Archive for the ‘Strategy’ Category

Social Media is Just Like the Mafia

May 17, 2011

Obviously, with shows like Real Housewives of New Jersey and Mafia Wives, Italians and the mafia are kinda huge right now.  As a the granddaughter of someone that came over on the boat, I can totally appreciate this. Italians are a little different. We’re a little crazy and a whole lot of awesome. When I moved to Ohio, I actually exploited the fact that I am Italian and from New York. I had a lot of people fooled into thinking that I was somehow involved in the mafia. Yeah, I knew quite a few idiots.

Nowadays though, you’ve got to respect some of the values that the mafia stood for. Those tend to be just like the Italian values I grew up with and really will help you along in your social media presence:

1. Collect Favors: This is something I excel at. I’m a connector in social media, so I am always putting people in touch with those that can help them. If I know about a job, I pass it on. If I can help someone, I try to (although you can’t help everyone). A Don would probably say that I am collecting favors for a rainy day.  I don’t do this intentionally, but yeah, that is exactly what I am doing. You never know when you are going to need help, so be helpful in the meantime.

2. Make Sure It’s Actually Raining: If you redeem your favors at every small bump in the road, what are you going to do when it is a torrential downpour out there? You’re going to get wet and become washed up. Like a Don, be selective. Is this really the best use of someone’s time? Are they going to hate you for asking them to do this? Are you trying to get them to do your job for you? And are you trying to make this consultant do their job for free? Unless you’re in a severe emergency that the person you are asking can relate to, this is never okay.

3. Know Everything: To be an effective Don, you have to keep your ear to the ground. I have a freakish memory and can tell you something about all of my followers that I have interacted with. Not everyone can do that. I once heard about a guy that used an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the girls he was talking to via online dating channels. While this seems cold, if you don’t have the memory, you absolutely have to do this kind of thing in business. Hell, you should probably do this regardless of your memory. Know the who, what and why of the people that you follow, and you have already gotten yourself a more faithful follower.

4. Have Respect: We all know that in the end that I’m a smart ass and I don’t like to show off what I know, so I get no respect. This is just one of those things that I struggle with on a daily basis. You cannot move ahead without respect. If you want to be a true leader of men or a Don, it helps if people talk about you in hushed tones. Okay, maybe not in hushed tones, but you get the point. You can be funny, but at the end of the day, you have to bring it and bring it hard.

5. Kill the Competition: If you’re not bringing it, competition is going to sprout up. The only way to kill it is to make sure you’ve got something that the other guy does. A truly great Don can kill off the competition without a single shot being fired. That is because they offer their followers protection. In the social media age, if you are offering the very best information in the very best way, you will never have to worry about the war.

6. Keep Your Trap Shut: Hey, look! Here’s another one I struggle with! In the mafia, loose lips get you killed. In social media, you can lose every bit of credibility you’ve ever had. This includes calling out those that unfollowed you, feeling the need to tell off someone where everyone can see it and publicly pointing out mistakes. If you’ve got a problem, take it offline or to a private channel. Making it public just sucks. Of course, those of us with Irish-Italian tempers have to work doubly hard at this one.

So in the end, it’s all about being a loyal, awesome person. If that’s really a hard thing for you, then maybe social media and the mafia aren’t your things. That’s okay. Nothing in this world is meant for everybody, and unlike the mafia, you can always get off this social media train.

How else do you think social media is like the mafia?

It’s My Party and I’ll Blog If I Want To

April 16, 2011

Obviously, I let this blog go.  Did I burn out?  Like a moth to a flame. It sucked, because there were so many reasons why I enjoyed writing this.  But things just couldn’t keep going the way that they were.

Here were my mistakes.  Hopefully you’ll pick up a few tips that will help you out.

1.  I spent between 20-30 hours working on this blog a week.  Yeah, you read that right.  The actual writing I did was only one piece of the puzzle.  The promoting is the actual beast.  I participated in relevant chats.  I read blogs and commented with links to posts that I had written.  I just found any way that I could to connect with people and get what I was writing about in their hands.  It’s a lot of work.  Did the work pay off? Fo’ shizzle.  Was I happy about it?  Not really.  I work 40 hours a week at a desk job, and I have things that I like to do that don’t include the computer or social media.  Crazy, I know.  This time around, I’m going to concentrate on work-life balance.  It’s unfortunate, but I think I’ll just concentrate on writing awesomesauce material and if people read it via my channels, great.

2.  I went in with no plan.  I’m not sure if many of you know the real reason why I started this blog.  Well, I read a blog post on Foursquare that made me mad.  I wrote out a reply and realized it was more of a blog post than an actual comment.  So I got onto WordPress, took a few minutes setting up the blog and published.  I had no clue if I’d ever write on it again.  Didn’t really know what I’d write about if I did.  Just wanted to make sure some idiot got a piece of my mind.  Don’t ever do that.  You end up with an albatross hanging around your neck and you don’t want one of those.  Instead, sketch out what you want to do and make sure it’s feasible.  Only then should you publish.  I’m working backwards here and let me tell you, it sucks the big one.

3.  I listened to everyone, but myself.  Everybody has an opinion and in most cases, I’m smart enough to ignore most of those opinions.  However, I wasn’t here.  I heard bloggers should post every day, so I tried to post every day.  I heard bloggers do this, that and the other thing, so I did this, that and the other things.  The problem is that I’m me first and then maybe a blogger.  It’s stupid to ignore that.  What works for me is not going to work for you and vice versa.  This time around, if my inner voice says, “No way in hell,” I’m going to honor that and tell whoever is criticizing me that there’s a fantastic bridge that I would be happy to push them off of.  Remember, in every facet of social media, you don’t have to do anything other than what works FOR YOU.

So there will be no posting schedule.  I’ll only post when I have something to say.  Luckily, I have a lot to say right now, so you definitely can look for more soon.  In the meantime, any topics you’d like to see me cover?

What is a DMO’s purpose on social media?

November 4, 2010

We should all be working a strategy like we work a two dollar whore.  But I know some of us are just winging it.  So during a discussion I was having on Twitter, it was brought up that Twitter should be for DMO to consumer communication to influence the decision-making process.  I gotta say I disagree here.  I think the major purpose behind a DMOs use of all social media channels is to foster peer to peer communications (where most decisions get made) and to create a stronger relationship with those that have already bought what you’re selling (making them want to come back for more).  Agree? Disagree? Would love to hear some thoughts on this.

My Car Repair Shop is Better Than Yours

August 10, 2010
Back in January of 2008, Mike the Boyfriend accidentally found out that my car was undriveable.  In my defense, I had just dumped my last consulting client, and after dumping entirely too much money into that client and seeing no return, I didn’t exactly have the money to fix it.  Exactly how bad was it?  Well, it stalled just about every time I stopped.  Yeah, that’s bad, but did I mention that the car was also making a terrible grinding noise when I pressed on the brake?  Stupid may be the best term to apply to me here, but let’s just move on.

After asking around, Mike found a reputable car repair shop near us called Beany’s.  We weren’t expecting much.  We were just hoping to not get ripped off.  And when they called us with the estimate, we were kind of blown away.  Yes, the brakes were going to cost a fortune to fix, but we were expecting that and the number they came back with wasn’t even close to the number we were thinking.  What was surprising was their solution to stalling problem.  After they ran diagnostics, they realized it was just a plug that had come unplugged.  They plugged it in at no charge.  Since we were already dumping a lot of money into this place, it probably was a no brainer to them that this was the right thing to do.  Unfortunately, it’s getting beyond rare for companies to recognize what the right thing to do is, so it ended up being a gesture that increased our trust in what they do.

After getting the car back home and being extremely happy with how it was running, we got a thank you note, plus coupons for our next visit and one to pass on to friend.  Once again, simple and surprising.  This would have been enough for us to come back but then we started getting their snail mail newsletter.  It’s filled with LOTS of information that has nothing to do with cars, which includes timely, family tips and partnerships with other local businesses.  Plus they include monthly drawings, thank yous to customers and coupons.  The fact that you know you might win something or you might get a thank you constantly gets us to open this stupid little newsletter up, despite my rule that only evil comes in the form of snail mail.

And then there’s the workshops.  At least once a quarter, they offer a workshop to help people understand more about their cars.  There is one that is offered only to women and one that is offered only to teen drivers.  How much do these workshops cost?  Nada.  Oh yeah and lunch is included.  I think it takes a lot of hootzpah to teach people in this matter.  It only encourages a better consumer base and you better be able to back that up.  And they do.

You might also want to hear about the last time I took my car in.  They were honest and said that it was time to let her go.  The cost to fix her was at least double what she was worth and it was no longer smart to dump any money into her.  The cost for this assessment?  Free, provided that I promised to get all of my future car’s work done at their shop.  Um, hells yeah.

So what can your business take away from my experience with this shop?  Well, this to me is one of the most effective word of mouth campaigns I have come across and they barely have a social media presence.  Here are a few takeaways:

1. It’s sometimes okay to give things away for free, especially when it’s the right thing to do.  It only increases trust.
2. Thank you notes rock.  Let’s bring them back.
3. Arm the people who might talk about you with information to pass on.  The easier you make it to talk about you, the more likely they will.
4. It’s okay to go off topic if you make it relevant to your audience.
5. Recognize your customers.  They like to see their names up in lights sometimes.
6. Educate your customers.  If you have trust in what you are selling and believe it to be the best product, then throwing a bit of education at your customers should only increase loyalty and keep them coming back.
7. Be honest.  If you lie, you will be found out and it will hurt your base.  So just don’t do it.

Any other good word of mouth campaigns out there?

There is No Such Thing as Normal Social Media

July 27, 2010

I hurt my back about a week or so ago.  I’m not completely living on Ibuprofen, but I kind of am.  The problem is that I like to constantly push myself.  I like to try to better my best performance in everything I do or else I don’t see the point of working out.  Well, what has that gotten me?  A back that isn’t healing and me being almost in tears.

Tonight, I had a yoga teacher finally talk some sense into me.  I broke and told him that when he was adjusting me that I wanted to cry.  What did my honesty get me?  Some alternative positions that actually gave just the right amount of stretch to my injured back and may actually help it to heal.

So why am I telling you all of this?  I think a lot of us in social media get caught up in hearing how people are doing xyz and then think that we should do xyz.  We want to be on top of everything and end up bending ourselves (and our organizations) into these pretzels thinking that this makes us great social media strategists.  Nope, it just makes us pretzels.

Some keys to remember are:

  1. You don’t have to be everywhere.  It’s perfectly acceptable to just participate in one or two spaces and do them well.
  2. Just because someone you admire is doing their space a certain way, it doesn’t mean that it’s the right way for you to do it.  Different audiences demand different things and your voice (the voice of your organization) is unique.  Be proud of what you have and use it.
  3. If it doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t.  Experiment until you’re comfortable and you are getting what you want out of your space.
  4. Be okay with failing.  Sometimes you need to do it to do something great.

What it all boils down to be your most awesome, imperfect self and success will follow.  So how else can we make sure that we aren’t tying ourselves into pretzels?

The Art of Making People Feel Special

July 22, 2010

I am way late to the crowd of people that tripped over themselves to blog about the Old Spice campaign, but let’s just ignore that.  Let’s concentrate on the fact that we all loved that campaign instead.  The idea of a ridiculous character delivering personalized videos to people was oh my God genius.  And let’s all admit that we all participated in some way.  I personally asked the Old Spice Man a very special question: My man uses Old Spice so why isn’t he as manly and awesome as you are?  Alas, I wasn’t one of the lucky few that got their question(s) answered.

So what can we in the tourism or association industry take away from this madness?  Well there were multiple takeaways, but the most important, in my opinion, is that people like to feel special.  In fact, just the anticipation that we might be special enough to get our answer question kept us glued to the videos.  Yes, we wanted to see his answers, but we also wanted to see our name up in bright lights.

I think this is a very good point to draw on for your social media strategy.  How do you make your followers, fan, etc. feel special?  The part of my strategy that accomplishes that involves highlighting two members a week (one on Twitter and one on Facebook).  Not only does this give me a chance to show off something that they’re doing right, but it also allows me to get a bit more of a buy-in from them because I took that second to single them out.  This could mean that they decide to follow me or it could mean that they become more responsive to my tweets.  Total wins on my end.  But it also lets others know that they’re out there and are doing great things.  Total wins for them.

So what do you guys do to achieve that special feeling?

Realizing what your followers screens look like

June 1, 2010

The one thing everybody realizes about me is that I get easily excited.  This condition is getting exacerbated lately, because I am lucky enough to work with amazing people and on really cool things.  So I want to shout out ALL THE TIME.  Imagine if I did that in real life.  Every time I am around you, it is just this wall of brags about how I am doing this or that.  Many companies are just doing that when they are talking on social media.

I don’t think any of this is being done purposely.  In fact, I talked to one CVB that was surprised to find out that that was a big no no.  What I do think is that you guys get so excited when you get on that you don’t realize that you sometimes need to push that all important pause button.

The worse case scenario is that you are doing this on Facebook.  Let’s say that you have five events and you want to tell your fans.  Well, if you post all five events at once in separate posts, they all collapse and only one will show.  Not cool.  If you combine them into one post, then you are talking about too much and it will be difficult to engage you in that post.  An unengaged post is a post that is not working to pass on your message.

My solution for this is to start your week and write down everything you will want to brag about on Facebook that week.  Then create a schedule and spread out the posts throughout the week.  I would suggest your schedule have no more than two Facebook posts a day, with each post being at a different time of day.  This way, you can add when something comes up and not worry about posting excessively.

This is less of a problem on Twitter, because if you post ten tweets, all ten tweets will post on your followers’ feeds.  But… you don’t want to be that guy.  By tweeting ten successive tweets, your followers are being given ten messages that are competing amongst themselves for attention.  If that weren’t bad enough, then they are forced to choose from the ten messages to engage with.  Most likely, your followers are not going to choose and will look at that wall of tweets with disdain.  So instead of communicating everything, you have instead communicated nothing.

This is an easy fix and once again, it’s going to require that terrible s-word.  Make a plan and schedule your tweets to appear throughout the day.  Both Hootsuite and TweetDeck (amongst other choices) will let you schedule your tweets for later and make it virtually painless.  You can schedule all of your informational tweets and then your conversational tweets can be done impromptu, especially since these will not be broadcast to all of your followers.

All in all, just be aware of what your followers are going to be looking at (or not looking at) when you are posting.  And if you have a question as to what is getting through, ASK!  The one thing that we in this space are not lacking in is an opinion on what YOU are doing.

Developing a Social Media Training Group

May 25, 2010

Our running group after our 5k

On May 1st, I ran my second 5k and the boyfriend, Mike, ran his first.  This race went a lot better than my first.  I would like to say it was because of the support of a loving boyfriend, but yeah, we’re not that couple.  The difference was that we joined a running group.  Every Saturday morning (okay, maybe it was just most Saturdays), we would meet up and do a group run.  In addition, we would get a lesson on something related to running and a weekly email reinforcing that lesson.  Knowing that there were people expecting me to be there on Saturday mornings and getting that weekly email kept me going.  I got to the race and I made it through.

This got me thinking.  I have this same kind of setup on the social media sites I participate on.  It may not be as formal, but there are people that would miss me if I were gone and knowing this keeps me going.  Also, there are a number of people that I learn from and that reinforce these lessons by example.  So how did I get this lucky?  Work.  Lots and lots of work.  But lucky for you, I am willing to share with you exactly what that work was.

  1. I went to seminars and social events that centered around social media. Yes, I started out by not even participating on an actual site.  I found local mentors that were willing to share what they know and took advantage of that.  I will caution that when doing this that you should be careful of the Scheister McSchesitersons out there.  Look for those that are connected to reputable agencies and are not trying to sell you anything.  I assure you they are out there and are willing to help.  You just have to look.
  2. I followed these local mentors on their site(s) of choice and then I listened. Once again, there was no active participation.  I studied how they were using the sites and noted what I could take and make my own.  I also looked for those that they seemed to engage and followed them if they seemed to be applicable to what I was doing.
  3. I engaged when I knew I could add something of value. Don’t take this idea of “value” so seriously.  This can be as simple as encouraging the silliness of others.  Lord knows, this is how I have developed my most successful “training” group.  Just know that if someone is asking for something (whether they know it or not), don’t be afraid to give it to them if you can.
  4. Write valuable posts. Once again, don’t take this so seriously.  Value can be found in silliness.  If silliness is a part of your personality, put it in.  We are not looking for you to change your personality.  Mix that personality in with posts that include articles and blog posts about your areas of interest, and you will have a very valuable account.
  5. Rinse and repeat. Always start from that place of “I don’t know everything” and keep going through this cycle.  By doing that, you will continue learning and being that person that people miss when you are off-line.

Did you notice what all of this is?  Um, yeah, it is social media basics and um, yeah, it is how you get more followers.  I personally think the more followers thing is more of a curse than a blessing, but that is my issue and something I am sure I will address in a later post.  But if you are looking to be that person that is ahead of the game and with a bunch of people that you can call on when you need something, this is what you need to do.

Now to the discussion part of our program: Did I miss any steps?

Dear Politicians, You’re Doing It Wrong…

May 24, 2010

This post is very much a departure from what this blog is, but I feel strong enough about this that I feel compelled to write about it.

Has anyone else checked out these so-called social media accounts of politicians?  Whereas there are many politicians that I fully support and would like to help out, I am continually turned off by the fact that I struggle to find even one that does more than just barely show up.  They are having a great time of talking at us and have yet to learn how to talk with us.  I am sure many of them are thinking that social media is not worth it and use their follower counts to demonstrate the laziness of this new culture.

We are not lazy.  We want to help you.  We want to help amplify your voice.  Why won’t you let us?  Is it because you are scared of what will happen when you lose control of your message?  You already have.  Look at the countless websites, fan pages, blogs, etc that are out there.  If you are putting yourself out there publicly, you are being talked about in a way you may or may not like.

Is it because you are afraid of what will happen when you don’t put out a carefully crafted message?  I understand that worry, but I also think you need to understand something else: That carefully crafted message is no longer resonating with anyone.  We feel the fact that you have gone through several focus groups, have had many communications professionals and the top minds in politics today come up with what will hit home with the general public best.  We are uninterested and tuned out long ago because of this.

Am I asking you to speak Twitter language and tell us every thought that goes on in your head?  NO!  What I am asking you to do is to get a social media strategist onto your staff in either a professional or volunteer capacity to teach you how to talk to us and then come up with a fully integrated plan to do so.  Will this be easy?  Once again, no.  A good professional strategist will give you a plan that will a first seem time consuming and maybe even silly.  Give it time though and you will see that it very much integrates into the rest of your life.

Now, let me talk just a bit about what will happen if politicians don’t start heeding this advice.  There was a time where politicians only talked to their constituents in-person or via the radio.  And then the television came along.  I think we’re all familiar with how the Kennedy-Nixon Debate changed the landscape of American politics.  Technology changes things and in a big way.  Social media is reigning in the contest of the most authentic.  Those that don’t take up this challenge and believe in the power social media gives you will be left behind.  And worse, they will not be guaranteed that second chance that Nixon had.  And at this point, it is more of a question of when rather than if.  So who is ready?

Using a Character to Sell Your Destination

May 13, 2010

Last Friday, something awesome happened.  Ferris Bueller took his day off using Twitter and foursquare.  It spoke to my generation and we got a little giddy.  I was at an event, but I immediately became glued to my phone as I watched for all of my favorite lines and where he was going to show up next.  I wasn’t alone.  After I tweeted what was going on, others retweeted and tuned in as well.  It was glorious, as we all became gushing school girls because we were friends with Ferris on foursquare.

Less than a week later, the stunt left me thinking of how it could have been better.  What if Chicago’s CVB had gotten involved?  Yes, it would have then been a marketing ploy, but I think I still would have tuned in.  And then, the person behind the account could have had the ability to actually visit the places he was checking into.  It would have highlighted their foursquare badges beautifully, and I would have been even more anxious to earn them.

For those of you CVBers out there, have you considered connecting with your local “characters” and giving them a voice in social media?  I can honestly say I was more glued to Ferris’s tweeting than any account I have seen in a long time.  Imagine if he had left tips at these locations he was checking into on foursquare.  I am not ashamed to say that when I go to Chicago tomorrow, I would be far more likely to do something if Ferris had left a tip to do it.

I would love to hear about accounts that are already doing this or if you have any ideas of characters you would like to see get a voice on Twitter.