Hashtag Abuse

August 11, 2010

This may be a bit of a rant, but only because it’s been bothering me for awhile.  There are several Twitter chats that are great and of course I would rank #tourismchat right up there as one of the greats.  Twitter chats are just a great, informal way to exchange information and I usually come out of them with something that I want to try with my business accounts.  So basically, holy learning experience.

What is event better about these chats is that you can monitor the hashtag during the week and still get tons of great information.  I’ve seen people ask for help or even volunteer an article that they found helpful.  It’s fantastic for all of us, because it’s helping us all raise our games.  Unfortunately, this learning experience is being hijacked from us and therefore, taking away our abilities to really embrace a medium that could be awesomely helpful.

The first group of people that are doing this I would like to think are not doing this purposely.  They’re the off-topic people.  I have become known as the mean #tourismchat person because I’ve started calling these people out.  With an hour every week during the chat, we have a lot to fit in and are usually crunched for time.  So basically, I am trying to make sure the topic is discussed in as much detail as possible for the people that came for that topic.  Yes, that is why I’m mean.  But I really wonder about some of the people that are doing this.  You have a whole two weeks where you can use the hashtag to publicize a plea for help and you choose the one hour where it’s not appropriate.  In fact, I won’t even say anything to you if you publicize it at 2:55 pm on the day of the chat.  So what are you doing?  Oh and can you please stop?

The second group are hijacking hashtags on purpose.  They’re the self-promotional people and are the reason why I have stopped following certain hashtags during the week.  For some reason, it has become a trend that people are using the hashtag to get more hits on their blog, regardless of whether the post is actually related to what the hashtag is about.  While that might be great to get immediate hits, you are essentially tricking the audience of that tag.  So you’ve broken trust and they will most likely not return.  Is that really audience building?

So yes, this is a rant, but I wrote it mostly because I am very protective of #tourismchat as well as disappointed in what I see on other hashtags.  I am just asking you to take a second, think of the community that you want to broadcast to and then decide if what you want to broadcast right now is appropriate time-wise and topic-wise.  Is that too much to ask?

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?

#chatmixer

July 28, 2010

I think by now all of you know where my favorite place to learn is: happy hour.  A relaxed atmosphere, nobody putting themselves on a pedestal and a little bit of alcohol always leads to the good information exchanges.  And you get to see people in person!  I know.  Novel idea there.

My second favorite place to learn is on a Twitter chat.  The co-founder of a Twitter chat saying that Twitter chats are great places to learn?  Shocking!  I will honestly say though that the information that gets exchanged during #tourismchat is mind boggling and I always come away with something.  However, I’m not going to tell you much more about that today.

Despite our best efforts, all Twitter chats are faced with the same problem: the same group of people show up.  Although we can still get great information from these groups, sometimes you just want to stretch a bit further and seek new opinions from different people.  This is why I’m really excited by the idea of #chatmixer, a great concept brought to us by the ever fantastic Heather Whaling.  This is not just another Twitter chat.  It’s like the mother of Twitter chats.

#chatmixer is bringing together over 20 Twitter chats, so you will be able to find out information about other applicable chats and you will be able to make some new social media connections that can give you feedback on your ideas.  I mean holy win.  It’s going to take place on Thursday night from 8-9 pm EST.  So you can join us for #tourismchat at 3 pm EST, grab some dinner and then come back for more at 8 pm!

Hope to see you 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?

Thank God for Breaks

July 20, 2010

Here’s just a few thoughts about what I learned from taking a weekend off from social media:

  1. Foursquare is kind of necessary to my life now:  I get lost a lot.  Most people use Google maps or some variation to find where they’re going.  Me?  I use Foursquare.  I don’t need a correct address and I can still get at least a general idea of how close I am.  This came in handy when I was given a bum address over the weekend, but I was still in the vicinity of where I needed to be.  Only wasted a moderate amount of time instead of driving in circles hoping that I was close.  This was the lone time that I cheated on the blackout.
  2. I didn’t feel as tempted as I thought I would: I was sick and in bed most of the weekend so I was nervous about how bad the temptation would get.  After I turned everything off though, it was nice.  I had some quality time with the boyfriend and the cat.  I actually watched tv instead of using it as background noise.  I wrote.  I read.  I was taking everything in and not trying to do ten things at once.  It felt good.
  3. I didn’t miss much: The important things were easily relayed to me.  The rest?  Not so important.  I don’t need to know everything and it’s probably healthier that I stop trying to.
  4. I still could talk to people: I don’t leave my networks just on Facebook, Twitter or whatever social media site.  I tend to get emails and phone numbers.  I was still very much in touch with people that I couldn’t pass a weekend without.
  5. The boyfriend is funnier when he’s not scared that I’m going to post it on Facebook: Our conversations over the weekend were hysterical.  They usually are, but they were taken to a whole new level of funny.  I don’t know for sure that this was intentional but I do know I laughed a lot more this past weekend than I normally do.
  6. I need to do this more often: This may become a monthly ritual.  Mental health breaks are good for you and I definitely need more of them.

So basically, I feel so much better than I did last week.  I like what I do on social media and this weekend really confirmed to me that I’m doing it right by my standards.  The fact that I had a deluge of questions Monday morning about how to do several things also confirmed this.  So now, enough of this… We’ll be getting back to the juicy stuff now.

SoMe Burnout

July 16, 2010

So on Sunday, I started working on getting this blog up and running again.  I was doing it out of more of an obligation to this project, because I felt like I couldn’t work on another project with a clean conscience until this one was up and running again.  So naturally, I was doing my usual must-do-500-things-at-once and had True Blood on at the same time.  As a joke, I announced to my Twitter followers that I might make a left turn in my post and start randomly talking about vampires.  That joke ended up starting a funny little conversation.

At first, some friends voiced their disappointment that the post did not in fact include vampires.  Then, one of them piped up with, “Do you know what would be cool?  A post on SoMe vampires.”  This was soon followed up with a definition (those that suck the fun out of our social media life) and a list of the types of people that fit that description.  The most comical type that was brought up was of course happy people.  And yes, people that are constantly happy on Twitter do make me want to stab a puppy.

The result of this conversation was that I realized that I’m not alone.  I’m burnt out and a lot of the people that I admire seem to feel the same.  I don’t know if any of us can point to something exact, but I do think it may have something to do with an influx of rude people.  Everyone I’m close to on Twitter LOVES to teach.  I think all of us have a healthy respect for the fact that if this is to go on, we need to pass on what we know.  Unfortunately, this has meant that we have left ourselves open to be taken advantage of and to be criticized for the positions we put ourselves in.  I don’t think this is the only issue, but I think it might be part of the problem.

Whatever it is, this means that we start cocooning ourselves into our happy little groups where no one will bother us.  Even though this makes us happy, it’s bad.  Very, very bad.  It means that we are not going outside of ourselves as much to seek inspiration and then we get less and less in touch with what is practical.  It also means that we are less likely to teach unless forced and so the cocoon gets tighter.

On this note, I am taking the weekend off from just about all channels.  That does not mean that I’m really taking time off from social media.  I am actually going to start writing for a creative writing blog that I hope to debut next week.  I am allowing that only because that is the only idea that really energizes me right now.  As for the rest, I hope taking a couple of days away will bring me back to you as excited as I used to be.

(This is probably a post that should not have been written.  I want to note that the vast majority of people I interact with on my various networks are inspiring and amazing people.  I especially love watching the newbies as they discover all of the things they can do on the particular channels.  I can’t wait to be refreshed enough to appreciate your awesomeness again!)

How to Get Me to Follow You

July 15, 2010

I get some flack every now and then because I am not an automatic follower on Twitter and I don’t accept quite a few of my friend requests on Facebook or Foursquare.  Yup, I am pretty much the anti-social social media person.  For Foursquare, it’s a matter of safety.  If I don’t know you, do I really want you to know where I am?  For Facebook, I feel like you are asking something of me and do I want to give something to someone I don’t know?  Not really.  Most people can understand this, but it’s Twitter that gets people.

So what are my reasons against being an automatic follower?  I view my Twitter as being an extension of me.  The first intro to me is my Twitter name, which I have admittedly made boring.  Then you next move to my bio.  There you will find out that I am into several things, including #tourismchat, the Yankees and my cat.  And then you look at my feed where you find out that I’m a little nuts.  Finally, you might hit up who I am following… Yes, I do this, so it is very likely that others do too.  Don’t you think that it would make the most sense to make this just as much an extension of myself as every other part of the page is?  Shouldn’t who I am following only be filled with people that I am actually interested in?  (To be perfectly honest, I do have to do some housecleaning and am hoping to accomplish that soon.)

That brings us (in a very long winded way) to our topic today: How to get me to follow you.  I am not writing this in an egotistical way.  I understand next to none of you care if I follow you.  I am writing this so that you understand that work you should put in to actually get followers.  So here we go:

1.  Attend social media events

If you are local and you say something interesting to me in real life, I am going to want to get to know more about you.  This is kind of a no duh thing.  Of course, I don’t tend to talk people unless forced, so I do not find people to follow this way as much as I like.

2. Talk to me

This is another no duh directive, but don’t just try to talk to me once.  I probably won’t follow you back the first time.  Any time that you see that you can add something to my conversation, do it.  Make sure you are staying on topic and well…

3. Don’t be creepy

Although I could on and on about what creeps me out about some people on Twitter, we probably don’t want to go into personality trait problems.  There are many ways you can inadvertently look creepy on Twitter.  The biggest is not having a picture.  This doesn’t mean just any picture.  I am talking a picture of you.  The best is to have a closeup of you with a warm and friendly smile on your face.  Next, you absolutely must have a bio.  It doesn’t have to list every single accomplishment you’ve ever achieved.  Just give us a few things that will give us an idea of what you tweet about.  Finally, list your location.  In my case, I don’t really care where you are.  I look at that as a clue to how you found me.  So maybe it is personal preference, but it does creep me out when someone doesn’t have a location.

4. Don’t just push

When I’m trying to decide whether to follow someone, I skim their tweets to see if they have talked to anyone.  If there is absolutely no sign of that, there is absolutely no chance of me following that person.  This is social media.  Talk to others.  Promote the good work others are doing.  Be a person.

5.  Be interesting

This is kind of hard to define.  Basically, take some time to read through your tweets every so often.  Are they interesting to you?  No?  Then no one else cares about them either.  There is no magic wand beyond this, since the formula for interesting is so different for all of us.

In my case, you could do everything right and I may still not follow you.  Like I just said, the formula for interesting varies and you just may not be all that interesting to me.  That does not mean I will not tweet back at you when you talk to me or that I will not like you if I ever meet you in real life.  It just means that overall, we are not Twitter matches.

I would also note that I don’t do all of these things myself.  But as I continually tell people, I’m also not that interested in getting Twitter followers.

So what are your thoughts?  Am I Twitter snob?  Did I miss anything that would make you follow someone?

Why You Can’t Be Two People Online

July 12, 2010

Many people know that I used to be big into maintaining two presences on most social media sites.  I do some community management professionally, so obviously my professional peeps are going to know that I’m all over the place.  But I made the decision that I wanted to only show them a certain side of me and let my personal friends know the “real” me.

And then, the Great Defriending Debacle happened.  My personal Facebook ended up going belly up for reasons that I’m still not completely sure of.  All of my friends were gone and I was left to start at ground zero again.  So the question then became where was I going to start rebuilding my presence.  The decision I arrived at was to have a unified presence and I had lots of reasons why.

Time

This is the most no duh reason why I decided to go the route of one account.  Keeping up two accounts was a bit more time intensive than I would have liked.  While I wanted to keep popping up on my professional contacts home pages and giving them the idea that they were getting to know me, I also wanted to keep in touch with my personal friends.  Admittedly, I tend to post a lot, but this was too much for me to keep up with and not worth the time, in my opinion.

Repetitiveness

In my effort to allow my professional contacts in, I realized that there were quite a few times that I was telling them the same thing that I was telling my personal contacts.  Really?  I was taking the time to write the same thing twice?  Yup.  I like bragging about some things in my life and it turns out that both my professional and personal friends liked to compliment me equally.  Yes, I am a narcissist.  But it goes to show that the most important things in your life are also important to both sets of friends, so it makes little sense to separate them.

Confusion

I am easily confused.  I have posted things in places that I have not meant to.  I sometimes stare at an account trying to remember who I am on there.  Am I the silly girl who likes to make fun of herself or am I that somewhat put together girl who wants to share what I know?  This may sound silly, but sometimes you blank on what’s appropriate on a particular account and what is not.  Well, at least I do.  Keeping the same level of appropriateness just makes life easier.  That is not to say that there isn’t a reason to use privacy settings.  There are things that are just not interesting to one group and I think that is when it is best to implement those.  Using level of interest rather than appropriateness will save you heartache in the long run.

Technical Issues

You can’t be signed into more than one account at a time on most networks (Twitter being the most notable exception).  I found ways around this so that every account was easily accessible.  I was using more than one web browser and would install multiple apps on my phone.  All of this just so that I could be just a click away if I needed to reply to something.  Yeah, you guys may have a better glimpse into why I was sometimes confused now.

Nobody Gets to Know Me

This was my biggest issue.  I put too much thought into what I wrote about.  In fact, I can honestly say that my professional presence was the most unlike me you possibly could get because it was the most overthought.  I’m not saying that you should put no thought into what you are posting, but I think that is better than putting too much thought into it.  Mostly because it is no longer social.  The greater the filter, the less the more that you are missing the point of social media.  I decided that the goal of getting to know people on a deeper level is more valuable to me than to create a fake persona that faked relationships.  I am sure I will be writing more about this in a future post.

Why You Should Be Two People

Now what stopped from doing this before has honestly been a lack of trust in my personal friends.  Some don’t know that maybe that picture of me having just a bit too much fun is not appropriate to put up on Facebook with me tagged.  The first rule to combat this is making sure these pictures don’t get taken.  I’m almost 30 now.  If a ton of those pictures exist, then I have one thing to say about myself: sad.

So if it isn’t feasible to combat it that way, then you go to privacy settings.  This helps preventing both the pictures and the stories.  This is a simple fix of making sure that professional friends do not see posts about you.  Voila.  That issue is gone.

Honestly, if you are still maintaining two presences on networks, just stop.  It’s not worth it and it’s not a good use of social media.  And if you do feel like you need to keep the two presences up, really analyze why you feel that way.  I think you might find out that it is all rooted in fear and aren’t we all telling those we work for to not be afraid?

So how are you handling this?

(P.S. I’m working on getting better about blogging. Hopefully you will see more of me.  And hey, maybe I’ll even blog more on topic too! ;))

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.