Honest recommendations

One of the best uses of social media is for trusted reviews and recommendations. This works because, in theory, you build up a network of people who you know share your viewpoint. When they tell you that they have tried something and it was good, you listen and there’s a good chance you will try it too.

Marketeers are spoiling this.

More and more now I am seeing people making recommendations and bigging things up simply because someone has a vested interest in it. Maybe they are a client, maybe a friend. Maybe they are offering you some other incentive to post about them. There are 101 reasons.

This is all too prevalent in other places. It’s the reason why Googling product or service reviews is no longer of any use. It’s been the nature of the world offline for as long as any of us can remember.

Try and make the social media world a better place, think twice before you come out of a client meeting and shoehorn their product into your next tweet.

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Has Facebook jumped the shark?

For a social media blog there is a distinct lack of Facebook chat around these parts. 

I guess the reason for that is because I try and keep my advice at a strategic level. The basic fundamentals of social media work across all of the social networks (and offline in many cases). 

Sometimes though, I have to get specific. And Facebook this week have launched something of an audacious attack on email as we know it.

 Their new Messaging system aims to make communicating easier by making Facebook the single source for conversations utilising email, instant messaging and SMS. They want to put themselves at the very centre of all of your messaging needs as they continue in their quest to own the internet. 

I’ve got a few issues with the whole thing:

  1. Who owns the data? They say that they want to be able to store all of your communications for your entire life. That’s a lot of valuable content for Facebook to use. This is going to raise a whole new set of privacy concerns, not just in terms of what they allow you to make private and what they won’t, but also around just how vulnerable all of this stored data will make those users who haven’t considered the long-term implications.
  2. SMS has a 160 character limit, Twitter has a 140 character limit, instant messaging services have differing character limits while email it boundless. What happens when I get an SMS and feel the need to reply using more characters, sure, I could switch to a different medium but that would mean that my conversation partner, if they weren’t signed up to Facebook, wouldn’t even necessarily know that I’d replied.
  3. Why bother? Seriously. Email is the single most established facet of the internet. SMS is a crappy old system for mobile phones which will inevitably die anyway due to what is now an arbitrary character limit. Instant messaging is built into most apps already and is pretty useful for quick, app specific chat. Facebook are basically rolling out an alternative to email without many of the useful elements such as bcc, subject lines etc. It’s really not that great.

 Facebook used to be a great website whose focus was on helping people stay in touch. It did that incredibly successfully. Now it wants to BE the internet, at the expense of all the other well established and useful tools that already exist. It’s lost its focus and is firing out new elements too quickly for anyone to keep up.

 For the foreseeable future it will remain the best place for communicating with your old school friends and your granny at the same time. It’ll also remain be a rich resource for businesses to engage with their customers. But these elements have been around since the beginning. The new stuff like Places, Marketplace, Messaging and the like are not enhancing that in any way. Let’s see how many of them are still there in 2 years time.

Talk less, say more

Engagement is a tricky beast. It’s the conrnerstone of any good social media strategy but it’s also the most difficult part. 

There are certain people I follow (or like, or subscribe to or whatever) who spend, literally all day banging out short, platitudinous responses to people. It’s a form of engagement which works, they are popular people and they always have lots of conversations on the go. The only problem is that most of those conversations idle chit-chat, very rarely do they tip over into useful conversation. 

Now don’t get me wrong.

I’m not telling you how to conduct yourself. If that’s why you’re in the game then by all means carry on. If, however, you have a business reason to be here, then listen up. 

This approach does work for a handful of people, because when they do actually have something useful or interesting to say, their highly engaged audience are all ears. The only problem is that it takes an enormous amount of time and effort to keep that up. If that’s your adopted strategy then you’re going to need to be online 24/7 and constantly replying to people with things like “Yeah, cool” or “Totally agree.” 

Most businesses I know don’t have that sort of resource.

Even if you have a dedicated social media person they’re going to want to eat and sleep (probably). So my advice to you is not to follow that model. Yes, social media is about engagement but if your resources are limited then concentrate on making the most of the time you have available. Steer away from the platitudes where you can and talk about what’s important. Talk about things that are related to your business, just talk about them in such a way that it’s open and friendly. 

The minute you try to broaden that engagement you are creating a rod for your own back. People will begin to expect it of you and if you can’t continue to deliver…

Image credit: Julia Freeman-Woolpert

I’m bored with you

If all you ever talked about was yourself then you’d get pretty boring, right?

It’s the same with social media. Too many companies get online and then proceed to bombard you with updates about their latest ventures/products/services.

Also, it’s not OK to piggyback your content on the back of someone elses by mentioning them before proceeding to tell everyone how that reminds you of how great you are.

Next time you post an update, do me a favour. Stop for a second and think about me. I simply can’t bear to read another one of your updates. When I get it, you’re going in the bin. I will no longer form part of your audience. In fact, I’m already a waste of your time because I stopped paying attention ages ago.

Cheers.

Image credit: Jean-Pierre Knapen

How to be authentic

Don’t read blog posts about “how to be authentic.”

Seriously, that’s the best advice I can give you. The only way to be authentic is to genuinely be yourself. It’s easier said than done.

If you’re still reading, there are one or two pointers I can give:

Choose an actual name for your online persona
If you can avoid it, don’t engage under the name of your business. Instead, use your real name and include the business either in the handle or prominently in the bio. Social media, as a channel has grown around actual people actually speaking to each other. The minute that someone pops up who is blatantly trying to sell something, the audience will turn away and speak amongst themselves.

Don’t be a retweet machine
Real people have something to say. That’s what sparks relationships. Spend more time actually saying stuff than you do retweeting other people’s.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
You can’t spend all your time following the advice of various social media “gurus” (sorry @mike_mcgrail). If you did you would only ever say the right thing. Sometimes the wrong thing is equally as interesting. You might lose some followers but think about the ones you’ll gain.

A picture tells a thousand words
It’s an oldie but a goodie. Not only should you choose a picture of yourself as your avatar. If at all possible, make sure you share photos of the interesting things that you’re spraffing about. Pictures get more than double the click-through that text content does. It’s basic maths.