Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Does Social Media Have a Place When Tragedy Strikes?

It's one of the most debated questions in the social media realm.

When tragedy strikes on such a worldwide level as it did this past week, we are all compelled to share what's in our hearts and minds. Sorrow, grief, anger, outrage, depression, fear, vigilance - the emotions overwhelm and often so does our need to be heard. Social media has made that easy, enabling anyone with access to a computer or mobile phone to do just that and broadcast what we want to the world.

But should we?

Take for example the facebook trend you now see that places a translucent French flag over your profile photo. From French nationals living abroad it was a heartfelt tribute of sorrow and solidarity. But with proliferation, the obligation to do the same increases. It becomes less a symbol of solidarity and more a membership card. Many of those profile owners have never stepped foot in France, but that said, does it preclude them showing their support? Does it mean you don't empathize as much or don't care if you don't use it? Does it really help anyone? For many I suspect, the one person it helps is themselves. Facebook as therapist may not be the first choice but for some in this digital age, it's the only choice.

That "choice to voice" is yours and yours only. When celebrities and politicians do it, it can help humanize them. Though voicing their unfiltered feelings seems to be an opportunity for foot in mouth disease. For brands and businesses, the right thing to say - or not to say - is more complex.

There's a fine line between showing empathy and creating backlash from jumping on the sympathy bandwagon. How can a well meaning facebook or twitter post mourning the senseless loss of life be viewed as negative, you ask? It happens when grief ironically is perceived as a commodity.

For those directly affected, an outreach of support and empathy does indeed help the healing process. Just turn to your own life when you've lost a loved one and remember the comfort you received from condolences. Sometimes when it came from strangers it was even more powerful.

But for companies, adding their two cents regardless of how genuine they might be, are viewed differently. Will they be looked poorly upon if they don't join the cause? Will they look like they are exploiting tragedy and are just taking advantage of the attention? In short, do we care that they care? Can't we just assume that few people on this planet condone such violence and loss of life?

In these situations, I always think of my friend the attorney who asks his client's the same question before he files a suit. "What if you were to do nothing for now and just wait?"  The damage and costs only escalate as your emotions subside. Unless you are adding a perspective so unique it needs to be heard, silence is a social media strategy to which most companies should adhere.

Some things simply don't need to be publicized and should not be commoditized. Resist the temptation to pontificate on the virtual soapbox we've all been given. Instead, choose to share those opinions and emotions with those you trust and contribute resources outside of the public eye.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Bridging a Social Media Marketing Generation Gap

Photo: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/228029

Social media best practices is often the topic of my column which is syndicated by several news services and tweeted to millions of readers. I've written two eBooks on social media best practices, and companies large and small hire me to create complex social media strategies and execute their plans. My newest client - the 19-year-old founder of Campus Thrift, (www.campusthrift.com) a new, online thrift store where only college students can buy and sell used goods - isn't much impressed with any of this experience. 

Then again, she also happens to be my daughter...

Like it or not, there is a generational gap that exists in the social media world, and it only seems to be widening. You're always going to to roll your eyes at the generation before you who did not grow up with that new technology - bet it the horseless carriage or SnapChat.  According to a social media demographic study last year in Business Insider, the demographics of who's on what social network are shifting — older social networks are reaching maturity, while newer social messaging apps are gaining younger users quickly.

Not only have times changed, the time in which they've changed has accelerated ten-fold. Many of the "go to" places for advertising and promotion just don't apply to digital start ups - particularly when you're starting with a budget of zero. Don't quote me on the exact age is but if you're 40 or over you rely on Facebook. If you're 30 and younger, it's Instagram. Anti-social media and you're likely on Reddit. The list goes on. 

So then it would certainly makes sense that there's a Social Media Marketing Generation Gap. A chasm between the best ways to reach your target markets. It's why many companies give the job of social media management to the youngest person on staff, which I maintain is a mistake. Twitter has been a faux pas minefield for some corporations. But there's something to be said for the fact that each generations knows its own better than the rest. I mean, am I a dope to think the word cool still means cool? Or is it dope to say dope instead? Either way, I'm cool with it.

In many small businesses, owners seek out the advice of experienced friends and family. So when my daughter asked for my opinion on some digital marketing for her site launch we locked horns in a way that went beyond a messy room or a distaste for steamed vegetables. There were marketing strategies that I spend weeks on instructing older CEOs that she knew like the back of her iPhone. Her site created in applications I've never heard of. I prefer blueberry, but humble pie was on the menu.

What hasn't changed is the tried and true methods of business writing, marketing, advertising and public relations. For instance, who is likely to pick up your press release, when to send it, what to include are still standard but require knowledge and connections. And phrases like "Free," "50% Off Sale" and "Limited Time Only" work on buyers of all ages. So traditional standard procedures that never crossed her mind. Chalk one up for the "ancient" (over 40) team!

So like in my and my daughter's case, bridging the Social Media Marketing Generation gap requires a meeting of the minds and mutual respect for knowing your demographic versus knowing your job. Will her social sensibilities and pop cultural references resonate better than mine? Will me inbound marketing tactics engage them to stay? We shall see but the Magic 8-ball says "Outlook is Good."

But in full disclosure, aside from some big picture tactics, the most major contribution I made to Campus Thrift was co-founding its founder.

Follow Frank Bocchino, a digital marketing consultant who helps brands exceed their business goals utilizing the latest trends for  blogging marketing automation, SEO, and social media.

Or contact Frank Bocchino for media opportunities.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Donald, Megyn, and the Curious Art of NYC Social Media

Social media lessons we can all learn from the most outspoken, opinionated, yet fascinating Presidential candidate.

If you were slapped by a stranger, would you turn and run, restrain them, or hit back?  For many of us raised in and around New York City, a slap is returned with a closed fist to the jaw. Not fighting fair? The attitude is, if you make an unprovoked or unfair hit we will hit you much harder. This transcends socioeconomic class. Perhaps it's why one time New York City Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt would speak softly and carry that big stick.

The same applies to verbal slapping which has moved for the most part from the streets to the Web. Twitter seems to be the arena of choice where tweets fly quickly with stinging jabs.  A football player disses a rival team; a rapper calls out another for not having street creds. The retorts that are often crude, inflammatory, libelous even - but good fodder for our reality-obsessed public that relishes these verbal smack downs.

The social media tough talking is safer than saying it face to face and that's part of the problem. The attackers are rarely held to their words. We hold our politicians to a (seemingly) higher standard. They are expected to dismiss the vitreous comments and barbs, show decorum and move on - but NYC's own Donald Trump has his own approach.

If you cross Trump - particularly if he believes it's unprovoked - you cross him for life, as Rosie O'Donnell among others now know.  He carries that same city kid, you-slap-me-I-obliterate-you style over into his social media. At times his posts come off as snarky, sarcastic, and sage. Other times as incendiary or sour grapes, but he never comes off as wishy-washy. If Trump says he doesn't like you, he really doesn't like you. You're on Team Trump or against them. That black and white perspective is another quality of NYC social media.

As for Megyn Kelly's debate question regarding disrespect for women, Mr. Trump should have simply replied, "I believe in equality. If someone insults or unfairly critiques me, it's open season regardless of who they are." It appears that Trump does not consider your sex, race, age, or anything about you before he hits back. It's a no-holds barred, instinctual approach. If you poke at Mr. Trump  - even in jest - prepare to fight, run, or duck swiftly.

Trump's debate ratings were through the roof. But the most remarkable thing to me about Donald Trump the Presidential candidate is not his gloves-off verbal bouts. It's the fact that he's actually reading these tweets and posts and taking the time to reply to them. Think about that for a moment. I'd bet Trump employees will tell you he is anything but a hands-off manager. Sure, he likely has people searching for these social media attacks, but the replies are unabashedly all Donald's words, not those of a social media think tank massaging the right message.

Maybe his time would be better served elsewhere but that Über involvement is impressive. I'm sure if there is something that rubs Trump the wrong way in this column, I'll hear from him as well. His off-the-charts confidence can be confounding, off-putting, engaging and refreshing all at the same time. That's social media Trump style. Not for the politically correct or faint of heart. It makes him as many detractors as it does supporters. Or as Trump might summarize, "You don't like me? Too bad, loser."

Three things that we can all take from the Trump style of social media.
  1. Read what people are saying about you and your company yourself. Don't just leave it to a junior member.
  2. Address attacks and issues immediately. If a disgruntled employee or customer makes unfounded claims or even legitimate complaints address it immediately on social media. Waiting only compounds the problem. 
  3. Watch what you say, people are listening, just waiting to throw off those gloves and use that big stick.