Will Social Scores Take The Place of Fan Counts?

What’s Your Twitter Score?

Didn’t know you had one? The truth is, you don’t… at least not yet, but I have a hunch that eventually you will. And not just a Twitter score. I believe you’ll probably have a Facebook score, a Google score, a LinkedIn score and more…

Social Score

photo credit: AMERICANVIRUS via photopin cc

Why?

The number of fans and followers you have on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms is in some ways becoming irrelevant. While a large fan count may give you bragging rights among your friends, co-workers and peers, it’s beginning to mean a lot less in the real world. The real social value of fans and followers is in your relationship with them. Do they trust and engage with you? Do they take action by sharing, liking, or commenting on your content? Do they feel connected to you? These are the items that create real social currency.

A large fan count means nothing if fans are fake, bought or don’t engage. A large fan base does not equate to social success.

This is where so many people get it wrong in attempting to increase their Klout score. They add a ton of new people but they don’t engage with them or provide content that is valued and shared. The result? Their Klout score actually drops.

Klout and other social scoring platforms measure influence, relationships and engagement – not just the number of fans you have. So get ready, because if I’m right, like it or not, Klout-like scoring on many social sites (think Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc) is coming in the not-too-distant future.

In fact, social scoring by individual network is already taking place on many platforms like Klout and Empire Avenue, and although it may not be obvious, or public-facing on the actual social networking sites themselves, you can be certain its being explored and tested.

Twitter Reputation Score

According to Twitter founder Evan Williams, Twitter already uses an internal “reputation” score to determine which users they suggest in the “Who To Follow” section of each users Twitter page. While none of the specifics are known, below is a list of some of the criteria Twitter could use to calculate a social score.

• Retweets
• Mentions
• List Memberships
• Followers
• @Replies
• Retweets Ratios: Percentage of retweets against actual tweets
• Favorites: Ratio of favorited tweets to overall posts
• Frequency: How often does someone post or tweet and what is the response/engagement ration to those posts

While its not known if a Twitter “reputation score” will ever become public-facing, its easy to see how the value of this information and an aggregated score derived from it, would be much more valued than the number of followers or fans a person has.

AuthorRank

Google understands the importance of this and the anticipated launch of AuthorRank is probably a good indicator of where social scoring is headed.

Mike Arnesen (SEOMOZ Blog) posted one of the best articles to date on Google AuthorRank, its implications and how to prepare for it.

He points out in the article that in February of this year, the term “AuthorRank” first started to surface in the search industry and that AJ Kohn had speculated that the development could change the search game as we know it. AJ Kohn also stated that it would be “bigger than Panda and Penguin combined”.

That is BIG, and I agree with him.

He went on to say that AuthorRank wouldn’t be a replacement for PageRank, but would be used to inform PageRank, thereby enabling Google to rank high-quality content more appropriately. In other words – the higher your individual AuthorRank score – the more weight it would give to your PageRank and potentially, the higher your page will appear in the search results.

In the post, Arnesen goes on to say that Google considers over 200 ranking factors when determining where your sites rank in organic search, so it’s safe to say that they’ll also be using plenty of signals to calculate AuthorRank.

Here’s a shortlist he compiled of factors that Google is likely to use in their calculation:

• The average PageRank of an author’s content.
• The average number of +1s and Google+ shares the author’s content receives.
• The number of Google+ circles an author is in.
• Reciprocal connections to other high AuthorRank authors.
• The number and authority of sites an author’s content has been published to.
• The engagement level of an author’s native Google+ content (i.e., posts to Google+).
• The level of on-site engagement for an author’s content (i.e., comments and author’s responses to comments)
• Outside authority indicators (e.g., the presence of a Wikipedia page).
• YouTube subscribers and/or engagement on authored videos (speculation: multiple-attribution author markup for YouTube videos coming soon).
• Any number of importance/authority metrics on social networks that Google deems trustworthy enough (Twitter, Quora, LinkedIn, SlideShare, etc.).
• Real world authority indicators like published works on Google Books or Google Scholar.

The point once again is the importance of an individual network/platform score that incorporates relevant social signals.

Universal or Combined Social Score

While a combined, universal score can be fun and interesting, a single score from each network based on the unique data from that platform makes the most sense. A high score on one platform does not necessarily translate to a high score across others. I may be a “Rockstar” on YouTube (I’m not) but have little to no influence anywhere else. A universal or combined score may, or may not pick that up.

A combined score is good however in the sense that it provides a single snapshot of the overall influence a person has across their social sphere.

Unqiue Platform Data

The most valued data and scoring will come from the unique characteristics of each platform.

For example, what if LinkedIn adopted social scoring in some manner. Imagine being a local business owner or job recruiter and having the ability to quickly search for potential candidates and filter them using a trusted, aggregated score based in part on the criteria below.

• Recommendations
• Endorsements
• Length(s) of employment
• Previous Positions/Titles
• Career path
• Weight of Connections (Position, Industry, Engagement)
• Member of Relevant Groups
• Active in Relevant Groups
• Achievements and Awards
• Community Service

The benefit and value of a more granular social score on each platform is obvious.

One Final thought.

Social scoring by network is part of the natural evolution of influence measurement, however; it must be relevant and highly accurate before it will gain wide acceptance in the mainstream. Its inevitable that the social networks will one day need to adopt a method of social scoring that offers a quick visual representation of a person, or company’s influence and social currency other than a “fan count”. My guess is that it will happen sooner, rather than later.

Social scores are coming.

Think I’m wrong? Bookmark this post and lets see if we’re not comparing our Facebook, Twitter and Google scores sometime in the near future.

Please leave your thoughts and comments below!

Sometimes You Have to go with your Best Bad Idea

Sometimes your best bad idea ends up working out for the best. Seriously, I guess the cat is out of the bag so to speak. Yes I got some of the inspiration for this blog after seeing “Argo”. Alas, I am deeper than that, okay, it goes deeper than that, but when I was sitting there in the theater and heard the line, “it’s the best bad idea we have, by far”,  I immediately finished a blog idea I had rolling around in my head. A blog idea I didn’t think was going to pan out.

Idea

What is a bad idea?

What exactly is a “bad idea”, and how can Social media help in deciding if the idea might be appealing to your target audience? Recently a client of mine called wanting to get some advice on a marketing idea that he was thinking about. He told me the idea, and I have to admit it, I liked it immediately. When I told him my thoughts, he let me know that some other mutual friends thought the idea was weird. He asked me again what I thought, and I jumped right back with, “what other ideas do you have going?”  We talked quite a bit about the pro’s and con’s that the idea presented. The more we talked, the more it became apparent that the pros outweighed the cons and the real issue was analysis paralysis. That dreaded disease that takes people out of their comfort zone, into parts unknown. Then I  was hit with, “yeah, but what if it is a bad idea.” It’s important to remember that after analyzing a potential business idea, it becomes clear that the risk is warranted - the only real failure is not executing, not at least trying.  Sometimes you have to go with your best bad idea. 

Maya Angelou said it well, “Nothing is going to work, until YOU DO!”  Not everything is going to be a home run, not even a single for that matter, but you can’t achieve either without stepping up to the plate and swinging the bat. With the addition of Social Media, businesses are offered help in navigating through the mass that is the social space,  they can grab data that can help in determining an idea’s worthiness, and value to it’s targeted, engaged audience.  It is an advantage that until recently was not available, however it should not be the end all in making that decision to go forward or not. Social Media is a tool, and needs to be treated as such, albeit a many faceted tool, but a tool in a toolkit all the same.

The Next Big Idea

I love getting my clients fired up and looking for that next big idea, and this was a great start. A short time after our phone conversation, the client sent me some slogan texts that were awesome. I have to share the best in my humble opinion…”Have you been knotty, or nice?”  A fitting question for a massage to be asking at Christmas time, wouldn’t you say? Often times a bad idea needs to be explored, and not disposed of as simply a bad idea right off the bat. Sometimes the best next big idea comes from taking the time to explore a bad idea further. All it takes is a spark of inspiration to see something through, sometimes one minor detail might be the missing link to take a perceived “bad” idea, and turn it into a great idea – and a financially successful experience.

So what about you business owners, enterpreneurs, and social media professionals out there, what BAD ideas have you explored and turned into a GREAT idea? Please leave a comment below!

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.

Build a Social Media Community without a Credit Card

So as many of you know the creation of SteamFeed.com was based on the intrusion of what have become known as “fauxperts” into the social space. A lot of information has been shared by the SteamFeed authors about what NOT to do when building a social media community. I thought it might be a good idea to take some time and discuss some things you CAN do to build that community. Keep in mind that there are some common fundamental goals and outcomes that you are trying to achieve. However, how you get the results can vary greatly. Of course the use of a credit card in purchasing followers, friends, seeds etc is not something you want to pursue. Lets look at some alternatives.

purchasing social media community

Be “Social”

There is a reason that it is called “social” media. It is not referred to as wallflower, or shy media. The first and most important part of this endeavor is to be social. Common sense dictates obvious stuff, engage and involve yourself with your community. Example, if you post something like, ” just had a chicken taco at so and so taco place, which is your favorite taco? Chicken, fish, beef, pork?” Be there to engage with your community as they answer your question. Try this, go to a party, ask the group of folks you are with a question, and then just walk away showing no interest in their answers. Think you’ll be invited back? It’s the same with social media – be there, be interested, be involved. *Just a note at this point, be aware that this takes time – time out of your day to day, time to build your community.

Some tools to get the job done.

Here is where things are more to a personal preference. Keep in mind that ones choices here should revolve around results, and with any luck enjoyment. I say enjoyment solely because any activity if perceived as fun, will not be approached as “work”, but that is purely an extra added bonus if achieved. You have a lot of options here. Let’s name a few, and see what strikes your fancy.

1. Some Platforms

Of course there is FaceBook and Twitter, probably the best known engagement avenues, but what about LinkedIn, Pinterest, G+, Scoop.it, Storify, Youtube, Quora, Twylah, Rebelmouse, Instagram, Path, Stumbleupon etc, etc, etc. Really this particular list can go on forever depending on your interests. Whatever platform you choose, go all in. FB, Twitter and LinkedIn all offer wonderful opportunity to take engagement to the next level by joining in chats or discussions related to specific topics. These pinpoint topic directed sessions gives one a wonderful opportunity to make friends, and share information with folks with similar interests. Wherever there is an option to “follow”, take the time to seek out like minded people and follow them, as well as interact with them.

2. What about a blog?

Another great way to increase interactivity in a community is to start a blog. Not everyone is an award winning author, but that is not necessarily your goal in blogging. Write about your interests, write from your heart, and don’t be afraid to let people know who you are out in your blog posts. Blogging is not solely about outbound information. You can write wonderful, moving blogs, and not get the desired results if you don’t engage others in your bogging community. Remember you are building a community, that will mean reading other blogs, and commenting on those blogs. By commenting I am not referring to “nice blog, thanks.” I am talking a heartfelt, honest response to the post. Whatever platform you choose for your blog – Posterous, WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr etc. – they all offer opportunity to follow other bloggers, and a chance to build a community. Take those opportunities.

3. Podcast???

Don’t like to write, what about a podcast – all you need to do for that is talk. Options are a plenty in this arena as well. Whether it be a recorded or live event there are numerous options for podcast platforms. How effective do you think asking a colleague or friend to be a guest on your podcast is going to be? What a cool way to meet new folks, and get to know friends better. Once again a perfect opportunity to build a community by sharing experience, ideas, and knowledge. That word, “sharing”, it comes up a lot in social media.

Clearly there are numerous ways to build that social media community without the use of a credit card. No matter which one or ones you choose. The common ingredient is going to be involvement, engagement, interaction, whatever you want to call it, you need to be present. Forget about the numbers and concentrate on the engagement. If you put the work in, you will get the results. After all, when you went to college you didn’t get a diploma after the first day simply for signing up for classes. It took a lot of hard work, same thing here folks. Be involved with your community, be a friend, be social.

What advice would you give to someone trying to build up their community? Please leave a comment below!

Is Your Small Business Spamming Other Business Brands on Facebook?

What – Small Business Owners Would Spam Other Business Brands??

In my role as an online community manager I see many ways of doing things on Facebook.  Occasionally I’ll see something that teaches me.  That’s a bonus – And one of the reasons I love what I do!

However…

image: Virtual Pizza

Social Media Etiquette

More often I see concerning online behaviors.  These acts are usually made by small business owners or entrepreneurs that fit into these categories:

  • Self-marketing.
  • New to social media.
  • Not educated on social media etiquette.
  • Employing old-school techniques, expecting new media results.

Rarely do I meet a small business owner that purposely wants to engage in concerning behavior.  They usually do not know they have blurred the lines of social media etiquette, but once they are made aware, they are happy to take actions that makes other social networkers smile.

Lets look at some examples of online behavior that blur the lines of Facebook etiquette.

Otherwise known as…

Spam

1. Posting self-promotional content on another page without invitation.

Social Media is about building a relationship.  Not broadcasting, or the “hit and run.”  If you reverse the roles, how would you feel if another Page Admin came out of nowhere and posted their self-promotional content on your page?

The Reality:

The only people who see these messages are the Page Admins and anyone that might catch your post in their ticker because you are connected as friends.  Here, your audience is limited.  You are just offending the Page Admins, and they will probably delete it quickly.  So, it’s a high-energy move with little visibility, anyway.

Actionable Advice:

Visit Facebook Pages with the intention of building some friendships and relationships with hopeful collaborators.  Take part in conversation by liking and commenting on post threads.  Visit as yourself, your person, and occasionally as your brand (your page).  Be someone people want to know, like, and trust as an ambassador of your business.  Be the life of the party, prompting people to ask you questions.  Avoid the promotional message and posting your page link in the comment thread unless invited to do so.

2. Sending “Like My Page” or “Purchase My Service” direct messages to the brand on their page.

This is very similar to item #1, but in a more private mode.  The Page Admin has to actually go into the Inbox and respond or perform extra action.

Some social media leaders compare this move to trying to get to third base on a first date.  Reverse the roles again – How do you feel if someone sends “Like My Page” or “Click My Junk” messages to your Facebook Page’s inbox?

The Reality:

Again, very similar to #1, yet sometimes more annoying.

Actionable Advice:

Woah – Date a Page Admin a bit!  Take your hands off the like button, and talk to them a little bit!!  Same goes here: Create a relationship that will lead to collaboration, and you can share all the messages you want.  Provide links & promotional details when asked.  If you network well, you will be asked.

3. Posting frequently on a page only as your brand (your page).

The opportunity to interact on Facebook as your brand (your page) is a terrific feature!  It allows you to create recall of your business name.  At the same time, the purpose of engaging on social media is to create relationships.  A small business owner’s goal should be to create and instill the “know/like/trust factor.”

The Reality:

If a Page Admin sees only your brand name, they don’t know WHO to like and trust.  Further, if you are there very frequently in this mode, you could appear spammy and even out of line.  Some would take this as an attempt to “cherry-pick” fans.

Actionable Advice:

By allowing fans and Page Admins to learn about your brand, and get to know you – the ambassador of your business – your chances of creating long-lasting, productive relationships are greater.  You then actually get TWO chances to make a good impression.  People know where to find your business, and they know who should receive their questions.  Perhaps to the Facebook Page inbox – as a well-earned business lead!  :)

4. Frequent tagging of the same page or pages.

Have you posted a picture of a sale flyer, and tagged all of your favorite pages?  Have you found a really groovy photo and tagged many pages when the image or subject matter really has nothing to do with that page?

Reality:

If so, you’re guilty of spamming a page with a tag!  The Page Admin sees this tag, and is probably confused at first.  A friendly sort would hop over and leave a nice comment or a like.  But if you keep doing this, it is annoying and bothersome, and even self-serving.  This will result in less people paying attention to your messages – The reverse of your ultimate goal.

Actionable Advice:

Use tags to give tribute, or recognize someone or a brand that is in an image.  It is a gesture to show honor.  From time to time it is okay to gather some good business friends together to comment on a fun image.  Every once in awhile.  Many times per week is excessive.  Once per month…maybe.  Make it a periodic celebration instead!

So, is your small business spamming other business brands on Facebook?

No Playing Games

My analogy of the social actions above: “online knock-knock split.”  The equivalent of reaching out with no one there to follow-up.

This is broadcasting – A one-way communication.  Social media is all about a two-way dialogue.  Facebook is no exception.

Hopefully the actionable advice has been helpful in identifying appropriate social media etiquette.

If you are newer to social media, do you have questions?

If you are more seasoned, did you ever unknowingly do any of what is described above?

Please share your thoughts in the comments box below! :D

5 Priorities Every Social Media Program Should Have

I want to start this post with a little bit of clarity by defining the term “Priority”. Webster’s say’s it is something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives. One thing I have learned in life is that no matter what comes out of your mouth, your actions will always follow your true priorities. You can say this or that are a priority, but if your actions show something else, you have a problem.

social media prioritiesOne reason that many newcomers to social media marketing lack priorities is not because of laziness or lack of desire, it is simply lack of knowledge – the understanding of what tasks actually need to have priority in their day.

Often times businesses struggle with not only understanding all the in’s and out’s of social media marketing, but more importantly where they should prioritize their time and efforts. This often results in new social media marketers over pitching what they do, or worse, giving up and abandoning their social media efforts. Let’s avoid both by listing the top five priorities your social media marketing efforts should focus on each day.

These are in no particular order of importance, however all of them should be given priority and attention daily.

1) Value – Provide value to your target audience.

Your daily focus should be to deliver selfless value to your target market. How can your social media marketing provide value to your audience? Answer that question without regard to what you do, what you sell, or the industry you are in. Answer and execute that question correctly and you will see huge results!

2) Content – Have enough content and the RIGHT content.

Think of social media as a freeway. All of the cars on the freeway are content, posts and articles. You have to have enough content on the road everyday that is relevant, valuable and interesting to your target audience. You need to make sure that whenever one of your fans, friends or followers step up to the side of the freeway throughout the day, they see one of your cars go by.

3) Be Human – People build relationships with other People.

A big mistake a lot of new social media marketers make is trying to mimic the big brands. For the most part, big brands SUCK at social media. They do not do it right and for many, they don’t have to. They have spent billions on branding and marketing well ahead of the social media boom, therefore it is just another channel. Everyone else needs to do it right if they want results!

You have to humanize your social media accounts. Most people connect and build relationships with other people. Can you really have a relationship with a logo of a company you don’t even know? Of course not. Be human and approachable.

4) Respond/Engage - Social media marketing is social.

You must make it a priority to respond to mentions, shares and comments immediately. When someone shares a post or mentions you in social media, they are available and active at that moment. You need to respond quickly in order to foster a conversation that leads to relationship. Waiting for once a day or an hour later is just too late. They have moved on, logged out or even lost interest. If you aren’t utilizing mobile apps to ensure you can consistently do this, it is not a priority to you.

You also need to have a priority of commenting, sharing and mentioning your target audience frequently. Relationships are two ways. Seek opportunity to benefit your prospects by sharing their content, engaging them in conversation or simply commenting on something they post.

5) Community – Build one.

Your social media marketing must have a priority focused on building a loyal community. That community must be large enough to be effective. Find your target audience and follow/friend them. Build it and they will come does not work in social media.

As you can see, social media is highly involved. Understanding the priorities you need to have on a daily basis is the difference between being IN social media and having an effective social media marketing program for your business.

What is your biggest priority in social media? Please leave a comment below!
 

How Attending Your High School Reunion Will Help You Understand Your Social Media Strategy

I’m one of the younger authors on this site, but I’m old enough to remember when Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace were not a part of my everyday waking life. Sure, I was a high school student then, but even back in the early days where people weren’t really connecting on social media, I wondered what the class reunions would be like after graduation.

The beginning of October usually means homecoming and reunions season for schools of all levels all across the United States. People whom theoretically have not seen each other for five, ten years, all aim to get back together and catch up on new events and reminisce on new times. Social media of course, has changed all that. Now without showing up, you can see that Joe got married and that Mary moved three states away and that Harry and Christine, once sworn enemies in high school now seem to be the best of friends.  Social media has in some ways, replaced meeting in person by allowing people to instead observe from afar the changes that have been made since people last met, to the point where some think that attending reunion is somewhat pointless.

Like your social media strategy however, just knowing half the story about anyone at your reunion doesn’t mean you know the whole story!

Despite knowing everything however, social media is not the end all, be all for knowing what all your buddies have been up to since graduation. After all, like your social media and marketing strategy, just knowing what your friends are doing on Facebook without seeing their LinkedIn or having talked to them in person since graduation is not enough. The story after all, is a lot deeper than we all imagine it to be. Your Facebook page, much like your knowledge of your acquaintance Ted after graduation, might be golden, but you don’t know about the other things going on in his life, much like if you were to ignore your Twitter strategy.

So this fall, book those tickets and get back to the people you knew when you were in school. Sure, sitting around the punch table talking about your practical jokes on your English teacher doesn’t measure up to receiving a Klout perk, but at least you know that like your social media strategy, you know the whole story, instead of just bits and pieces!

How You Build a Social Media Community Matters

Social Media “white hat” and “black hat” techniques continue to embroil controversy. I am still amazed at the conversations that I have had on various Social Media platforms surrounding building a business social media community. Many of you may know the terms “black hat” and “white hat” within the social media world. For those that don’t, let me explain. “Black hat” can best be described as a practice executed by a social media professional that “games” the system. More directly, it is being dishonest in your social media techniques. Black hat techniques are often employed to get results faster, and have far less actual social engagement (aka “work”).  ”White hat” techniques are exactly the opposite. Another term often substituted with “white hat” is “organic”. Using organic practices is really the optimal way to acquire results. It is also a much safer way to build a social media community. Employing black hat techniques can have undesired consequences, such as what happened to JC Penny a few years ago, earning them a “time out” from Google.

Black Hat Social MediaThink about this scenario, especially if you are building a community for a business. You build this nice community, paying no attention to how you do it, and all of a sudden you’re caught and your client’s account is suspended from Google, Twitter or Facebook. How are you going to explain that the phenomenal results you have been reporting to your client each month were gotten by questionable and inorganic practices? You may have been smart enough to figure out how to game the system, but now you will most likely lose that client.

Here are a few examples of black hat practices:

Don’t Spam!

Let’s start with the biggest offender of all, SPAM. Spam can best be described as a constant barrage of links, hundreds throughout a day, with no conversation in the feed, no engagement, and no interaction.  This is especially annoying on Twitter where the feed rolls through like a freight train. Those that employ this technique clearly are not paying attention to the “social” part of social media.

Buying friends and followers is not OK!

The latest and greatest black hat technique to come along is buying friends/followers. Many times, throughout the day, I see feeds or DM’s inviting me to “get 10,000 followers in a day” Or elaborate plans to build your Facebook “likes” for just $29.95. These accounts of course are not real people, and are only sought after to boost ones follower number. This (more than any other practice) “pisses me off”. I recently was introduced to a system called “twitter seeds”, which as it was explained to me was okay because these accounts supposedly are real people. The seed accounts are used to manipulate a twitter accounts friend to follower ratio. I have to say that I was equally flawed by both the idea and the notion of the practitioner that it was a white hat technique. Buying accounts, whether real or otherwise is not organic, and not an accepted social media practice…period.  Both this and the aforementioned practice are completely and without question Black Hat.

If you are keen on spending money to acquire new followers, invest in social advertising (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn ads). You will be spending a lot more than buying fake followers, but you’ll be getting real people that are actually interested in your offering in return – a much more worthy investment, in my opinion.

What about automation?

The one place that there is some acceptance of grey area, would be automation. Many social media managers who maintain multiple accounts make use of automation tools. It is whether those same managers take it to next step and engage that matters. It gets fuzzy when a person, who is using keywords to engage a particular audience and choosing content himself or herself, as opposed to complete bot content, is choosing the outbound content. The use of bots (computer-generated content) is highly frowned upon – a bot would never be considered organic. However, utilizing an automation tool to organize content that has been chosen by a person is a whole other story.

In the end, other than clear black hat techniques such as mentioned above, many techniques and practices come down to intentions, and application. It really does come down to this:  if you have to talk yourself into believing the practice is acceptable, it most certainly isn’t. The best and most reliable results come from white hat/organic techniques. Don’t fall into a black hat trap.

If you’re interested in this topic, you might find these articles from other websites interesting:

 

The Three E’s of Social Media Management

Every social media and community manager sets a certain set of rules and guidelines for how they want to run their community. I have a set of super simple standards (say that three fast!). I never sat down and wrote them out before, but I noticed whenever I would speak about social media management or would discuss social for business, these three words always came out as highlighted points. Entertaining, Engaging and Educational. All of my blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts follow at least one (if not more) thank these three principles:

Be Witty, Be Entertaining in Social Media ManagementEntertaining – Entertaining often equals memorable. You need to find a way to keep people entertained. In the fast pased world of Twitter, a great way to catch people’s attention is to be witty. With such a small character limit, a bot mot or catchy post title floating in a sea of links will be the post most remembered. Use humor when you can. Long or short, make sure there is something fun about your posts.

Engaging – The word “Social” in social media says it all. Don’t look at your social media channels as a billboard to advertise your product or service, it is a place for discussion and sharing. Join a Twitter chat or Facebook group to get to know people in the community you want to be a part of. Forming these relationships with others will be beneficial to everyone.

Educational – When you have knowledge in a niche or have a new way to do something, social is a great place to share. Start a blog about a subject you are skilled in or post tips across your social channels. Sharing this information with others is a great way to position yourself as the go to person for information on that topic.

Another guideline I follow is, no matter what the post is, it needs to keep in line with the standards I have created both with my personal brand as well as my employer’s.

What are your guidelines for social media management? Please share in the comments bellow!

Traditional Marketing Still Works!

Marketing may be more high-tech these days, but traditional marketing methods still have a place in today’s 140-character obsessed world. Facebook and other forms of social media are viable marketing methods, but it’s a bit premature to place traditional marketing in the same category as VHS tapes and payphones. While there has been an undeniable paradigm shift, traditional marketing tactics are still in place, and are still effective.

It Doesn’t Have to Be One or the Other

Why do you have to shift all your marketing efforts to social media just to remain competitive today? It doesn’t have to be one or the other in order to achieve your goals. There is no rule that says you have to go ONLY with social media or online marketing, and abandon your traditional marketing efforts. Traditional marketing still offers:

High-level of engagement – Many print ads and fliers today often include reference to a company’s website or suggest that interested customers “visit us on Facebook for more.” This not only engages customers in a traditional way, but also encourages engagement through your online marketing efforts.

Building on an existing market – Any business that’s been around for a while has an existing market. Your loyal customers were probably first introduced to you through billboards, print ads, and other traditional efforts. Use your existing database to create a contact list you can use for newer marketing efforts such as blogging, e-books, and email marketing.

face2face events still matter – Events such as conventions, public speaking engagements, and press conferences are still very effective tools. This gives you a chance to answer questions and have greater control over the message you convey. Even door-to-door marketing and handing out fliers can still be effective, especially for small businesses with smaller target areas.

Note: Make sure you give people a way to opt out of online contact though. The last thing you want to do is annoy previous customers who may use your service or products again or pass your name onto friends.

Traditional Marketing Can Still Reach a Large Audience

Social media wields a certain power, but an equal impact can still be seen from traditional marketing efforts such as print, outdoor, and location-based advertising. Many TV and radio stations offer targeted marketing solutions. They allow you to have your ad air at a certain time or during a specific program such as the news.

Participating in a community event or donating to a local charity is still a great way to generate a news feed that may be picked up by local or national media outlets. Of course, you can further spread the word through your social media resources.

Traditional media outlets are still relevant for two very important reasons: there’s an established viewing audience already in place and messages can easily be directed towards target demographics to maximize impact. Traditional marketing still works: Don’t throw the water out with the baby!

Which traditional marketing methods do you still use in the digital age? How do you integrate your online presence with your offline presence? Leave a comment below!