Me! This behavior shows up on every platform, so there’s really no hiding from it. It showcases itself in a variety of ways, including:

  • Blast Posting | Feed Takeovers | Digital Diarrhea – you know, 15 tweets within 15 seconds, etc.
  • Inspirational Quotes with no “introduction” or follow up from the poster as to why they find them important. So, why should I?
  •  Caption this photos trying to take advantage of the extra engagement that photos are prone to get, except the photo is lame and has nothing to do, whatsoever, with your business or your audience.
  • Fill in the blanks of the same type in order to get the most “reach”.

My little list barely skims the surface. So come on, help me “fill in the blanks” a bit. What gets your goat when it comes to the “names” that seem more intent on remaining a name than in actually working within the proper social circles. Everyone loves an opportunity to clear the air and even get a little rant on, so have at it!

In closing, I removed the “Like” from a lot of Facebook pages, unfollowed a lot of Twitter accounts and even disconnected from a handful of Linkedin accounts. Did my own numbers plunge? Nope. On the contrary, they rose! People like seeing someone take a stand, even a small one. If we each take these small stands, we will “save” social. We all walk the talk, every day…it’s going to get us to a valuable and viable destination.

Collaborate With Care

Ahhhhhh…social business! Connections are made, relationships developed and the idea to collaborate on promotions and projects sounds like a “sound” – I couldn’t resist the play on words – and savvy idea. It can be, but it can also be a hectic endeavor ending in headaches that might disconnect the parties involved if not handled properly. With that in mind, I thought a post dedicated to some of the best practices I’ve developed during my time spent collaborating might be in order. Especially with 2013 right around the corner with the potential for many new collaborations. It also seemed fitting because Steamfeed itself couldn’t work without collaboration!

Top Tips to Collaborate With Care:

  1. Someone has to take ownership of the collaboration. While it would be very nice to think that a collective group can make decisions, it tends to be problematic. Discussions can last for so long that actual action never gets taken. Someone has to be the final “next step” taker within the collaborative group. Someone has to ensure the process stays on track and you eventually take the steps to reach the end goal or purpose that made you collaborate in the first place.
  2. Deadlines are even more important within a group setting. When you miss a deadline and you’re the only person working on a project, it’s only an inconvenience for you – and possibly the single client who asked you to take on the project. When you’re working on a collaborative concern, that missed deadline inconveniences the entire group.
  3. Choose collaborators with care. Is everyone willing to do the work involved to make the collaboration a success. Will someone put a project for the group on the back burner when a project for their own company takes precedent? Do the collaborators know how much time/involvement is involved to make a success of the collaboration.
  4. Share expectations with your members. Once you set up the owner/boss that person has to share the plan, the course of action and any and all expectations with all collaborative parties. So far, I’ve yet to work with a mindreader and to expect your group to read your mind or understand your intent via osmosis is unrealistic and could set your collaborative effort on the road to disaster.
  5. Don’t let it take over and devalue your core business. While collaborative efforts can result in income for the group, they can’t and shouldn’t be entered into if it comes at the expense of your main business purpose and function. Your business overhead and expenses still remain. Make sure your main income pipeline doesn’t take a hit.
  6. Collaborate with intent. You must determine and strive toward actual goals. You must measure ROI and value. Unless the collaboration is for fun only, or a hobby group, there has to be a bottom line. What is the collaboration working toward. What is the intent, the purpose?

I have felt the pain and the pleasure of collective efforts. When they’re good, like the collaboration that is Steamfeed, they are oh so VERY good. But when they go bad, they can go bad with a vengeance and cause irreparable damage to friendships, reputations and your business. I hope you’ll keep my tips in mind as you undertake a collaboration with care and intent!

The Interest List Imbroglio

Alternate Title: When Those Trying To Help Actually Hinder

Over the last week or two, those in the social business sphere have been inundated with a rash of messages, posted on personal profiles and business pages alike, deeming interest lists as the savior to decreased Edgerank and overall interaction. Alas, these posts took the spirit and real value of interest lists and diminished real value with incorrect information which might actually diminish levels of connection, interaction and eventual engagement.

Facebook ListYou’ve probably seen this message, perhaps slightly altered, popping up on pages and personal profiles across Facebook:

“Since Facebook has begun to ask page administrators to pay to promote their pages, only 10% of page fans receive the updates we post here. To receive ALL of our posts, please do the following:

1) Go to our page.
2) Hover your mouse over where it says “LIKED” and click on “Add to Interests Lists”.
3) Commenting or clicking “like” on our page every once in a while will also keep us on your feed.”

There are several issues with these statements, and I’ll touch on each.

First, Facebook has “promoted” the promoted post for a while, but they certainly haven’t come out and said, “Hey, you…page admin – the only way your posts are going to get seen is if you promote them”. And no Facebook authority has piped up on either Edgerank or Interest lists, except to tout the lists as a valuable resource (which they are – I’m not disputing that). In fact, Facebook has been quite silent on the whole algorithm discourse.

Next, I’m not sure who came up with the 10% number. Many colleagues and experts have been testing reach, promotion, post types and within all of that testing, I haven’t seen any nice round number like 10%. Round numbers just don’t occur all that often, unless someone is averaging or generalizing. I don’t think averages or generalized numbers are particularly useful in an industry that has no one-size-fits-all solutions. Social works differently for each adopter, on each platform, and on any given day. With the spooky holiday just around the corner, we might feel justified stating that it often seems to involve “black” magic. To see some interesting information about reach, promotions and numbers/data, I suggest you check out Jon Loomer’s blog posts from the last month or two. Not generalized and he’s quick to point out that the numbers he sees cannot necessarily be repeated for each user.

To continue, while Interest lists are a fantastic resource, they are ABSOLUTELY NOT a guarantee that you’re going to get more post views and/or interaction. Why? Well…

  • Interest lists require an extra step in the action sequence, not once – but twice. First, when someone decides to like your page, they have to make the choice whether or not to add you to an interest list. Then, when they’re viewing their feed, they have to make the call to open/view a list. With the prevailing quick preview and scan manner of viewing content, that second step might actually mean you lose follower views and interaction.
  • Even with an interest list, especially if you simply have one large list, no one’s going to scroll through screen after screen of content. Sure, if you post often, you have a better chance of your content showing up within a few scrolls. But that’s the same with the feed itself. Again, that extra click to open the list is key.
  • Interest lists have no sort options, so it’s simply timing of posts and number of pages in a list that determine where your post shows up.

And lastly, these pleas to help you out because Facebook has let you down are akin to begging. Would you do business with someone who, based on very short and often casual business connection, essentially whined and complained about their inability to be heard? Of course you wouldn’t. So, why would you resort to that kind of behavior yourself?

I’ve often said there’s no easy solution to getting your message heard. As with any other type of marketing, hard work, dedication, trial and error and good old effort play the deciding role in your message, product or service being seen. It’s the same when you’re marketing with social media. You have to spend your time in the trenches, liking and sharing, taking part in discussions, researching great content to share, generating new ideas that create your own content, etc. Time and effort, creating and cultivating good, interested and strong connections – that’s the key. And it’s not a simple, fast, or immediate solution. It’s something you’ll have to put into practice and effect for the long term.

If the interest list was the end all, be all solution, we’d have heard this quite a while back, when interest lists first made their appearance. Sadly, though…this is another of those poorly researched solutions run amok. It’s simply being shared, rather than scrutinized for actual value and merit. As with many memes and top tips, it gets shared with the intent of assisting and aiding, when – in reality, it simply isn’t helpful.

I’m A Quitter And Darned Proud Of It!

Never give up. NEVER, EVER!
The Customer is ALWAYS right.
Remove Can’t From Your Vocabulary.

All three of the statements above? A bunch of hooey. Pretty and pretentious nonsense that has a negative impact on the way you do business and earn a living, as well as a sound and savvy reputation.

Do you have clients that:

  • Send you everything at the last possible second while still expecting you to meet a deadline?
  • Constantly tell you how busy “they” are in an attempt to excuse the fact that they dropped the ball?
  • Belittle your skills and expertise by repeatedly requesting discounts and price cuts?
  • Tell you the check is “in the mail” every month, without fail – but it still takes several weeks for the payment to travel across town?

busyIf you have clients that engage in any of the behaviors detailed above it’s time to create a plan to replace them with alacrity and fire them with the same speed. They certainly don’t appreciate you and they are not the types of clients that will refer you to others within their networks – unless it’s others as clueless and difficult to work with as themselves.

Is there anything worse than working on a project that takes up too much of your time for too little return on investment? In these situations, telling a potential client that you can’t take on the project is better for both of you. You don’t  feel pressured, rushed and overwrought and the client doesn’t get work completed with less than 100% care, commitment and zeal.

And, please, don’t get me started on the entrepreneur that says he or she CAN do ANYTHING. Design a custom WordPress theme and database? Absolutely! Ahem…never once mentioning that they’ve never designed a site in anything other than Microsoft Front Page. YIKES!

Fess up! We all have limitations, strengths and weaknesses and things we just flat out can’t do. Pithy platitudes don’t change that fact and the negative impact on your bottom line and your reputation can be nearly impossible to fix.

Honesty rules the day here, not ridiculous cheerleader chants. Be true to yourself by knowing and understanding your capabilities and your liabilities. Doing so ensures you are true to your clients.

Say No to Shortcuts

Whenever we got into the car with my dad for a trip that was not part of our normal routine, we got ready for adventure. Why? It wasn’t so much that our destination was that adventurous. It was the trip itself. My dad loved to devise shortcuts. The problem? They never shortened travel time. They either increased the time we spent in the car, or increased time spent in the car AND got us lost.

ShortcutsI often see the same thing happening with newer social business journeys. The driver gets excited by apps, tools and other shortcuts “guaranteed” to grow their fan/follower/connection base in a lightning quick fashion. Unfortunately, many of these shortcuts lead that social business driver on a merry chase full of wrong turns, detours and one way only avenues that end up with the driver lost and unsure where they are or how to get home.

“With record speed” and “get it fast” are phrases bandied about by many an app/online tool developer ready to promise you a shortened journey. The problem is that successful social endeavors require that you take active part in the journey. Shortcuts, while seemingly faster, often take you in divergent directions that detract from the real reasons your engaging in social business.

  1. Relationships can’t be rushed. They build in their own unique time. Relationships that result in business are built on trust. Trust can’t be rushed.
  2. Social business relies on stories rather than sales tactics, telling rather than selling. What happens when you speed through a story? Key points get missed. The listener finds themselves unsure of the plot, the message. Sharing stories takes time.
  3. While sharing is an integral part of social business, you can’t just share anything. It’s vital that you read and assess each item you think you might want to share. Rapid fire shares and retweets without reading often create bad business buzz. You might share a dead link, spam or worse – information that is completely outdated or off base.

Yes, it’s important to build a following – you want someone to see and appreciate that great information you’re creating and sharing. But you can’t rush. All likes are not created equal. Same goes for followers on Twitter and circles on Google+.

While Facebook like parties are going strong, as are ladder events, don’t rush to like hundreds of pages to get several hundred likes in return. You might get the numbers, but will you get:

  • People who will actively take part in discussions?
  • Content worthy of sharing?
  • People willing to share your good content?
A recent blog post on this very topic started a lively discussion about these like building events and the people who take part. You can read it here.

While the idea that you must follow to be followed on Twitter is basically sound, again – you don’t want to just click the “follow” button without real intent. Michael Hyatt states that “the higher your follower count, the more people assume you are an expert”, and therein lies the quandary for us. Do you want to be an “assumed” expert, that assumption based solely on one number? Or, would you rather be known as an expert based on the ideas, tips and tools shared? I’ll state openly that I prefer to work toward the latter.

Numbers for the sake of bigger numbers don’t have any real ROI. And yes, as much as social business is about the relationship over the sale, you have to consider and track ROI. There’s a purpose to the building of that relationship (see what Social Media Examiner has to say on the topic), one that your boss really wants to see well documented.

Shortcuts don’t build the types of numbers that help you put together the reports your boss, even if you’re the boss, wants to see. Careful planning, attention to detail and good old hard work build the relationships that build the numbers that net you positive ROI. Skip the shortcuts and get busy creating that plan of action!

Absolutes? Absolutely NOT!

It never fails to amuse and/or irritate me to see certain professionals bandy about absolutes and blanket statements as fact.

Absolutely irritated with absolutesPer Merriam-Webster, the word absolute has quite a few meanings. This is the one we’re interested in for the purposes of this post:

“: having no restriction, exception, or qualification <an absolute requirement> <absolute freedom>”

You hear these types of statements all the time. NEVER do this. ALWAYS do that. This WILL get you results. That WON’T work. While death and taxes ARE absolutely certain, there’s nothing absolute about social media. It changes every day. It works differently for each person, each industry, each platform.

Here are a couple of our favorites:

Absolute statement #1: The shorter the tweet the more attention it will get.
FACT: It depends on the actual content of the tweet. If it’s irrelevant and inane it doesn’t matter how short and sweet the presentation.

Absolute statement #2: Video always increases engagement.
FACT: Bad video might get you more engagement, but who wants to be told over and over again that your jerky camera work makes viewers feel like vomiting?

Absolute statement #3: Sarcasm doesn’t work in social business settings?
FACT: Really? Several of the authors on this site might beg to differ. Correct and careful use can, and often does, underline a necessary evil.

One of my favorite phrases, and a ready response when I’m forced to face an absolute statement, is this:

“If we all liked the exact same things the world would be a very boring place!”

Factor that into your social business model. It’s more important and more vital to your overall success to sort out what your fans, followers and potential clients like and appreciate. Don’t worry so much about what “that guy” or “that gal” says MUST be so.

Which absolute statements get on your nerves? Please leave your comments bellow!

There’s No “I” In Connect

We’ve all been there. You go to a BAH (Business After Hours) event with a pocketful of business cards and the idea that you might make some great connections. You grab a drink, after all it’s been a long day, and get ready to mingle and chat.

Networking eventThen Mr. or Ms. “All About Me” chooses you as their next target.

Before you can even contemplate moving your arm into a handshake position, a business card has been shoved into your unsuspecting palm, leaving a paper cut no less, and you’re bombarded by a wall of sound. Mr. or Ms. “All About Me” profess him/herself to be this AWESOME person. You can’t get a word in edgewise. There are no breaks, no polite pauses, not even the barest hint that this individual might pretend to have any interest in you. Before you know it, Mr. or Ms. “All About Me” finishes, nods, claps you smartly on the shoulder and is gone.

Could there be anything worse? Maybe. Many of us deal with this on and off, every day, digitally, as we traverse the online world of Business Before, During & After Hours. You might call it social media.

Picture this, you decide to take part in a Facebook connection building session, often called a “like” or “fan building” party. They seem as benign as the local after hours networking event.

Then it happens. Your wall takes a direct hit, and it sounds a little something like this:

Hi. My name is Joe Blow and I own a company called Blown Away With My Own Self Worth, Inc. We provide our clients with unending rants about how awesome we are, never once listening to what they actually want, need and are willing to pay for. Are you looking for someone who can talk incessantly about themselves – hard selling, deep discounting and making ridiculous guarantees, all the while making you feel like you’re less important than the gum they just scraped off their shoe? Of course you are. Send us your email and phone number and we’ll add you to our mailing list, call you fifteen times a day and search out your physical address so we can send you junk flyers and postcards, too. And could you like my page as yourself AND as your business page. If you only like us as your page our numbers don’t go up. Follow us on Twitter and we’ll send you an automated DM asking if you need our services.

After you loose your monitor from the dreaded sleeper hold, you might find yourself wondering if you have any place in this relationship? Alas, you don’t. This isn’t a connection. This is a sales onslaught. BAWMOSW, Inc. doesn’t want to connect with you. They don’t care to read or hear what you have to say. If you don’t like them this week they’ll leave the exact same message on our page after the following week’s event. And if you do like their page (DON’T we cry) be prepared to either be completely ignored or to be overrun with sales pitches.

It saddens so many of us to realize that the relationship, the mainstay of social media and social business, is being trod upon, muddied and sullied by the “I Do This” initiative. Gone are the days when a savvy social media marketer would actually attempt to get to know you digitally:

  • Complimenting you on your cover image, company name or tagline
  • Liking and/or sharing an image, post or blog link with their followers
  • Commenting on your blog or Facebook post
  • Signing up for your eBlast and then sharing it with his or her colleagues
  • Adding you to his or her #FF list, interest lists and RSS feed
  • Retweeting your latest article
  • Inviting you to a Linkedin Group
  • Circling and sharing content on Google+

The old adage is true. People do business with other people they know, like and trust. And with the advent of social business, which allows business relationships to take place without in person meetings, that knowledge, likability and trust have to be earned in different ways. Before any sale or exchange can occur the two parties must connect. Look closely, there is no “I” in the word connect. When trying to connect and relate, you have to step away talking at and start listening to the someone that will make that connection complete.

Are you listening, complimenting and offering help or advice only when asked? Are you there or do you disappear when things get shaky? Are you willing to share the knowledge, expertise and ideas of others? Only when you can answer yes to most of these questions can you really connect and create a lasting social media/social business relationship.