Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

Will Facebook Match My Socks Too?

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

I’m sure there are plenty of people that are still too upset about Facebook format changes from three years ago, to be particularly upset about yesterday’s changes. It’s fascinating to read or hear the backlash each time Facebook changes their layout. When we have beautiful fall weather, we need something to complain about, so I guess it gets to be Facebook. I suspect if there was an Amazon review of Facebook it would be “3 Stars, nice product but changes too often and won’t stop my mom from replying to my posts.”

Generally speaking, Facebook is one of the few companies releasing new features that work, rather than features that don’t work to replace features that never did work from the previous version. There are a few interesting things that have changed with this release and just like everyone else in America with access to a blog, I feel the need to tell you about it at this very moment.

The first thing is their promotion of lists in importance and helping us to formulate them. This is reasonable since I would probably never get around to categorizing my 500+ friends. To be honest, I have fewer socks than that and if it wasn’t for my wife, I’d probably never categorize them in pairs either. Facebook relied on the basic methods of blood (family), time (my Hiram College list) and space (people that are near Saint Paul). None of which are actually that useful to me and I suspect it’s the same for others. I don’t think we structure our social media generated virtual world in the same way we structure our interactions in the real world. Interestingly, my wife was added to a Family Group of a friend whom we’ve hung out with once since her wedding a few years ago. The only buggy thing I can speculate about the algorithms is that her first name starts with a J and last name starts with an I, so Facebook assumed she’s related to me, and that makes her related to my wife? Although the other JI and I aren’t friends at the time of this writing (request sent, I swear).

I’d rather Facebook did content based suggestions to help me organize my social life.

My Facebook Content Lists would be:

1. Posts Only Baby Photos
2. Copies and Pastes Religious/Political Talking Points
3. Serial Farmville Updater
4. Passive Aggressive Vague Post Writers
5. I Won’t Ever Read Your Blog Again
6. People Who Treat Their Relationship Status like a Light Switch

So yeah, there’s that.

The only other things I’d like to comment on are the idea of Top News Stories being related to how long it’s been since your last login is a great idea. Although, for me it’s still littered with people from Twitter and their cross-posted content—that’s a function of them being more prolific and engaged “sharers” than most of my physical world friends. Finally, the only thing I really despise about the new layout is the real time ticker in the upper right hand of the layout. I’ve yet to find something interesting in there AND it’s locked to the screen giving it the feel of a really creepy clown picture with overly painted eyes following me around the room. I just don’t like it and hopefully will get so used to it that I actually won’t notice it anymore.

Like any organization marketing to consumers or businesses, Facebook should connect with its users, and find out what they like, need, and suggest before making serious changes to their product. Just because they think it’s good, doesn’t mean their customers do.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go worry about much more important things than Facebook’s new layout.

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Ten Things I Think I Think I Think

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

I was perusing the social media thinkers on the wide-wide-world-of-web and learned that I’ve been blogging all wrong. My rambling stories that take at least eighteen hours to get to the point are not the way to engage readers (I know right!). I need to use little words, short sentences, small ideas, and lists. We must have lists! Lists are shareable. Long-winded stories are what you tell over a beer while everyone at the table furtively hides their stifled yawns. Let’s make everything easily consumable, requiring minimal thought and be so bland that it will be forgotten tomorrow when we read the next vanilla article on the same topic. I’m going to give this a try.

Here’s my list and it doesn’t have anything at all do to with my introduction.

1. While short daily blog posts are certainly one way to engage your audience, it isn’t the only way. Please stop telling us that it is. It’s clear that many people, regardless of the industry, feel the need to write something daily and their quality of work suffers significantly. I’d like to think I have a decent idea weekly, a good idea once a month and a great idea rarely—all those bad ideas I have each day, I don’t need to share.

2. Use the medium in question or don’t bother. If your organization’s Twitter strategy is only to send people to Facebook or your blog, then you are missing the point. Tailor your message to the tool you are using and stop asking us to go three different places to get some information.

3. Direct Mail is still a great way to reach your customers. However, if you’d like people to drop a couple of grand on some computer gear, you might want to make sure that letter arrives more than six hours before the deal expires. I’m guessing people like to think about these things before pulling the trigger. Direct Mail requires a lot more planning than simply emailing out today’s deals. Think through your offer before you slap on a stamp.

4. Three social media gurus walk into a bar. The bartender asks, “What’ll you have?” The three ignore him, just talk to each other for an hour, and call the night a successful engagement.

5. If you blog about the value of using Twitter and the only people who read it already use Twitter, did you really have a point? I understand pandering to your base audience, but if you want to be influential, you need to influence people beyond getting some folks to nod in agreement.

6. I still really like Google+. It’s so quiet and peaceful there because no one is using it.

7. I love Peter Shankman’s article I Will Never Hire a “Social Media Expert,” and Neither Should You. Any human being who includes this sentence, “BAD WRITING IS KILLING AMERICA,” is a hero in my book.

8. Hyperbole has become mundane. Bump the excitement down a notch and give us more analysis and less hype.

9. Social Media gives you the opportunity to develop your “Personal Brand.” However, this doesn’t mean you are required to link all of your accounts to work, although you certainly can. But remember it is called Social Media and not Work Media.

10. I really don’t believe your organization is out of business if you don’t email me EVERY SINGLE DAY (unless your company is named Borders). How about giving me (your customer) an option to get daily, weekly, monthly, or holiday-only emails? It’s not that I don’t want you to market to me; it’s that I don’t want you to market to me so much.

Whew! Apparently I can’t even write a short article using lists.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be busy thinking about how to turn this list up to eleven.

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Targeting the Right Nuts

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Is anything harder than feigning excitement at the horrible media recommendation from a friend or family member? “Bob, I have to tell you, I LOVED that documentary on the feeding habits of squirrels in the greater Nome, Alaska metro area. The director really captured the angst of those squirrels trying to select just the right winter nut to bury.”

The worst part isn’t really hurting their feelings though, is it? It’s the realization that they are going to continue to provide you with bad entertainment suggestions until your life ends, or you unfriend them on Facebook—whichever comes first. The point is the more you get to know about someone, the better you should be able to tailor your message to fit their needs. If Bob really knew me, he’d probably have suggested some new science-fiction movie with laser guns and sword-wielding cats. The same is true of marketing. So for purposes of getting to the point, why don’t we call Bob, LinkedIn and “The Squirrels of Greater Nome,” the email I received this morning.

After I woke up, I rolled out of bed like a freshly minted zombie, grabbed my coffee and checked email on my trusty Blackberry like I do every morning. There were a few things from Twitter, a personal email or two and another email from LinkedIn. The subject of the email from LinkedIn was “Joel, recommended internships for you.” Beyond the lack of appropriate capitalization in the subject, I was completely baffled as to why I received this email. I quickly realized my cobwebs were caused by my late night at school and I got the email because I have my current Master’s program listed on LinkedIn.

That makes sense, but then why am I compelled to blog about this? Well, I’ve provided enough personal and professional information to LinkedIn that I should never have received this needless email. This is particularly true given that the internship leads they sent me were so far outside my area of interests that even Zig Ziglar couldn’t sell me on them.

The quickest way they could have prevented emailing me was to include an age range select on the campaign file. I’m thirty-seven and highly unlikely to be interested in a low paying, or more likely, unpaid internship. Since I supplied LinkedIn my exact birth date, the least they could do is use it in conjunction with their marketing materials to me—also, why didn’t they send me a birthday card? Scratch that, too creepy. I also have a long work history posted on the site, another reason I should have been excluded.

Let’s take a look at some of these great internships in the email:

Long Term Intern-Marketing & Social Media Planner, Symantec, Istanbul – So LinkedIn marketing thinks I might be interested in moving to Istanbul (not Constantinople) for a part-time job?

Marketing Intern, L’Oréal – Russian Federation – No offense to L’Oréal, but until they have their own branded donuts like Glamour magazine, I’m not interested. Also, my Russian is just a tad rusty and by rusty I mean one semester at Kent State thirteen years ago.

Gucci Group Fall Internships – IT/MIS and Finance, Gucci – Greater New York City Area – Okay, so we are in the right country now, but my only experience in high fashion is looking at the same Coach purse with my wife in five different cities before she purchased it. I will give LinkedIn credit since it is actually an MIS position, matching my Master’s program.

Public Relations / Corporate Communications Intern, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia – Greater New York City Area – Jackpot! If anyone has watched me cook Hot Pockets in the microwave and garnish the plate artistically with Cheetos, you’d know I am ready to pack up and go work for Martha Stewart.

To be fair, LinkedIn has no real idea about my personal feelings on the fashion industry and they’d have nothing to suppress in relation to those internship suggestions. However, I have the feeling that someone in the marketing department said to the data keepers, “Send this email out to everyone with a graduation date in the future, they’re all going to love this feature!” Had they taken the time to be a tad more discerning, they might have tightened the target audience to people who are just about to complete an undergraduate degree or in a graduate program that started within a year or two of finishing undergrad.

Just because in-house email marketing is inexpensive doesn’t mean your should throw everything against the wall just to see what sticks. It’s important to properly target your audience and market to the right people, otherwise you risk your audience not just deleting an email as irrelevant, but opting out of your service, or blocking you as spam. Once a potential customer opts out or flags you as spam you lose the opportunity to email them again, so it makes sense to keep your messages relevant to your audience.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to ship a package of acorns to Nome, Alaska.

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The Great Minnesota Tweet Together

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

I’ve got my PTO request slip in my hand and I’m trembling with excitement as I look forward to the start of next week’s Minnesota State Fair. I grew up over two hours from the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, so my experience with fairs until I moved to the Twin Cities was relegated to some smaller fairs comprised of terrible cover bands, undercooked elephant ears and eight despondent goats going through the motions of being goat-like until they could head out to happy hour. Honestly, I’d like to think all my fair experiences before the Minnesota State Fair were kind of like training camp to prepare me for the awesomeness of hundreds of meat products on a stick, giant tractors taken straight from Gulliver’s Travels and real bands reuniting as they try to reclaim their moment in the sun from their one hit song back in 1976. It’s so close I can smell the excitement—or maybe someone just burned some food in the toaster oven in the office kitchen. I don’t know.

The Minnesota State Fair is known as “The Great Minnesota Get-Together” and according to my in-depth research on Wikipedia, it is the third largest state fair in the US. You’d think that an event that seems to set new daily attendance records every year AND has a 90 pound butter sculpture of the head of the newly selected “Princess Kay of the Milky Way” wouldn’t use social media to connect with the 1.7 million people that attended in 2010, but they do. After @MeetingBoy and my wife, @MinnStateFair was one of the first accounts I followed on Twitter. With over 250,000 likes on Facebook and almost another 10,000 on Twitter, the Fair is doing an excellent job of communicating with people attending, running contests, and most importantly, promoting the organizations and events at the Fair.

I’ll admit I don’t engage with the Fair on Facebook, but I do on Twitter. For anyone looking to leverage Twitter for business purposes, I highly recommend checking out their Twitter account. Not only do they push updates and information, but they actively engage people on the platform. Be it replies to people tweeting about the Fair, sharing links to fairground maps, answering random questions, or just making me hungry for new food offerings from vendors, the people behind the @MinnStateFair account do a fantastic job of building a community and engaging it with worthwhile content. While I am quite sure a significant amount of effort is happening in the background to manage the social media interaction for the fair, I think you’ll agree that it’s time well spent. I know it sure beats all the businesses that start a Twitter account, send out three links a day, and call it a social media marketing program.

There are a lot of “gurus” out there that will tell you how to do social media for businesses, organizations and non-profits. They’ll inundate you with an avalanche of advice and even more snake oil. But rarely will they give you a positive example of an organization that isn’t a multi-billion dollar conglomerate. More likely, they will enhance the negative related to a bad social media event and just say “good social media practice is not doing this.” In this instance, the Minnesota State Fair Twitter account is a great example of how to do social media right within a professional context and their page is worth a read, if not a follow.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have at least 30 jokes to write about the Fair for my personal Twitter account and at least 25 of those can’t be about the Miracle of Birth Center.

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One Circle To Rule Them All?

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

At some point during the last twenty-four hours, I’ve accessed Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Facebook, Salesforce’s Chatter, Groupwise Messenger and Google+. I also talked to my father on the phone and received a text message from my wife—it said “moo.” While the time I spent on each communication platform wasn’t excessive, it adds up quickly to an amount that would allow me to build an addition on my house—or at least get the dishes washed. There are some people that can reach me on as many as nine of these eleven different communication mediums! It’s hard to believe any one person can manage all of those platforms in a twenty-four hour period with less stress than is involved in setting the timer on the coffee pot. Here’s the essential question when I think about this: Is it better to be tied to many different platforms and manage interactions across all mediums, or would it be less challenging to manage fewer platforms but wade through more information?

Most days I just coast along and do communication rather than think about it. I write emails at work, wade through tweets, occasionally smirk at a Facebook status and try to figure what I should be doing with LinkedIn. Some days I do all that, and blog! However, with the release of Google+, I’m starting to evaluate all these different platforms and trying to make sense of my daily communication. I’ll freely admit that I wasn’t interested in Google+ until I got an invite to join (funny how that happens). While I need another social media platform like I need that hole in my head from the ill-advised earring from college, there’s something very compelling about Google+. There is also something very concerning to me.

In a quick overview, Google+ is kind of like a long-form version of Twitter with the ability to comment like Facebook, Tumblr’s ability to integrate images into posts, a whole slew of other nifty features, and the promise of even more integration with other Google applications. It sounds fantastic, but it also sounds like an informational firehose that will be difficult to turn off. Google Circles is the following/follower management system for Google+ and its premise is that it allows you to post to the people you want, when you want, based on the Circle you’ve placed someone in. It breaks down the “Walled Garden” concept of other social media platforms, where the application is separate from the web at large, and transcends the specific one-on-one communication of email. While it sounds great for the broadcasting aspect of Google+, I worry that it won’t actually work for inbound information. In a sense, you always go to the main “Stream” page much like Facebook’s “News Feed” where you are inundated with everything everyone wants to say. It’s like ordering cable, but being forced to watch all the channels at once.

Today, I can ignore Facebook for a few days before the guilt rolls in. Or, I can take a night off from Twitter and if someone wants to reach me they can. My business life won’t end if I don’t check LinkedIn. With Google+, the potential to have all of those different audiences together (even if they are parceled out into different Circles) could make it too compelling to never take a day off. The non-stop flow of information into your stream will be challenging–even moving from Circle to Circle, the idea that “just one more group” could leave us wide awake late into the night. Adding to this is the possibility that having it tied to everything else I do on the web will make it a bit too overwhelming. I’m not predicting this is the Matrix, but if I want to take five minutes to read the latest musings from my favorite unemployed stand-up comic in one circle, but always feel compelled by guilt to comment on what my mother had for lunch (in the same application) we are moving away from something we do, to something we have to do. And for me that’s the biggest concern with breaking out of the siloed approach to social media that Google+ plus offers.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to cross post the link to this blog on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and email it to my friends. Oh yeah, and I have to do it on my personal and work accounts.

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You Can Reunite on Facebook, But You Can’t Have a Reunion

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

I wrote this tweet seven months ago, “Last night I caught up with old friends at a bar by passing around iPhone photos of kids and pets. It was like Facebook, but with germs.” As silly as it was, in many ways it was the truth. I found myself home in Cleveland, with my wife and some friends catching up—something that I don’t get to do very often—laughing and mixing stories from the past with current events, getting the details on a story or a photo that had been posted to Facebook with little explanation. We were getting, as Paul Harvey might say, “the rest of the story.” While the distinct advantage of Facebook allows us to keep in touch with a large number of people we might not otherwise keep up with, clicking a “Like” or writing short comments on one of their posts is a far cry from why we became friends with them in the first place.

That night was on my mind as I was composing an email to be sent to my fellow college alumni for our upcoming reunion. I’m on the reunion committee and I needed to motivate them to come back for a weekend to a place we loved so much fifteen years ago. I’ve had student loans longer than it’s been since I’ve seen some of my former classmates. My strategy was to remind people that face-to-face interaction is much more valuable than Facebook. Events like a class reunion or alumni weekend are really an exercise for schools to market nostalgia and using Facebook to leverage that concept is worth exploring for many organizations.

Interestingly, the email I drafted ultimately followed a more traditional direct-mail campaign route, once the university concluded that it would be more effective as a letter sent out to all my classmates. It was odd to see my own letter arrive in the mail last Saturday, but it was a compelling reminder that any good marketing campaign needs to rely on multiple channels to be successful. You can’t just send emails and you can’t only rely on Facebook. Instead, electronic and social media marketing can be greatly enhanced by traditional channels of communication. Indeed, given the sheer amount of electronic communications we get in an average day, going back to basics by sending out my missive as a letter through the mail was the best way to get it to stand out.

In thinking about how Facebook affects the communications I have with my classmates, I came across an interesting piece from Christopher Mims called, How Facebook Killed Your School Reunion. Mims looks at the myriad of articles about how Facebook is either promoting larger attendance at reunions or eliminating them altogether, depending on the year or the author. As he explains, “In 2009 the Facebook-is-killing-reunions trend story became an official part of the annual journalistic calendar, like stories about the war on Christmas or tips for singles on Valentine’s day.” It’s interesting because he argues that recently there has been a decline in reunions nation-wide and speculates that it may be caused by Facebook. Personally, I think the recession and the difficulty for younger folks to find permanent employment may also be implicated in the decline of reunions. The article is worth a read, if only to ponder your own thoughts on the matter.

To try to and get another perspective on the issue, I figured I’d go and ask the man who needed me to compose my letter in the first place, John Coyne, Director of Alumni Relations at Hiram College. In contrast to Mims, he believes Facebook has helped strengthen alumni bonds: “We’ve seen a steady increase in our annual alumni reunion weekend attendance over the past 5 years. Facebook connects people with others whom they might not have kept in touch with otherwise, and allows them to cast a broad net when sending messages that encourage attendance.” He also proposed an interesting side-effect, “I’ve also noticed that people find that they have more to talk about rather than just the past since they have been lightly keeping up with each other on Facebook.” Like the tweet in my introduction, the addition of Facebook and Twitter has actually helped to enhance the reunion experience and cannot be discounted as part of future school events like my upcoming Alumni Weekend.

The net is that any nostalgia driven event needs work within the context of social media applications like Facebook and Twitter, while still understanding that email and even more traditional direct mail are still important facets for driving attendance and ultimately donations.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go drop a few pounds so I can show up at my reunion at the same weight as my Facebook profile picture.

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A Raucous Cacophony of Sharing

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

You know those extra buttons at the bottom of a dress shirt that you never actually use? They just sort of get in the way and eventually fall off and are never around when you actually need one. Then you get rid of the shirt and six months later you find the replacement button hiding in an athletic sock that you haven’t worn since the last time you went to the gym. That’s how I’m starting to feel about the “share” buttons at the end of every single piece of media content I read. While individuals do have very passionate feelings toward their social media information aggregator of choice, I wonder if it’s really valuable for a personal or corporate brand to manage all these different sites. Does it really make sense to spread yourself all over the interwebs with every social network possible, or is it more effective to manage a few and be more focused?

As I’ve written before, Lorton Data has a Facebook page, a new Twitter account, a LinkedIn account, a YouTube page, an email newsletter and this rather lovely blog. That’s enough for an organization of our size to manage. Bringing in more social media platforms would be problematic for us. Recently, we’ve attended quite a few lunch-and-learn webinars (why don’t they ever email us pizza and a nice salad beforehand?) that argue that we should be social in every aspect of our business and that each social media platform is the most important thing since the invention of the telephone. What they don’t do is tell us how to manage it all. It’s like a cocktail party where the volume increases as the night goes on until everyone’s yelling cancels each other out and you can’t hear anything over the raucous cacophony of noise.

My advice: Try to keep it simple. You really don’t need to be reached on every single social media platform 24/7/365. If you are a multibillion dollar international business-to-consumer organization, sure maybe it’s a great idea, but if you are a small-to-medium sized business, it just doesn’t make sense. Pick your battles (or platform). Focus on only a couple of social media sites that are easy and comfortable for you to work with and make sense to your client base.

Last year, TechCrunch posted an interesting analysis regarding social sharing on the web. Unsurprisingly, Facebook and Twitter combined for 73% of all the traffic. Many of the smaller social media sites were outstripped by the emailing of information and good old fashioned print button (just don’t tell the office supply gatekeeper). So, in reality if you aren’t monitoring del.ic.io.us, Digg and MySpace, how much revenue are you going to leave on the table?

Yahoo just released a study that related how nearly 50% of tweets consumed are generated by just 20K users. Part of that mix is bloggers talking about people’s blogs. You’ve got a better chance of getting picked up by that crew, than becoming the next Digg star. With Facebook, 51% of the American population over the age of 12 has an account. As an organization, I’d hazard a guess if you focus on them you’ll generate a lot more traffic than playing fifty-two card pickup with the plethora of social media sharing sites out there.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this thought. You know the people that get to the front of the line at Starbucks and still don’t know what they want to order? Imagine those folks trying to decide where to share your article. *Shudder* Too much choice can be absolutely paralyzing. So start small, focus on a couple of sites and most likely you’ll get better feedback than spreading yourself too thin.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to make sure you ignore the “share all” option below and just focus on the Twitter and Facebook icons. Nothing to see here people, nothing to see.

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Have Your People Tweet My People

Monday, March 14th, 2011

There are four tips to leveraging Twitter in a B2B context. There are seven strategies to being successful, ten “musts” for every online organization, twenty suggestions for getting more Twitter followers, and forty ways to use social CRM for selling. My head spins three hundred times whenever I try to wrap myself around all the advice floating around the interwebs about how to be a company and use social media to find other companies to expand our business. Of course we have a LinkedIn page, a Facebook page, a YouTube account, and now a Twitter account to reach out and explore every pocket of the internet.

Having a Lorton Data Twitter account inherently makes us hip, trendy and exciting right? We have our festive logo as the avatar and a groovy water droplet themed background that metaphorically represents our A-Qua Mailer offering. We’ve even tweeted already, providing some useful information, a couple of links and a joke about a 1:45 AM fire alarm at MAILCOM (with a hashtag!). All we need to do is turn all of our personal brands into a collective corporate brand, then just sit back, put our organizational feet up and watch the followers roll in. It sounds so easy.

Or maybe not.

Lorton Data operates in a business to business environment, and unless your Great Aunt really needs the addresses for this year’s Christmas cards cleaned up, your average Twitter user probably isn’t going to be inherently interested in what we have to say. It’s the honest truth. While we provide database hygiene services to organizations as large as major governmental bodies, to as small as the neighborhood church around the corner, it’s hard to market our business outside of the traditional direct mail context. We think Twitter could be a good avenue to spread the word about Lorton Data while also providing additional information to help our customers.

Much like all the hundreds of thousand voices out there talking about social media in a B2B context, we haven’t figured out our game plan yet. We actually haven’t even really started. There are tons of tips, suggestions, ideas, beliefs, blades of grass tossed into the wind and shaken magic eight balls, but many of them contradict each other or seem to suggest those ideas only work in one specific context.

So we might just have to wing it a little bit.

According to a statistic I just made up, 99% of all articles about social media explain that there is nothing more important than generating interesting content. And yes, I completely agree. I’ve been using Twitter personally for a little over a year now and have come to realize that nothing is more important than original content. It’s more than blindly retweeting the latest iPad analysis from Mashable, but it’s less than sharing every single thought that passes through our organization. We need to engage our audience with @ replies and discussions, (it’s social media after all) but I don’t even think we honestly can project who our audience will be yet. My user experience on Twitter as an individual (or more silly as a Personal Brand) will be markedly different from my projected experience on Twitter as Lorton Data employee. By understanding that out of the gate, our organization should be able to set different expectations and understandings of how to engage with Twitter as an organization of multiple voices working together to communicate with the world at large.

As someone has probably already said, “you can lead a customer to Twitter, but you can’t make them tweet.” Or follow, or something like that.

So, we are interested in hearing what people are looking for from Twitter in a B2B business context. What will have you interested in hearing from us? Of course you can reply on our Facebook page, follow us on twitter or comment on the blog.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get this blog reviewed and posted so I can link to it on Twitter.

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Patio Season

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

As the temperature hovers around 50 degrees on this mid-February day, my thoughts drift to the summer: sitting outside, swatting mosquitoes and swapping stories with friends over a cold frosty beverage. I’m not the only one; just yesterday local Minnesota Brewery @Summitbeer tweeted, “The urge to drink a beer on a patio today is very strong in this one.” It’s ingrained in the Upper Midwest attitude, and many histories of the region discuss the fancy beer gardens built by breweries before prohibition.

The Twin Cities based Surly Brewing Company wants to continue the tradition of Midwestern beer gardens as part of a plan to build a new $20 million brewery. According to a recent article on Minnesota Public Radio’s website the company proposes a “60,000 square-foot brewery and restaurant with a beer garden, roof deck and bar.” The facility expects to create 150 new permanent jobs.

A beer garden, roof deck and bar sound like an absolutely fantastic way to spend the six evenings in the Twin Cities where snow isn’t either falling or melting.

There is only one hitch in Surly’s master plan. It is currently against the law for a brewer who brews more than 3,500 barrels of beer to sell alcohol directly to the public. In other words, Surly can certainly open a restaurant, but they can’t serve any beer at the restaurant. I had my brilliant lawyer wife read through the legalese and essentially the law states that if you have a license to manufacture “intoxicating liquors” you can’t also have a retail license to sell the liquor.

In other words, Surly Brewing Company needs the law to be changed to move forward with their plans.

To do this, not only have they appeared in traditional media outlets like the local news papers and radio but they reached out to their dedicated following on Twitter, Facebook and their own corporate blog.

They’ve shared with over 19,000 Facebook friends articles on the issue at hand, and asked for feedback on what their State Representatives have said about emails to change the law. Surly has done the same with their 8000 followers on Twitter. Finally on their Brewer’s Blog two days ago, they posted extensive information on the question posed to the legislature and how people can help.

Surly is a small organization, and makes fantastic beer, but no one is going to call them a titan of the brewing industry. However, the company has been very active on various social media platforms and their calls to action seem to have been heard. In less than an hour on Facebook, 46 people had already replied about communicating with their legislators and are sharing their experiences about lobbying to get the law changed.

We don’t yet know if Surly will be able to successfully leverage social media to help get the laws changed, but I wouldn’t bet against them. They make an excellent product (which I’ve tested enough to appoint myself as unofficial quality control) and they have a very dedicated following. While I can’t speak for my organization, I don’t really see anything negative with this plan. New jobs, a beautiful proposed destination, and another exciting place for Minnesotans to go and enjoy delicious Surly beer.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to head off to my secret basement laboratory to make my special DEET and sunscreen concoction for summer patio season.

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Etiquette Please. Thank You.

Monday, January 31st, 2011

In an informal study by the University of Making Stuff Up, 95% of all Twitter users have a first tweet along the lines of “*Tap* *Tap* Is this thing on?” or “Still figuring this Twitter thing out.”

Still figuring this Twitter thing out… I’m pretty sure even the most successful social media folks will tell you they haven’t figured Twitter out completely, and if they propose that they have, they might just be selling you some snake oil.

Recently I’ve highlighted some successful uses of social media with Twitter and Tumblr, but today I want to talk about one of the pitfalls of not understanding the social media platform being used, and how simple things can have serious ramifications.

I was followed recently by a large non-profit after a tweet regarding their cause. I looked at their timeline and made the decision to follow back. I figured that with their small number of tweets, it wouldn’t introduce too much noise into what I am looking for from Twitter, and I could also help show my support. A few hours later, I received a direct message that said “Thanks for following, please friend us on Facebook.”

There are a couple of problems here. First, you should not send automated direct messages thanking people for following you. It’s considered inappropriate for personal Twitter accounts, and especially for corporate accounts. This has been true for several years now. With your corporate account, it proposes the idea that instead of just sending us news via your Twitter feed, you’ll also directly message us individually anytime you want to advertise something. Not that you necessarily will, but it illustrates that you don’t respect the direct messaging functionality of Twitter. On a side note, many people get notifications whenever they get a direct message. So if you send me a note, not only do I get the message but an email as well. In other words, you better have a good reason for making the red light on my Blackberry go off. Sending me a direct message thanking me for following you isn’t it.

The second problem with this message is that the non-profit was directing me to their Facebook account. I wasn’t sitting on my couch thinking, “you know Joel, you are following them on Twitter but maybe that isn’t enough. If only they had a Facebook account and maybe LinkedIn as well, then I could be assured of getting each message from the organization THREE different times. Then, and only then, would my life be complete.” If I wanted to follow this organization on Facebook I would have signed up on Facebook.

You need to be willing to engage your customers, or donors in this case, on the social-media platform they want to interact with you on. If your Twitter strategy is to try and direct your followers to Facebook, I’d suggest just having a Facebook account and deleting the Twitter account entirely. I have too many Facebook friends and I probably login every other day, but honestly Twitter is my social media application of choice. If you want to get your message to me, you need to be able to do it on Twitter. For others it might be Facebook, or even MySpace, but be prepared to meet people on their home turf. This would be similar to sending a direct mail piece asking people to listen to your radio advertisement. Just because it’s free to push your content on social media doesn’t mean you should abandon the most basic marketing fundamentals.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to clean my Gmail account of the “thanks for following” emails.

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