Tag Archives: social media

Employees Using Social Media Can Give Companies a Nasty Virus


A couple weeks ago, a virus had its way with my family. Within a four-day span, all four of us were incredibly sick for 24 hours at a time and it seemed there was nothing we could do to stop the next person from getting it.

That’s because despite how careful we were – quarantining the sick one to a bedroom, dispensing large bottles of hand sanitizer, etc. – it’s impossible to be fully conscious of every single time your hand touches something else in the house. For example, we each hold the handrail when coming down the stairs by habit without even giving it a thought.

It’s not much different for companies that have employees who are active in the social media space. And, honestly, what company doesn’t have at least one employee with a Facebook page or Twitter account?

Social media is like a rabbit hole and it’s easy for employees to either not be fully conscious of all the places they touch or forget that Google can find just about anything. A rude comment on a blog post here. A disparaging Tweet about a client’s home city there. Posting unapproved client work to her online portfolio because she really liked the concept, even though the client picked a different direction.

They can seem harmless enough at the time, but each of these can have a negative impact on your business and strain client relationships. That’s why all companies should have guidelines for employees that outlines what’s acceptable in social media participation and what’s not.

This isn’t to keep them out of social media networks because these tools can bring a lot of good to your organization. But the guidelines remind employees that their online actions can have consequences for both the company and them, and it gives them guardrails to help keep them from mistakenly going off track.

Does your company have these guidelines in place? If so, do you feel they’ve been helpful in better protecting the brand? Should companies have any “say” in what employees do online with personal accounts?

(Image by Fred Armitage.)

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Let’s Put the “Folk Wisdom” to Bed Already


I saw an interesting book on a coworker’s desk last week – The Art of War for Executives by Donald G. Krause, based on Sun Tzu’s classic text The Art of War. As I cracked it open yesterday and began reading it, a particular paragraph stood out to me and I found myself yelling “YES!” in my head.

“Sun Tzu warns us about relying on ‘folk wisdom.’ Folk wisdom is the body of unproven assumptions, unwarranted speculation, and generally accepted opinions that is present in any group of people. Great danger lies in not challenging folk wisdom. Reliable facts always precede successful actions.”

How much “folk wisdom” weighs us down daily, whether we’re talking about marketing, PR, social media or [insert your craft here], despite evidence that a new way may be better? One of the things I’ve said since the first post on this blog is that I want to use it regularly as a discussion starter to challenge the status quo and make sure we’re doing things because they are the best solutions, not simply because it’s the way we’ve always done them. Here are a few of the posts that have appeared here attempting to do just that.

I’m interested in your take. Do you notice any “folk wisdom” at work? Does it hold back your brand or the work you do for clients? Do you challenge the status quo even though it’s easier to go along with your boss or the crowd? What are ways we can challenge folk wisdom positively, constructively and effectively?

*Image by Kevin Dooley.

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Do Social Media Tools Make Us Less Social Where It Counts Most?


I’m relatively active on the social web and I frequently encourage other marketing communications professionals to at least test drive some of these tools that allow us to interact with customers like never before. However, I was struck by an interesting irony this weekend regarding social media.

It happened Sunday night around 8:30. We had two friends over to watch the Super Bowl. I had my laptop out and was rating Super Bowl commercials in real time with other people on Twitter. After the 10th or 11th commercial, though, I realized that I was so interested in the social aspect of sharing an experience online with thousands of others that I was neglecting the people actually sitting beside me in the same room.

I set my laptop aside and spent the rest of the evening interested in the social aspect of sharing an experience offline with a few people right in front of me.

Do social media tools make us less social where it counts? What do you think?

*Image by Stuart Seeger.

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What Advice Would You Share with These College Students?


Next week I’m sitting down with a handful of PR students from Iowa State University who are currently taking an online writing/content management class. We’re going to chat about the ways social media has changed/is changing how brands market themselves and interact with consumers, as well as blogging basics.

Another topic of discussion will be tips on landing their first jobs and how to stand out and succeed early in their careers. I’d like your help with this portion. What advice would you share with these future professionals to help them succeed in PR, Marketing, Digital strategy and so on?

Here are three of the tips I’m going to pass along. They may be a bit evergreen, but some sage advice never changes.

Hustle – That’s the way to set yourself apart early on in your career. Of course, I’m assuming you’re smart and can carry a conversation. That goes without saying.

Lots of people meet expectations. Hustle will drive you to exceed them. Make one more pitch call. Think of one new idea for your client each month. Raise your hand to join the fun when new projects come in the door. Don’t be obnoxious, of course. There’s a balance. Find it and hustle!

Networking – Networking is the one of the important ways to both land a job and succeed in this business. When I was in college, networking was limited to people you could physically meet – in college, at local PRSA meetings, at career fairs, etc.

Today, networking is on steroids. It’s never been easier to meet and develop relationships with amazing professionals from across the country – and the globe – thanks to tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. There is no excuse not to be using them. These relationships are priceless when looking for a job. Even after you’re employed, continuing to engage with your connections gives you access to ongoing advice and points of view, which are beneficial throughout your career.

Internships – These have become a given, but I’m surprised that I still meet so many students who’ve had no internships or only one internship. Not only are internships a must, but more than one is a must. I’m not taking anything away from the classroom, but actual experience is where you really start learning the ins and outs of this business.

Actually, I think PR, advertising and digital communications are a bit like the types of careers folks had back in the colonial days – apprenticeships. A basic foundation learned in the classroom is important, but you’ve got to get your hands dirty to pick up the craft. Go get your hands dirty.

Your turn. What would you share with these bright, young minds? I’ll point them to this post and your advice while we’re chatting Tuesday.

*Image by Gusi Lu.

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Three Reasons Our Monday Morning Quarterbacks Should Stay Off the Field


There are undoubtedly hordes of folks spending much of their Monday talking about all the mistakes Jake Delhomme made against the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday. Then they’ll move on to break down exactly what Philip Rivers and the Chargers should have done differently Sunday to beat the Steelers. They’re Monday Morning Quarterbacks and they take their “jobs” very seriously.

We often do the same in the PR, marketing, social media business, looking for opportunities to jump on the mistakes brands make and share how we would have done things differently, which, of course would have turned out perfectly. It’s especially rampant in the blog-o-sphere, where post after post piles on to the discussion.

We’re our own breed of Monday Morning Quarterbacks.

I’m all for critical evaluations of marketing campaigns and initiatives, both of those that were wildly successful and those that didn’t fare so well. It’s incredibly beneficial for many reasons. Like our football fanatic counterparts, though, we need to recognize the limits of our assessments.

Assumptions – Sometimes we make major assumptions. “Why didn’t they have focus groups?” “They should have done more research.” And so on. How do we know they didn’t do these things and more? We assume it.

Hindsight is 20/20 – It’s easy to say something should have been done differently after it doesn’t succeed. I’ve seen some bloggers write very condescending posts in reaction to a marketing initiative gone wrong. Obviously smart people on both the client-side and agency-side thought it was a sound strategy or they wouldn’t have pursued the initiative. We have the advantage of watching the slow motion replay and what comes to mind in that scenario can be very different than what seems like the right decision in the middle of the game.

We’ll never know if WE are wrong – Let’s face it. I could share with you my thoughts on why Brand X goofed up and what I would have done differently from the start, but I’m sharing that with you from a pretty safe place. We don’t get to redo the initiative and implement all my recommendations instead. Who knows? The same woeful outcome may be achieved if we could.

We need to be especially careful when critiquing marketing programs in the social media space. Yes, best practices are surfacing, but the truth is that the environment is new enough and quirky enough that there’s a great chance we’ll all continue to get at least a few bumps and bruises. We don’t do ourselves any favors by leaping on brands with vigor and mockery. All we’re doing is scaring other brands away from dipping their toes in the water for fear that the sharks will smell blood if they happen to make a mistake along the way.

I’ll say it again. I’m all for critical evaluations. I’ve seen some really good ones, in fact. My hope is that we look at marketing missteps as opportunities to learn and discuss them in ways that advance the profession forward, not in condescending, ridicule-filled conversations that don’t really offer much beyond entertainment.

Or am I missing the great value that Monday Morning Quarterbacks bring to the actual playing field?

*Image by Justin Russell.

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The One Thing I Would Change About Marketing


You have the power to change the status quo in marketing. It’s true. Even if you’re not in a position to direct much change today, you will be soon enough. Which leads me to wonder about your answer to this question.

“What if you could change one thing about our industry. What would it be?”

What would I change? I often wonder why marketers and media don’t wield our powers for good more often. Don’t get me wrong. Most agencies take on a few pro-bono clients and our ranks our chock full of good-hearted people who make the world a better place. But there are times when I see work across every marketing channel that makes me feel like we as an industry are playing a major role in the growth of our hyper-selfish, imperfection-obsessed, fear-charged society. And, to be honest, I don’t always know what to do with that thought.

Sorry if that’s a bit heavy. There are other things I’d change that would not make me sound like a Debbie Downer. (Really, I’m not!) But I’m interested in your thoughts.

If you could change anything about our industry as a whole or your day-to-day work, what would it be? After you get it off your chest, let’s start working toward changing it.

*Image by Indy Kethdy.

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10 Tips to Build a Solid Online Presence


Are you using social media to expand your network and connect with new people? Maybe you’d like to increase the opportunities for your company to interact with customers. If you’re looking for ways to build your presence or your company’s presence online, keep reading.

The idea for this post came from my new friend Arik Hanson, who I’ve been getting to know recently. Arik asked me what I’ve done to start building a broader network of contacts and relationships with some incredibly smart, amazingly talented marketing/PR/social media folks.

So here’s what I did to get immersed in social media tools and build what Arik at least thinks is the start of a decent online presence. These tips can be used for individuals like yourself or for brands like your employer. I’m not claiming they are groundbreaking, but this is what I’ve found helpful.

1. Be Human – For the love of all that’s good, be yourself. People don’t want to engage with robots. They want to connect with other humans. Toss some [appropriate] personal stuff in your interactions to complement all the professional talk. On one of my first blog posts, Chris Brogan wisely commented, “I’m still a person when I’m at work.” In other words, don’t check your personality at the door.

2. Add Value – There are lots of ways to provide value to your online connections. Share great industry news stories and funny videos. Point them to other smart people with whom you think they should connect. Have a point of view on issues or trends and let them know about it. If you work for Kraft, share a great recipe daily or links to nutrition news.

3. It’s Not About You. Seriously, it’s not about you or your personal brand. It’s about everyone else. Shine the spotlight on others. Celebrate their successes. Brag about them to your connections. Use social media networks to engage your customers in ways that make them feel like the most important people on the planet. When you are a champion for others, an interesting thing happens. Others become a champion for you.

4. Engage and Interact. If you write a blog, follow up with readers by commenting on their comments. Email those who comment and thank them for their time and insights. If you’re on a social media platform, reach out and strike up conversations with people. If you’re a business, start conversations with your customers. Ask them what you could do better. Thank them for their business.

5. Don’t Broadcast. Shannon Paul would say “don’t be THAT guy.” If you or your company sets up social media outposts to broadcast messages, you won’t have much success. Your corporate blog should NOT be chock full of posts about new products and company news. You shouldn’t set up automatic direct messages on Twitter that basically say, “hey! click my junk and subscribe to everything I’m doing!” That turns people off immediately.

6. Participate Consistently. I believe consistency is key. Let’s take Arik for example. While we started chatting through Twitter only about a month ago, I not only know his name, but I also can spell it despite its unique spelling. That’s because he takes time to participate consistently and engage me regularly. The result is that he was top-of-mind for me when I wanted to point my Twitter connections to a great new person to follow. The same holds true for employees who participate in social media for their brands. Participating consistently builds a stronger online reputation for your company and boosts your presence within social media circles.

7. Don’t Focus on A-Listers. You should learn from the A-Listers by reading their blogs and following them on Twitter or YouTube. But I didn’t and still don’t spend a lot of time or effort trying to engage them online. If we’re ever in the same room, you can bet I will introduce myself. But these folks have so many people vying for their attention that they can be spread a bit too thin. I focused on creating relationships with people who were up-and-comers. Your company may want to target the biggest mom blogs on the Web. That’s fine. But I’d recommend also targeting middle-of-the-pack and new bloggers who are creating great content. It’s easier to engage them and there’s a good chance their readership will grow if they’re producing good stuff.

8. Don’t Sweat the Numbers. Spend your time focused on the content you’re producing, not the number of blog visitors or Twitter followers you have today. By participating consistently and adding value, more people will find you and begin connecting with you. The numbers will come if you’re doing the other stuff well.

9. It’s a Small World. Remember that when you’re about to write a nasty comment or blog post or Tweet or Facebook status update. Your reputation on your blog will follow you to Twitter and wherever else you hang your online hat. Not to mention the fact that Google’s spiders will index that moment of rudeness and, with your luck, it will probably be on the first page of results from a Google search of your name. As my three-year-old daughter would say, “that’s nawt good!”

10. Experiment. When you do share links to your latest blog posts on Twitter, alternate the times of day you tweet it and note which times you received the most traffic. That may give you some insight into when the majority of your followers are online and shape what time you send future tweets on behalf of yourself or your company. Use the Questions & Answers section of LinkedIn to extend the conversation of your latest blog post and see if it drives any traffic to your blog. I love experimenting in these ways and I use what I learn for both myself and my clients.

What is missing? What have you done that’s really helped build your online presence or that of your clients? Please share them with the rest of us in the comments.

*Image by Noah Sussman.

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