Nurturing your network

Every relationship you create through social media channels needs to be nurtured. Never let someone think that they are talking to thin air.

That doesn’t mean sending glib responses or auto-replies. In fact, it doesn’t have to mean replying at all. There are other ways to keep a follower/friend engaged.

  • Broaden the discussion. Start to talk about what you know interests them. This will bring out other followers who have an interest in that area and you might spark some new connections for them.
  • Push their content.
  • Send them an email.
  • Mention them or their organisation in your blog.
  • Buy them a drink.

What’s important is that you don’t get blinkered because that’s just going to limit you.

Image credit: LittleMan

Outsourcing social media

The first #smclinic was a success, which is a big relief. We genuinely never knew if anyone would participate and were concerned that it would degrade into the usual banter by the same old faces. That never happened, in fact, many of the usual faces were around but their input simply improved the whole thing. Those genuine beginners who were looking for answers were very lucky to have the calibre of users that turned up to offer their support.

One thing that did come up merits a bit more discussion though. That was the topic of outsourcing social media. It was one of the questions that was asked and the responses from our expert panel were not all “on message.” The fall out continued beyond the clinic itself with the 2 camps polarised in their opinion of whether or not it’s a good idea.

It’s a black and white issue.

There’s a level of organisation that has such a volume of social media work they need to undertake that they might just as well outsource it than tackle the problem in-house. Basically, if they were to do it in-house it would be a departmental function rather than the genuine voice of the company. That’s what happens with large brands. If they bring in experts then at least they know they are getting some sound advice as well as having someone who understands the importance of online branding and will act appropriately.

Smaller organisations really shouldn’t ever consider outsourcing though. The spirit of the company is much more easily captured by the staff and their output ought to be manageable if the task is shared. This will create a genuine company voice which is only really achievable at this level.

That’s not to say that these smaller companies shouldn’t be looking for outside help.

There is a lot to learn at the outset about brand positioning and communications using social media. It’s imperative to come up with a strategy that works for you and be trained in how to implement it. That’s where consultants come in. They will hold your hand in the early stages, even take on board the writing of some of your content, but at the end of the day it needs to all be dealt with in-house.

That’s my position anyway. Very interested to hear yours.

#EdCM, remembering the first time

Tomorrow is Friday and I’m already looking forward to #EdCM. It’s the perfect way to start a Friday with some gentle networking with relaxed and friendly fellow geeks.

#EdCM stands for Edinburgh Coffee Morning and it’s held every Friday morning from 8 – 9 am at Centotre on George Street. It was started by the legend that is Mike Coulter waaay back in 2007  and was initially attended by a handful of local meedja and creative types. From day one the atmosphere, venue and company clicked and it has grown from that day, taking up just a few chairs, to what now occupies almost the entire venue for that fabled hour.

I wasn’t there that day, although I do know half the people who were. No, my first time was in March this year. I had already attempted to go once before but bottled out because I was just too nervous, I generally don’t like networking you see.

When I did make it, I vividly remember walking in and being confronted by a room full of people, all highly engaged, chatting to one another. The atmosphere was great but I couldn’t see a way in. There were no seats at the top table and I kind of stood around for a few seconds feeling like a plum. I spotted a table of 2 and took a deep breath before pulling up a chair with them. I was so nervous. What if they could see right through me and realise that I don’t know what I’m talking about? What if they don’t like me?

Worse. They ignored me. Neither of them looked up, locked as they were in conversation. I was lost, I very nearly walked out right then. Seconds passed which felt like minutes. I looked around the room again. Another half-hearted scan to see if anyone looked more receptive.

And there she was @BigEars had seen me come in. She could see my network-shy distress and she smiled. A beacon of hope, she made room for me and invited me over. I was saved! We talked about social media, about smart telephone systems, about nursery runs and who know what else. She introduced me to some other people and when I left I was hooked.

I’ve not missed many since then, just one or 2 and I really do miss it when I’m not there. I’ve spoken to @BigEars a couple of times since then but generally I meet someone new every week (along with an established bunch of regular faces). There’s always geek chat about the latest developments, there’s usually nonsense chat about pretty much anything else and occasionally there are cakes (awesome cakes, thanks @MacFack).

So, I got to wondering about other people’s first times. I idly tweeted about it and here are the responses:

First visit was a bit of a strange one as it was the quiz. I ended up on a team with Jon Mountjoy and a couple others (memory is a bit hazy). Was on the top table so in amongst the main crowd. Plenty of banter. I actually spoke to more people through the day on twitter than at the coffee morning. I think that’s probably the day I first experienced firsthand the collaborative potential of twitter. Mike carried on the quiz throughout the day, plenty banter, discussion, cheating and arguments ensued! 🙂
Geoff Kennedy (@idle_bull)

My first visit to EdCM was the Social Media Quiz way back in March. First impressions were slightly intimidating, the place was packed to the rafters with people who I didn’t know and they were all be fairly rowdy with some competitive banter being bandied about. I introduced myself to the Big Man himself (Mike) said I’d never been before and didn’t have a team and was promptly chucked together with some other people who were also team less. I know @D_ward, @geoffballinger and @miss_wordsmith  on my team though I have no idea what the team was called.

I wanted to come back because I had a good time and it was good to meet new people but I’d felt that I hadn’t had the full experience with it being a quiz.
Kelly Forbes (@Macfack)

I remember my first time. It was the stop motion video day. My arrival is recorded LOL! I remember meeting lovely Mike Coulter.
@BigEars

Had to be really brave walking in, but one of 1st people I met was @queens_hall who was so kind and chatty, the rest is history.
Danielle Ellis (@Ellisdanielle)

 #EdCM memories. Just how many times I thought of going before finally pitching up…and then…never looking back. Every week, no problems.
Tim Barlow (@timbarlow)

For me I was a little nervous, but left feeling inspired and desperate for the next one.
Mike McGrail (@mike_mcgrail)

So all were broadly similar to mine. Like all events like this, it’s not easy to step over the threshold but #EdCM is almost unique in that it actually proves to be worth the effort. Not only is it a very worthwhile exercise in building a network of like-minded people but it is also nourishing in many other ways, not just because their bacon rolls are divine.

#smclinic

Hashtags, fan pages, tweetups, like buttons, link-shorteners, check-ins, third-party applications, favourites, twitterfalls, vanity-urls, twitpics, engagement, #failwhale, dashboards, #followfriday…

These are just some of the terms you will see bandied about when social media is being discussed. For those of us involved in it day-to-day it all makes perfect sense, but if you are new to the whole thing then it can be daunting.

If you are interested in how social media can be of benefit to your business but have so far been too afraid to ask then #smclinic is for you. It’s being run by me (@barrydewar on Twitter) and fellow social media consultant Craig McGill (@craigmcgill) of Contently Managed. All you need to do is make sure you’re on Twitter on Wednesday 22 September at 8pm and search for the hashtag #smclinic.

Our first session will be Rules of Engagement, and is loosely based around the planning that you will need to put into your social media strategy before you get stuck in. It’s an interactive experience so don’t be afraid to ask questions, that’s why we’re doing it.

So, please retweet and we’ll see you there.

Social media and cultural currency

Social media usage is beginning to divide opinion with 2 strong cultures appearing.

In one corner are the majority, those who don’t see the point. They might have a Facebook presence but their stock answer to any mention of social networking is “I don’t want to know what so-and-so had for breakfast.” This reluctance to take part shouldn’t be confused with internet take-up though. Many of these people are happy emailers, web surfers, texters and phoners. It’s just that they have no use for e-friendships.

Across the ring we have the always on brigade. Those who appreciate the instant connection to hundreds of peers and use it to inform their purchase decisions or just to while away the odd bus journey. These people come from a broad cross-section of society and aren’t easily pigeon-holed, aside from their love of status updates.

Cultural Currency

Both camps are becoming well enough established to have developed their own cultural currency. For the non-networkers the glue that binds them is their collective distrust of social media. Just as with high and low culture, there is an indoctrination about what makes their stance the right one. They are told by their peers how to interpret social media and they use this knowledge to judge anything that it associated with it.

If that’s the case, if I am to carry on my analogy, the social networkers are the pop-culture crowd. Looking for meaning on a case by case basis and not drawing on a collective response to any one stimulus. They are well placed to appreciate the fast-moving landscape, enjoying new networks, apps and memes for their own merits and, crucially, sharing their opinions for others to weave into their own thoughts.

Convergence?

I doubt if we’ll see these two camps move together very much. They will develop separately and evolve their own methods of coping with the modern world. So what does that mean for social media?

Am I pushing a technology that is never going to appeal to everyone? Is the promised land where marketing becomes more about peer recommendation than about brand messages inaccessible?

I think the answer to that is yes, but that’s OK. I see the worth in pushing modern methods of engagement based internet marketing, so that’s the basket I’m putting my eggs in. I’ll go on trying to convince people that they will benefit from engaging the minority because they are, in effect, engaging a huge network rather than a mass of individuals.

What do you think?

Image credit: Andy Steel

7 steps to Twitter success

You’ve just been given responsibility for your company’s Twitter presence. It seemed like a good idea when you pitched it to your boss last Friday after work but now you’re sat there staring at the words “What’s happening?” and you’re wishing you’d just kept your mouth shut.

Well I’m here to help. You can’t just jump in cold, you have to warm up with these 7 steps to Twitter success:

  1. Start with the Twitter handle. If you’ve only got a handful of followers this is easier than potentially confusing a few thousand. Think about what type of an organisation you are representing. You now represent that company’s personality. Does the name reflect this? If you are representing a very corporate business then it makes sense to stick with the brand name as the handle. On the other hand, if you are media or creative focussed then think about using your own name. Better still, put them together. Attacat do this well.
  2. Next, fix up that profile. With few exceptions, it’s best to put a name to the account. A real, human person’s name. Your name in fact. Make it clear in the profile that you are tweeting on behalf of the organisation. If there are more than one of you, list them all. Then spend a bit of time crafting a human friendly profile based on what you do, not a computer friendly list of terms DESCRIBING what you do.
  3. Draw up some guidelines. What are you going to be talking about? When are you going to be “on?” How will you handle negative responses? How will you handle sales enquiries? Answer all of these questions and write it up. Stick it on the wall and refer to it.
  4. Choose your client. You might be happy with the web interface but you won’t get much out of that in terms of analysis or flexibility. If you want to make the most of your presence you will want to start tracking keywords and organising your lists. Check out Tweetdeck which is a popular desktop application, or Hootsuite if you prefer a web-based app.
  5. Make time for research. The best feeds are those that can blend a bit of personality with a rich seam of genuinely information. Make sure you spend a portion of your time reading blogs in your business niche and following links from interesting people you follow. When you come across good stuff, share it. Better still, start to write good stuff of your own.
  6. Search out your audience. People aren’t going to just stumble upon your content, you’re going to have to go where they are and tell them about it. Use Twitter Search to search for things related to your business. Don’t just focus on your brand name, think about your services or the problems that they solve. Find the conversations about this and start following the people who are already talking about you and your niche.
  7. Start tweeting. Simple!