Thursday, February 13, 2014

Living with Your Social Media Regrets

Have you made a post, shared a photo, or commented on one of your social networks that you later regretted?

If you answered, "no," then you're doing it wrong. It means you're not posting enough. We all have regrets in life, and I'm willing to bet it's more what you haven't done than did. If you're in social media, you've got to be in all the way. Not that there's anything wrong with reserving comments. I think there are many people who post far too much -- or more to the point, far too much uninteresting junk. No one's ever gone to a comedy show and complained "He was great, but he made me laugh too much." Like wearing yoga pants, everyone has the right to post, not everyone should.

However, if you answered "yes" to the question, then congratulations are in order. Not for your poor choices, but for your decision to take chances and recognize your mistakes. Most successful people do both.

When I post, I do indeed envision the consequences of my words. If I lose friends or followers on a comment or photo I found humorous or important, well then so be it. But most of the time, the ones I am most hesitant about posting receive the most acclaim.

But these are on my personal accounts. The posts I make on behalf of the companies I represent, however, is a different story. Decorum can be learned, but the dumbest choice companies make is enlisting the wrong people (i.e. non PR professionals) for making social media posts. In short, the best way to avoid dumb posts is to avoid dumb posters. That's the smartest choice a company can make.

So what if your social media pro does make a dumb choice? The best thing to do is fess up ASAP. Don't blame the poster's judgement or apparent lack of sensitivity. Remember, publicly making an employee look bad does to make your organization look good. Period. Apologize when it's appropriate, and not as a panacea to make all the complaints go away.

Finally, understand that your faux pas is bigger in your world than in ours. The heat will soon subside because there are other people and other companies around the corner whose mistakes will be....dumberer.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

No ROI from your Social Networks? Change the Channel

If your company hasn't gotten the results you expected from your social networking, it probably never will.

I'm a social media strategist and consultant, write a syndicated column on social media, have authored social media best practices eBooks, and by some standards, am a pioneer in social media. And I consider myself a social media student -- you can't be much of an expert on what's been around for such a short time. So it always puzzles me when a client reaches a frustration level with the results, or rather the lack thereof, that they are achieving from their efforts. They'll say: "I've got my Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages up. And I'm paying some kid to write content and post and tweet and blog and...I'm not seeing anything." 

Sound familiar? Measuring ROI on social media certainly is possible though since there is no accepted standard (like the 2% return on direct mail for instance) I'm not sure what good it is. More important is ROE and ROTS (return on effort and return on time spent). Is the effort you are putting in increasing website traffic, SEO, brand awareness and inbound leads? Is it improving customer service and reducing support costs?

All social networks are just that: networks like HBO, CNN, or The Golf Channel. All with distinct target markets. The social networks are taking advantage of the fact that you don't recognize that. You may have thousands of Twitter followers but will never make a sale from it. Or conversely you may just have a couple hundred Facebook followers who could become loyal customers and generate hundreds more. Like any product or service, your efforts and subsequently advertising dollars may do gangbusters on a site of which you've never heard. Bad news is those sites are difficult to find with the millions out there; good news is when you do, you'll know it.

Many of these social networks allow you to zone in on your target market with pinpoint accuracy to which I say: "Big deal." If I'm buying space for a burger joint I don't care how many meat eaters I can reach on the Vegetarian Channel. Are the Male 18-34 demographic you're trying to reach buy on Facebook or just use it to chat and buy on Amazon and get influenced on Reddit? You see where I'm going with this.

You may simply be on the wrong network. Every business should have a Facebook page; not every business will get much business out of it. Try adverting there. It may be a success or not.
But more importantly is to understand that just because there are 750 million people it doesn't mean it's going to be a financial boon for you. Face it, Facebook may be causing you to face reality in the face of defeat and causing you to lose face. (Damn, that was a fun sentence to write.) Same goes for Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and the next great social network.

In conclusion, disregard what the "experts" may be telling you. You may be right. Facebook may be a bust for you even if they let you target exactly who you want to target. Instead maybe find a new, cutting edge networks that are on their way up. Change the channel.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Find Your Social Media Magic Times

To paraphrase a popular fictional beer spokesman, "I'm not always receiving a call on my cell phone, but when I do, someone else is trying to buzz in."  Why is it that more than one person trying to call us at the same time happens all the time? Some might make the case of being on the same wavelength as the caller. But Murphy's Law aside, there has to be some science in this phenomenon that we can apply to business. In fact, we are already doing it and it's not magic at all.

We humans are creatures of habit and often our professions dictate those habitual behaviors. Most of us work the 9 to 5-ish, eat lunch at noon, etc. Certain professions rely on their perceived "magic times" as well. Take public relations execs who reserve press releases for Tuesday through Thursday. Mondays are reserved for "hard news;" Fridays for "fun news" or stories you are obligated to release but want to to get lost or buried (earnings loss, for example). Then they'll follow up with editors at certain times whether it's a daily, weekly, or monthly publication based upon their schedules.

So the reason you often get two calls at once is because people -- both your acquaintances and strangers -- can make a good guess of when you're most likely be available.  No magic, but the results can be.

The same applies to best practices of social media. For the answer, just look to your reaction of a cell phone going days without ringing. In fact, I can go without days without receiving a call. (Does that make me The Least Interesting Man in the World? Perhaps.) The point is that telephony is soooo 2006 and many teens use their cell phones for everything but talking on the phone. (True, I haven't met your teenager, but think how many more calls they'd make if it wasn't for social media.) So if you were surprised by the phone that doesn't ring often, then you're probably not as tuned into social media as much as you should be.

In short, if you are truly connected in a social media sense, you should be making and taking fewer calls. And those "Magic Times" should be happening more often. In other words, there are better times than others to post and share and tweet than others based upon the schedules of your followers and subscribers. Don't worry, your competitors likely haven't discovered when those times are either. But here's a few tips to get a head start:

  • Employ A/B testing. Forget that social media's free. Treat it like a direct mail campaign.
  • Utilize social media analytic tools that let you determine best times to post on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, where ever, as well as your blogs. There are free tools out there if you find the best times.
  • Factor in who you're trying to reach when you're trying to figure out when the best time to post. Teachers keep very different hours than lawyers for example.
Find your magic times, and stay thirsty for social media success, my friends.