Don’t Let Content Syndication Make You Lazy.

The other side of content syndication: Does it cause us to cut down on quality interactive time spent on each social media channel?

A couple weeks ago, I had a bonafide Freak Out Moment. One of the apps used to syndicate my blog was having an error and decided to post the latest post – even before it was done – onto the web over and over again. If you were on the receiving end of that noise, I do sincerely apologize for the insanity. Fortunately, if there’s any good that came after I had my meltdown and got the situation under control (hopefully, please Lord) by undoing the app altogether, it was that I had a bit of an epiphany about content syndication.

My epiphany

While I had originated a lot of content from my blog, in my passion for syndication, I was unintentionally neglecting some of those other channels, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, for the venues of discussion they have been for me. Technically I was there, but I wasn’t really there as much as I was distributing stuff there, thanks to syndication of my posts. I was posting, but I’d fallen into a trap of doing the very thing I despise doing: broadcasting in a 1-way format more than 2-way interaction.

As a result, I have not done as much interacting on LinkedIn in Discussion Groups or asked/answered questions in the Q&A forums. I’d maybe done some Retweeting of others on Twitter, but I needed to do more true responding and commenting to those tweets.

The trouble with syndication

Here lies the hidden trouble of syndication if you’re not careful. There’s absolutely nothing inherently wrong with having your blog sync with other channels, so I’m not blaming those tools – the problem is when users get in the habit of clicking off check boxes to sync that content with and forgetting to do anything else on the channels by and large. 

What’s that? LinkedIn? Twitter? Facebook? Sure, you’re there. But if you’re relying on syndication for your interaction alone, are you really there?

You can become so focused on the content under your own roof and how you’re going to push that out to the masses that you forget that each channel deserves as much of its own strategy as possible. What is it that makes this certain audience different? What is it that you’ve found they appreciate most? How will you have a relationship with them that’s different and unique from your other channels?

Without consistently doing this check-up on yourself, you can fall into a pattern of regular publishing – which seems great – without showing others that you know how to converse, absorb, appreciate and advise. You could actually have extraordinary content but totally un-extraordinary people skills within a community. 

You need both qualities to do business successfully and build a brand. At least I don’t think you can be nearly as successful being a pure content shoveler vs. responding to others.

So go ahead and syndicate. And of course, make your content as excellent as possible. Just remember to have your commenting skills accompany your content writing skills too.

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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.

Cubs, Sox Looking Up at Teams in Social Media Standings Too

The San Francisco Giants are the world champions of social media. Oh, and I suppose they deserve that World Series trophy too.

Let me explain. I began to write this as a Cubs vs. Sox comparison of social media usage – and I do speak to this. But I also wanted to show the whole picture of how both the North Siders and South Siders compare against other teams in baseball. Plus, I didn’t want Sox fans to think I was trying to intentionally be biased against their team as I fully disclose my passion for Cubdom.

There may be Cubs Nation, Yankees Nation and Red Sox Nation, but in my view, the Giants are the best all-around baseball team in terms of being truly “social.”

And what’s crazy is that it primarily comes down to effort, not technology.

Some will say, “that figures because they’re in Silicon Valley and there’s a lot of tech people out there.” No, no, no. You and I both know that we’re talking about interaction, not building microchips. It involves maintenance and consistency but being a social media marketer doesn’t require hardcore engineering. So take that thought and smack it out of the stadium of your mind.

To arrive at this finding, I took a look at Sports Fan Graph from Coyle Media, Klout, Social Media Today and my own analysis of teams’ social media channels.

Now, let’s discuss some of those categories in greater detail:

Twitter Interactivity

I don’t judge too much by number of followers because obviously that favors the big cities vs. the smaller ones. Plus, I don’t believe that should be the most heavily weighted piece of criteria when measuring social media influence anyway. Instead, I looked at whether teams were actually conversing with followers or they were just using Twitter as an outlet for broadcasting.

Using this measurement, the Giants top off around 33 follower responses in a 24-hour span alone. That may or may not sound like a lot, until you consider what both of our teams did combined.

Cubs: Within a 72-hour span @Cubs acknowledged and responded to zero followers. The front office Tweeter at @CubsInsider was a little better – one follower in 72 hours. All the rest of their tweets were broadcasts.

White Sox: In the same 72-hour timeframe, @whitesox had the same result – zero responses to any followers.

 

Frequency of Tweets

Even with sharing play-by-play, scores and interviews, you can only tweet so much when it’s one-sided. The Giants are masters of pumping out tweets that are frequent and varied. As noted, they know how to give and receive feedback. At this point, they tally nearly 15,000 tweets.

By comparison, the Cubs and White Sox combined total a little less than half that many tweets. That’s a little embarrassing when you consider these teams have a fan base that’s much larger than, say, the Blue Jays or Rangers – just a couple of the teams out-Tweeting the Cubs and Sox.

 

Facebook Pages           

It’s almost a given that size of city will play an influence on size of Facebook Page, so it’s not terribly surprising that the Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs have the largest amount of Fans on their Facebook Pages. Yet this is what makes the Giants’ showing of the 4th overall Facebook Page all the more respectable, considering San Francisco is in a market behind New York, L.A., Chicago, Houston, Philly and several others.

The White Sox aren’t terrible overall in terms of Facebook Page volume (11th), but they certainly shouldn’t be losing out to anyone within their division – and Detroit’s Facebook Page is nudging it out by 20,000 Fans.


Check-Ins

More check-ins occur at AT&T Park, home of the Giants, than any other baseball stadium, according to Social Media Today. As of right now, their fans have checked in on Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places 284,854 times.

The Dodgers are second (233,008) and the Cubs are third (233,008). Not terribly surprising considering the beauty of the Friendly Confines but this is nonetheless a bright spot for the Cubs as they’ve nudged past those checking in at Yankee Stadium.

I don’t mean to pick on the White Sox here, but the number of check-ins at US Cellular Field are dead last in baseball (24,285). That’s pathetic. And you can’t put that all on the fans either. If they had enough incentive to check-in through certain promotions, they’d do it. So let’s see the front office do something in this area so the Sox can at least pass up the check-ins by Houston fans at Minute Maid Park, which deserves to relegated to last for its stupid hill in center field.


Conclusion

Some teams can rest on their laurels and get a sizeable fan base, but you’ve got to admire when a team becomes Avis-like and tries harder because it knows it has to. The Giants are in a smaller city and even have to compete with a team across the Bay to a degree. Yet there’s nothing preventing many other teams from doing the things the Giants are doing – they’re just hustling a lot more when it comes to posting, tweeting and interacting. Who knows? Maybe that’s a mandate from the front office there – hustle on the field and off of it.

As far as the Cubs and White Sox, there’s room for improvement overall. From a social media perspective with all factors considered, both teams are looking up at the Giants, Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies. And when it comes to Twitter, they’re behind the Phillies, Yankees, Giants, Braves, Dodgers and Blue Jays. If you believe in Klout scores, add the Mets and Rangers above them.

I can understand being behind the Yankees. But the Braves, Rangers and Blue Jays?

Wait until next year, I guess.

How about your thoughts on how your team can be a little more social? To spur ideas, check out this article in Fast Company that talks about the “6 Things Sports Teams Can Do With Social Media To Engage Fans.”

SEO trumps social on driving traffic? Not so fast.

A post today in Crain’s comes from an SEOer who claims that SEO is what drives traffic above all else, not social media.

I certainly don’t disagree with him on the power of search engine optimization to be a big traffic driver, but I’ve got at least one case study that says social media can be a primary traffic driver, even over SEO: My own.

First and foremost, let me add one gigantic disclaimer: Everybody’s website and blog is different, with different audiences that behave in various ways. Some people are more searchers and have a great idea of what they’re looking for. Some don’t and stumble upon something they like, then share it with others.

My audience is a little more of the second variety. They find a post of mine, hopefully like it and share it. This isn’t to say my SEO isn’t good because it is. It’s to say that my results from social media have been even better. How so? I’ll list my top traffic drivers over the last 90 days, as thankfully with your help, this blog has continued to go up and up in readership. So for that, I sincerely thank you. Now to the list:

#1 Traffic Driver: Facebook
For me, Facebook is by far the best referrer of traffic to this blog. It’s not even close. It’s like Mark Zuckerberg called up a bunch of fans of mine, put them in a semi-trailer and drove them to my site. Then he turned around and did it again the next day.

Facebook isn’t just tops in referring people to my site but in share-ability of posts.

#2 Traffic Driver: LinkedIn
Again, this is where you need to pay attention to where your audience “hangs out” online. While it seems obvious, I really have to wonder if people factor this into their equation. It’s why I cringe whenever someone says, “You need to be on _____(insert site here)” without ever sitting down with the customer and getting a feel for who their primary target is. Not just demographic stuff but real behavioral targeting. Would you give a potential bride any old wedding dress off the rack without talking to her, getting to know what she likes, understanding what her budget is and taking her measurements before you know what you can recommend? Since many in my audience are businesspeople, it’s no surprise that LinkedIn is a popular place for referring traffic and sharing posts.

It’s right around here that my search engine optimization traffic comes in as a #3 referrer for various terms used. It’s very close with LinkedIn, but L.I. does edge out my traffic from Google slightly. Even so, Facebook crushes it – almost triple the amount of referring for all search engine terms.

Again, before you run into your boss’ office saying, “we need to be on Facebook and LinkedIn” remember that this is the way MY audience is behaving. Yours may be completely different and very search engine oriented.

Other strong Traffic Drivers: E-mail and Inbound links

Behind these three but still very valuable to me in terms of traffic are e-mail and inbound links. You know e-mail, that supposedly ancient method that continues to keep on giving. When a company has interest in a post and wants to share it, they may or may not be a company where social media is widely used. So the next best path is, naturally, e-mail. I’ve had many posts shared this way with traffic coming back to the blog. After Facebook, e-mail is the second highest way my posts are shared among others.

Inbound links have been kind to me as well. I’m referring to sites that picked up my posts and linked back to my site in their own posts. If those sites have high traffic themselves, I get high traffic. This is practically tied with e-mail for refer-ability.

Of course, as the tools of social media are always evolving, I’ll be interested to see how Google Plus plays into the mix as I revisit this list over the next month and quarter. I only expect it to gain more traction over time.

The point of sharing all this is simply that in the case I’ve just outlined to you, both social and SEO are working together to play a fundamental role in increasing traffic and sharing for me. The audience data tells me so. To suggest one or the other is always the go-to method for people is a blanket statement that doesn’t often apply. For some, SEO may be #1 and for others, social may be #1. But rare is the case where both shouldn’t be high on your list. They certainly are on mine.