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 music

[tweetmeme source=”barrydewar” alias=”http://ow.ly/2a4Tc” only_single=false style=”compact”]There are many different styles of music. There’s pop music, rock music, indie music, dance music, reggae, ska, hip hop, trance…

Social media can be a bit like that. Everyone plays it in their own style and broadly they cluster together. Like minds form tight networks and together they advance their own way of doing things. Broadly though, it’s all still music and everyone involved can recognise it as such.

You can gather around your favourite bands to hear them play live at a concert in the same way as you can hang on the every word of your favourite brands. Alternatively you can get together and make music for yourselves. Don’t worry if you can’t sing or play an instrument, that’s not what’s important. The punks proved that.

So I guess the question is what instrument do you play? Are you the drummer keeping things moving along at the right pace, or are you the lead guitarist – flashy but hit-and-miss? Or do you need to be a one-man-band in order to make it all work?

I try and be the singer, I want to verbalise what’s happening to make sense of the noise for people. But secretly I want to be the saxophonist!

Streamlining your LinkedIn strategy

[tweetmeme source=”barrydewar” alias=”http://ow.ly/21AWb” only_single=false]LinkedIn used to be rubbish. Really. It was nothing more than a glorified spreadsheet of contacts that you could show off to other people. It was for salesfolk to get worked up over who had the most leads.

In recent months it’s come on in leaps and bounds. It’s now, arguably, the most focussed social media website out there. Not only is it a cracking way to present your online CV (although pretty much everyone still asks for a paper one!), it’s also grown a number of routes for some genuine business networking.

It stands alone in that it’s targeted at the world of work. You can join groups, share expertise, email contacts, upload news, etc. But let’s be clear, it’s commercially focussed. If you’re creating a voice for yourself, a brand image, then there are better tools. LinkedIn can showcase this brand but it’s not the place to perpetuate it.

Brand building involves a great deal of trial and error

If you’re fully committed to it then you’ll be tweeting a lot, updating your Facebook status a lot and trying to find ways to get your content on just about every social media forum there is. Every update is something of a shot in the dark, a calculated one, but a risk all the same. If you spend all day crafting a single comment on someone else’s blog, it might be a masterpiece. It might be loaded with crafty keywords, it might link to all the right places and it might have all the right bait to drive traffic to your site. But while you were doing that one of your competitors threw up 20 tweets, 5 Flickr pics, 7 Delicious bookmarks,2 blog posts and a YouTube video for good measure. Who do you think generated the most buzz?

Showcase the very best of what you are achieving in the social media space

Don’t link all of your accounts on LinkedIn. Especially not your twitter stream, instead handpick the tweets you want to include (by using the #in hashtag). None of your potentially useful network of business savvy people want to know that you’ve just farted. Instead, craft regular status updates just for LinkedIn, answer some pertinent questions and engage in some good group chat. If your blog is business oriented include that, ditto your Amazon reading list. What you’re trying to avoid is extraneous information overload.

It helps to think about LinkedIn as you would your old skool CV. Get the best stuff on there and make yourself sound awesome. Otherwise it goes in the bin.

Sexy social media

I popped out at lunchtime and looked at shiny, sexy things. I drifted through the gadgets at my local emporium. I gingerly lifted, I touched screens and I barely suppressed my urge to sigh out loud.

In the end though, I came away empty handed. You see, I want a bunch of this stuff, but I don’t need it. It also leads to more gadget buying and soon drains the coffers. You see, I really want an iPod dock to play my mp3s. Trouble is I don’t have an iPod, so I’d have to get one of them. Except I’d rather have it all integrated in one handset so I’d be wanting an iPhone. Unfortunately I still have 4 months on my contract so I’d have to buy that out, and buy the new handset. Then I’d be wanting to buy some apps. And, of course, some mp3s from iTunes…

It’s a slippery slope.

And, for me, a lot of companies are approaching social media in just that manner. They really, really want to get involved but they don’t understand the cost implications. Facebook, Twitter and their ilk may be free to use but the time that your employees take to actually do so is not. You need to work out policy, strategy, implementation and analysis in terms of how much time they take. That’s time that you could be using elsewhere in your business. So think about it very, very carefully.

I’m not saying don’t do it. As a consultant I rely on you for my own business, and I urged directors only yesterday to start taking it seriously. But, in reality, often I find myself telling people that they need to focus elsewhere.

Before you buy your social media gadget you need to ask yourself these questions:

  • Are my customers already there?
  • Are my competitors already there?
  • Do I have something to say?
  • Do I have time to listen to my customers and engage with them?
  • Do I know how to quantify social media success?
  • Am I committed to making this work?

If you can answer “yes” to all of these then go-for-it! Otherwise you need to put more thought into it and think about your communications in a broader sense. You may be better served focussing on traditional media, or other forms of marketing.

I still want an iPhone though…

image credit Maria Li

Dear Directors – a social media letter

Dear Directors,

You are ignoring social media at your peril. People are talking about your company right now and it’s not all good. Some of your staff are seeing this but they’re afraid to step in because you don’t have a policy which protects them if they do.

Do a search on your company name, it only takes a second. Try a service like Social Mention. It couldn’t be easier.

See what’s out there? Can you imagine what it would be like if you could get involved there and start to influence how your brand is perceived?

Why haven’t you done it yet? Are you:

If you don’t fix this situation right now your competitors will be tearing past you quicker than you can imagine. In many industries the social media space is virgin territory. Stake your claim now to get a head start.

That’s what I’d do.

Yours Faithfully,
Barry Dewar (Social Media Strategist)

Your social media, who’s it for?

Whenever you put something out there online. Whether that be a news article for your website, a blog post, a status update or whatever; stop and ask yourself this: who are you doing it for?

If the answer to that question is “me,” then take a break. Putting stuff out there just for you is kind of a waste of effort. I know that many people will disagree but in a business sense, it’s a mistake. Everything you publish has to be for your customers. If it doesn’t benefit them in some way then move on to something that does.

Everything I publish is intended to engage my audience. I think about every single word I say and when I say it. This results in comments here on my blog, replies in Twitter or Facebook and, if I’m really lucky, the odd email. Most of these engagements are small and peter out quickly but sometimes it leads to actual real life business taking place, and that’s my goal ultimately.

Now, if you’re not a self-fulfilling brand builder like me that doesn’t mean that the same rules don’t apply. Good content, for the right people, in the right place at the right time will result in those little moments of engagement that validate your online presence.

Indulgent content, for nobody, any-old-time doesn’t really sound quite as good does it?

Image credit: Takje

The context of social media

Social media is a strange beast. You can spend as long as you like building up your profile across all the networks, making contacts, reaching out and spreading your wings. But you can’t escape the lack of context.

The nature of social networks is fleeting. You post something on Facebook, or Twitter maybe and for a short time it’s relevant, new and it gets noticed. Then, it’s gone. As it starts to slip down the list it no longer generates any activity, it’s dead.

What this means that the only context people have for what you have posted is absolutely in the present. Setting aside those who have known you for some time, the majority of your network will judge your output based on itself. There’s no time to go and look you up, get a feel for what you’re about, because before they’ve had a chance, your post is old news.

Context is a massive problem

People just won’t understand nuances in what you’re trying to say. Irony can be lost and that cheeky persona might just as well be perceived as arrogant or rude.

So my advice is to concentrate on consistency. Make sure that everything you put out there reflects how you want to be labelled. Craft every post, every tweet, every blog so that it captures this. The minute that you deviate because you want to make a point is the minute that you start to lose your audience.

By all means, be cheeky. Just make sure you’re ALWAYS cheeky. Mind you, that might get a bit annoying…