#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.

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Humanise

[tweetmeme source=”barrydewar” alias=”http://ow.ly/2dhmt” only_single=false style=”compact”]When I started this blog, it was never my intention to speak purely about social media, all the time. I thought I could banter about the interweb in general, pontificating on good ideas and bad ones. Talking about strategy as well as practice. Trying to be useful.

Didn’t turn out that way though. As the months have rolled by I find that everything I put on here has to have a social media angle. Sometimes I struggle to find a reason to post and it can all get a bit forced.

It’s not a good thing. I see it from other active social media types and it bugs me. No-one wants to read about social media all the time. Yes, it’s interesting, it’s new and in some cases it’s how we make our living. But it’s just one facet of what makes you a properly rounded person.

Effective branding

I advise clients to think about their brand. When they give me a 2d idea of what they think it is I poo poo it and tell them they need at least 4 dimensions in order to humanise it. Social media is about engagement and no-one wants to engage with a drone.

So expect more musings and less #socialmedia from now on. Don’t worry, I won’t stop (can’t stop) telling you how I think you should be doing it. I’ll just try and make it a bit clearer where that stops and where I begin.

*image credit Lorenzo González

Give and take

[tweetmeme source=”barrydewar” alias=”http://ow.ly/27227″ only_single=false style=”compact”]Being away from my computer for a week has meant no blog updates. No blog updates has meant minimal traffic to my site. This coupled with very little time for Twitter and Facebook has meant my social media footprint has shrunk considerably.

What it’s highlighted is the nature of the beast. No output from me has resulted in next to no input from my network. No comments, no mentions, no chat. All the noise that I’ve been generating and feeding on has dissipated. Now I have to build it back up.

Learnings

I’ve said many times here that social media is not a broadcast platform, rather it’s about engagement. What this illustrates, however, is that without generating content of your own them you have no platform from which to engage in the first place.

Make sure that the first checkpoint on your lists is making good stuff that people will want to read, watch, listen to or look at. After that, checkpoint 2 is to look at what other people are doing. Then there will be opportunities for genuinely open 2-way conversations.

*Image credit Eduardo Schäfer

Social media customer service

[tweetmeme source=”barrydewar” alias=”http://ow.ly/22FE” only_single=false]There’s been a move recently, by some very high profile companies, to begin using Twitter for customer support. They monitor the service for mentions of their brand and, if there’s a problem, they very publicly and visibly step in to elevate the problem and make sure it’s solved.

They do this because they can see the potential for social networks to amplify any negative feeling. It’s a good point. But it doesn’t solve the problem.

The Emperors new clothes

In pretty much all these cases, the customer service from these companies is basically just bad. By tackling visible complaints all they are doing is creating a handful of individual happy customers while simultaneously  making the rest of their customers that little bit more pissed off that they’d not getting the same treatment.

If social media is to teach us anything it’s that we have to change the way we interact with out customers across the board. Online and off we need to treat them with more respect and ensure that they are always satisfied. As social media grows in it’s influence people will become wise to these new tricks. Companies who hand-pick those who shout the loudest to get the best treatment will be viewed with the same derision as cold callers are at present.

So here’s my advice

Sort out your customer service first, then offer the same level of service in your social media channels. This way you will grow a network of happy brand advocates who talk about you just as glowingly in the hairdressers as they do on Twitter.

Things not to lose sight of

[tweetmeme source=”barrydewar” alias=”http://ow.ly/226Zz” only_single=false]

  • None of my clients have iPhones
  • Only half of my clients know what “social media” actually is
  • If you ever say Twittersphere out loud people will laugh at you
  • You can’t explain social bookmarking, they just won’t get it
  • (I don’t get social bookmarking)
  • No-one reads this
  • “Things not to lose sight of” is a crap title

Please add your own below:

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.

Social Media Breakdown

[tweetmeme source=”barrydewar” alias=”http://ow.ly/213pU” only_single=false]The term “social media” is used a lot at the moment. People employ the phrase in a massively generic way to represent anything that involves interactive content. They reckon that if you label it as this, you can somehow talk about it as a single entity.

It’s a dangerous thing to do. Social media represents a number of high-profile and very diverse websites. Most prominently Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Each of these is very powerful and have their own sophisticated networks and culture. But it’s important to remember that they are not the same.

If you’re a business, you can’t approach Twitter in the same way as you approach Facebook for instance. On Facebook you create little hubs of content which remain there for a while. They are static and allow your “friends” to interact with you, and one another, based on conversations which you are, essentially, directing.

On Twitter however, your content is current for a matter of minutes. It floats by on people’s streams and then it’s gone. Each tweet may generate conversation but that too is always moving away from you. It’s transient and Twitter really requires a greater commitment to regularly creating great content. What Twitter does do, however is allow you to jump into other peoples conversations in a way that they walled garden of Facebook doesn’t allow.

YouTube is a hub of conversation but I defy any marketers to make use of that aspect. Sure you can make great videos which generate a buzz but the conversation is completely subjective and not much help from a communications point of view. It is a constant though, in the same way as Facebook is, so you can focus on it for longer term projects.

So, please, fellow social media professionals, can we stop using the term as a catch-all? Give each tool in your arsenal the attention it needs and we’ll get a step closer to gaining some respect for what we do.

*image credit Josep Altarriba