7 Social Media Resolutions for 2012

I won’t even bother with the typical exercise goals – I’ll start with the goals that are easier for me to accomplish in 2012 in the social media realm. I’ll bet you may want to take a few of these for yourself too. 

  1. Clean out the quiet people on Twitter.
    If they haven’t said anything in 21 days, they’re just listening. I respect that, but I’m here to have conversations. Quality of audience, not quantity. I would actually unfollow more than that but you have to allow that people do go on vacation for a week or two and want to completely disconnect from electronic contact during that time.
  2. Do less searching and do more Stumbling.
    StumbleUpon is a terrific resource for content ideas and inspiration. You get things within your area of interest, but you discover topics that surprise you at the same time.
  3. Focus more on the metrics that matter.
    In addition to the metrics of social media that have meaning, there are some glossy metrics that I find myself wrapped up in. The standard ones, really. I’m going to push myself harder to dig deep and not get distracted by the fluffy metrics that sound good but matter less.
  4. Watch 1 TED video per day.
    Not all from my industry either. We can spare 18 minutes to feel inspired. Pretty much all the TED videos do that for me.
  5. Look at social influence scores far less.
    I’m not terribly proud to look at my Klout, Kred, PeerIndex as much as I do. I don’t plan on dropping them yet, but I also know they aren’t why my clients make decisions on my services. And they never sum up the kind of person I am in my real world interactions. Planning on taking them with less than a grain of salt.
  6. View at least 3 SlideShare presentations per week.
    This is probably the most useful form of content I have ever gleaned insight from. I am thankful for the people who believe in sharing their knowledge on SlideShare and will try to return the favor by sharing my own.
  7. Remember that social media isn’t everything.
    It matters and it’s wonderful. I won’t let anyone tell me otherwise. But I have formed relationships this year with people in business networking settings that have proven to be abundantly fulfilling as well. Not to mention a few speaking engagements. To neglect that and be cooped up in an office online all the time would have been such a missed opportunity. So I plan on getting out there even more in 2012.

Got any you want to add? Let’s hear ‘em. I’d like to add to this list with a few ideas from you.

Lesson of Lowe’s: Your Competitor Royally Screwed Up. Don’t Just Sit There.

Attention, Head Media Buyer for The Home Depot. Can we talk? You’ve got an opportunity for yourself handed to you on a silver platter if you’re intelligent and I’ll bet you are. So here’s what I want you to do.

I want you to pick up the phone and start placing ads on “All-American Muslim” like no tomorrow.

Don’t overthink. Don’t overanalyze. Just do it. I don’t care what your demographics are. I don’t care what marketing research tells you. I’m as big a fan as anybody of market research but when your competitor shoots themselves in the foot so badly by blowing their nose on an entire race of people, you’ve got to seize the moment and welcome those people with open arms.

For those who haven’t heard, Lowe’s did a royal screw-up by caving to outside pressure and pulling its advertising from TLC’s program featuring the lives of five Muslim families in Michigan. The backlash has been swift and the outrage intense, not just from Muslim groups but many others. Russell Simmons even offered to buy up all the airtime on the program that advertisers voided.

To me, the danger isn’t so much associations like the Florida Family Association, which urged people to engage in an email campaign to pressure brands like Lowe’s that advertised on the program to pull their advertising.

The danger is when brands actually listen to these fringe groups, tuck their tail between their legs and run for the hills instead of acting like intelligent brands that weren’t born yesterday.

Lowe’s justified the move like so: “Individuals and groups have strong political and societal views on this topic and this program became a lightning rod for many of those views. As a result, we did pull our advertising.”

Ah. I get it. So the loudest voice in the room wins, no matter how bigoted and divisive their opinion may be. Just making sure that’s how you make your decisions.

Lowe’s acts like this came out of the blue and caught them by surprise. Nice try but I don’t buy it. Running from lightning rods is what big companies tend to do when they want to appeal to everyone under the sun. Ironically, that’s the opposite of what Lowe’s did anyway in the end. But why does controversy have to be a bad thing? I don’t think it has to be and can be a good thing. Lady Gaga is controversial. And massively successful. I doubt she’s hurting from controversy.

Let me replace all of the official public statements from Lowe’s, probably written by their PR firm or internal marketing people with the only two words that people really hear: We’re afraid.

Memo to brands of America: Beyond what you see on marketing analytics, the people who buy your stuff will be gay, Muslim and mixed racial couples.

And last I checked, their money is still as good in this country as a white person’s.

It’s too bad that showing these types of groups in advertising or advertising on programs featuring such groups beyond the white American family is seen as “progressive.” It shouldn’t be. It should be off the table as something advanced for us to talk about as a brand differentiator. It should be common sense that this reflects modern reality, so we can make marketing decisions based on deeper, more important factors.

But I digress from my mountaintop to speak purely on a marketing level so you can apply the lessons learned from this situation to your own:When you have a scenario like the Lowe’s one where a competitor does something stupid, you have two choices:

1) You can be lazy and have a nice laugh at your competitor’s expense. You may say you’re not going anywhere near the situation with a 10-foot pole and believe the customers will naturally trickle over to you.

2) You can get off your butt and move quickly to cater to the disenchanted audience. It’s called being proactive because it’s the right thing to do marketing-wise and in some cases, morally as well.

You buy media where they dropped media. You use social media to target the voices that are angry. You issue releases and blog posts speaking to the pains people are expressing. And it’s not really about the competitor at all as much as heavily amplifying how much stronger YOUR principles are. Don’t waste any time retelling their story – the disenfranchised are already doing that for you. Tell yours in a way that helps the audience connect the dots easily on how you’re different regarding that particular issue.

This window of opportunity can happen at the most basic local level too. Not all that long ago, a auto dealership in the Chicagoland area fired a man for coming into work wearing a Green Bay Packers tie. Now, I bleed Bear blue and orange, but obviously that’s just a dumb move. The media picked up on the story and the auto dealership that formerly employed him got some massive and unwanted attention.

At this point, other dealerships nearby could have just reveled in a competitor screwing up. But one had the initiative to seize the moment while the story was still hot. They hired the Packer-wearing tie salesman almost immediately. Not only was that the right thing to do, but the focus shifted from one stupid dealership to how the new dealership did something heroic. THEY became the new focus of the story.

My point is, when events like this happen to a competitor, don’t run from the chatter. Dive into it. You want to talk about how you can engage a community? You’re looking at it. Put up or shut up time.

There’s one thing Lowe’s got right in separating itself from a program with the words “All American” in it: When brands are this easily swayed by the agendas of extreme groups that they forget their own values, whatever it is they’re building together is anything but All American.

Have you ever capitalized on a competitor’s mistake to acquire new customers and become the hero? If so, how did it happen and what did you do? Share away, hero.

5 Ways To Avoid Social Media Fatigue

It’s not easy establishing our own personal brands in the world. You have to blog, tweet, connect, and like…let’s face it, it can be rather exhausting to keep up this kind of consistency. No wonder I hear the term “social media fatigue” used more often. Yet, if it’s a given we all have to build awareness of ourselves, aren’t we forgetting an opportunity right before us that might help share the burden of producing fresh content?

I’m talking about strategies to pool resources among like-minded people so you promote yourselves even farther. Here are a few great ones: 

1) Invite Them to Guest Blog
Coming up with content for a blog all by yourself is tough, no matter how many resources you have to help (thank you, though, Google Reader). So it’s a great relationship builder to invite someone you trust to provide a guest post for you. They’re flattered by it usually and it can be refreshing for your audience to hear viewpoints in a blog from a different voice outside your own. And of course, you can take a temporary break from blogging yourself.

2) Interview Them
Whether a blog, article, podcast or video, you’re enabling someone else to share their story or viewpoints by bringing them into one of the social media tools you’re using. I’d be sure to do some prep work in advance as far as ample questions to keep the conversation flowing, particularly if it’s video or audio content.

3) Build a Twitter List Around Each Other
Twitter Lists are an underutilized tool in my opinion, especially when you have potentially thousands of people to keep track of, that you’re following and following you. Build a list around certain people who have proven to be good referral sources for you so you can easily retweet their best tweets and they can hopefully do the same for you. Those retweets from the group can help get some extra mileage out of your next tweet.

4) Start A LinkedIn Group Based On Interest
Think of the common thread that runs among your group – it doesn’t even have to be strictly business-related – and start up a LinkedIn Group among yourselves. While you might have to be the designated discussion starter, if you have a lively group, these discussions can take on a life of their own. For example, a Chicago Cubs Group has a topic that’s been going strong for months now! That might be an extreme timeframe, but even if you can get the ball rolling with a compelling enough discussion topic to stir conversations for several days, the group keeps the momentum of interactivity going. All the while, who does the credit come back to for originating the discussion? That’s right, You.

5) Co-Present A Webinar or SlideShare Presentation
Why try to sell the same canned speech to the world when you can share the load in creating a new one with a related business? Both of you can then enjoy the credit for the joint presentation, wherever it would be given. If a webinar, your combined prospect audiences may be bigger than if just one of you had been presenting.

When it comes to new content, you just don’t have to always come up with one amazing topic after another by yourself. That leads to social media fatigue and eventual burnout. So join forces by using these opportunities and others like them to bring attention to both your name and someone else’s in the process. If all goes well, it’ll be both of you invited into a buyer’s office, simultaneously too.

You Are Not Your Business Card.

There’s a question we all seem to get in networking situations – “What do you do?” Invariably, we answer with“I’m a (occupation) and I work for (company).”

I started thinking about how this defines so very little about why people find our personal brands memorable. We lead with what’s on our business card. But when people talk about you to others, what will they say?

Having just finished the excellent Guy Kawasaki book, “Enchantment,” I’ve realized that likability and trust make for a more compelling position than simply relying on where you work and what you do to bowl people over. Primarily because it shares so little of you as a person.

“He’s a great accountant.”
Not bad, I suppose. But I’ve heard the beginning and end of the whole story.

“The guy oozes talent and niceness from every pore. He made the process of working with him a complete and utter joy.”
Wow. I want to know more. Why was that process so enjoyable? Can I meet him? And by the way, wouldn’t we all want to be described in this way instead?

How does one get to a description like the second option?

A good place to start is to de-business card yourself. I don’t mean actually trashing them all but mentally learning to strip away the contents. All of it. The company. The title. The e-mail address. The phone number. Even the occupation itself.

Imagine all that going out the window. What’s left?

If you find yourself grasping for an answer, don’t feel bad. The first time I thought about this, I called myself a “content marketer” or “brand strategist.” But I knew I was so much more than that. So I became excited by the challenge of conveying myself as a brand and who I envisioned myself to be. This led me to consider the best places to express this personal brand:

Some good places to start:

Your LinkedIn Profile
So many people consider just the summary and work history of LinkedIn. But think about the applications you can add that convey other factors, like what you’re reading (Amazon Reading List), what your interests are (don’t just list the professional ones) and Groups (boards, country clubs, etc.). Assuming you’ve had positive connections, those Recommendations will inevitably help people see the side of you that’s a relationship builder – so don’t be afraid to ask colleagues and clients for them!

Blog
I can’t say enough about how a blog will help you develop an original voice that’s helpful, humble and eager to share content. Building credibility is important, but the reward isn’t in trying to be an all-knowing authority that never gets a response. The reward is in inspiring conversation that grows beyond a post and takes on a life of its own (all the while, the positive attributes of bringing a “community” together are credited back to you).

Twitter
People are feeling you out to see if you’re someone worth following. Here lies an opportunity to prove your thought leadership and show your passions on a topic unique to your industry that extends far outside just “what you do” and “who you work for.” One tool I like to use to add depth and context to my tweets is PeerIndex. The broader my PeerIndex “topic fingerprint,” the more it overlaps nearby related topics and the more I tend to garner interest. For example, if you tweet about a new piece of technology, you may expand your authority by conveying how that technology has implications for media or science rather than commenting purely on whether or not you like it.

YouTube
It takes some practice to get comfortable in front of the camera, but if you do, it can go a long way toward someone visualizing taking a meeting with you. As you do engage in YouTube videos, however, I encourage you not to picture yourself merely as “VP of…” Again, think above and beyond your current status and instead picture yourself as a leader, resource, a helpful ally in a peer’s search to find answers. Think of how transparent you can be on a topic that stirs your passions. Then keep a schedule of when you can consistently record and upload videos.

We’d all like to think we’ll be at an employer that makes us happy for quite some time – and perhaps we will be. But even so, developing your personal brand beyond what your business card says you are enables you to define yourself as something so much more than a title and occupation – a likable, trustworthy personal brand that people can’t get enough of.

(This post originally ran in PersonalBrandingBlog.com)

Where Have You Gone, Ashton Kutcher?

I heard you left Twitter the other day because you sent out a Tweet you shouldn’t have about Joe Paterno and the whole Penn State fiasco. And you’re right – it was dumb of you to jump to conclusions with that Tweet imploring the University to keep him before you knew the full facts.

But you know what, Ashton? It’s OK. Really. You made a stupid Tweet but it’s no reason for you to leave Twitter altogether (or hand it off to someone else to manage your account).

See, Ashton, while I respect you for trying to be more responsible, it’s exactly why I’d like you to come back. Because while you were apologizing, Magic Johnson was on Twitter calling Joe Paterno a “hero.” Within 5 minutes, he got a backlash so bad that he was trying to Tweet what he really meant by that. Last I checked, Magic is still on Twitter.

I suppose everything that comes out of Kim Kardashian’s Twitter stream is a stroke of educated genius? Or Paris Hilton? Or Perez Hilton? Or Lindsey Lohan? They’re still hanging around the Twitterverse.

You’re a Midwesterner, Ashton, so I know you must watch quite a few Bears games when you’re not shooting your sitcom. So you must remember when a few dumb NFL players last year shot off Tweets questioning Jay Cutler’s manhood when he bowed out of a playoff game due to injury? I’m pretty sure none of them were physicians with knowledge of the injury entailed, none of them were in the game and none of them were Jay Cutler, so they couldn’t know what the pain actually felt like.

Nope. They Tweeted anyway from a cowardly place that was nowhere near Soldier Field. And some of them, unlike you, Ashton, didn’t even say they were sorry for it. Gee, maybe they should leave Twitter too.

Point being, Ashton, is this: Celebrities, athletes and us common folk have all said things in our life, whether online or offline that we all wish we could take back. It’s what makes us human. We apologize for our shortcomings when it happens and we try to move on. Like you did. Why? Because we know this:

Tweets are not press releases.

They should not be treated as such.

The very thing that makes us enjoy this relatively new universe of social media is that we can feel closer to people we would never/rarely otherwise get to interact with in the real world. Some are respected authorities in our industry, some are celebrities. And in exchange for entering that domain, we should be willing to cut each other a certain amount of slack just as we would in the offline world. Particularly when it’s accompanied by a quick acknowledgement of the mistake.

Of course, I can’t suggest everything in the world is fine to say and allows you to be off the hook. That’s silly. There are extreme and dangerous exceptions, especially among intentionally hateful people who would use social media as an amplifier for their views.

But Ashton, you slapped your own hand in a way that suggests everything under your Twitter handle from now on will be screened and filtered carefully before it goes out – I don’t think that’s the answer. I’m just not in favor of a social media strategy that involves high screening by committee. I think I’ll see the Lochness Monster and Bigfoot hug before I see a fast-moving social media committee.

There has to be a certain amount of trust involved once you’ve given designated people clear guidelines. And yes, maybe they’ll still veer slightly off course from time to time, but come on. If every last Tweet and post has to be reviewed by multiple parties before it goes out, you’re defeating the purpose of being involved in social media at all because it’s probably not going to be as real-time as it should be. And THAT’S when you should get out or avoid social media because you’re missing the whole point of commenting on what’s current and relevant to an audience that expects that.

It’s a Tweet. It’s not an Official Company Position. That’s why people say things like “These views do not reflect my company” in their bio if they really have to.

So come back, Ashton. You screwed up and said something bad. It’s OK. I forgive you. I’ll even watch an episode of Two And A Half Men if it’ll make you feel better.