The power of bread and butter.

What do you do when you don’t have time to do whatever it is that you do?

It’s not easy. Things change, that’s inevitable. That roadmap that you had, it’s kind of pointless. You may well reach your destination but the actual route is ALWAYS going to change.

When change comes, you have to devote a lot more time to the fallout. You have to make new plans, deal with consequences, and pick some new routes.

It doesn’t leave you much time to do the stuff that used to make you tick. But you have to have a plan. It’s important that you set yourself a base level of activity and stick to it.

When it comes to social media, there are some stark choices to make. Work out where you can maintain the highest profile with the least effort. If your audience are funky young things who hang out at the Google+ party, then make sure that you are keeping them entertained there. If they are gobshite Tweetheads, then don’t drop out of their stream entirely. Or if they’re on Facebook, you might want to consider a bit of advertising.

Look for maximum interaction. Use the limited time you have to focus on plans which promote sharing. Don’t pontificate about yourself, give them something that makes them use a bit of their own self to spread the love. Now is the time to be rolling out your polls, competitions, offers. The sharable stuff.

It’s not the big picture. It’s not following all the smashing advice that I’ve been laying out here. It’s almost crass. But it’s bread and butter promotion and it works.

Then, when the dust settles. You can get return your social media hatchback, and get back on the road.

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Twitter building blocks

 The most common mistake I find people making when they want to get started with Twitter is the assumption that it’s “quick and easy.”  The truth is that this is just not the case.

While it may well be quick and easy to set yourself up with a Twitter account and start tweeting, this does not mean that your presence will be a success. In fact it probably won’t because there’s a hell of a lot of planning that needs to go into setting out your stall.

So if you want to do it right, here’s some building blocks. If you like, it’s my own 10 Commandments of Twitter.

  1. Get your name right.
    Make sure that your Twitter name tells people who you are. Acronyms don’t work because they are impenetrable outside of your own circle.

    You may not be able to fit your organisation’s name into the amount of letters available. If that’s the case, go for something which best represents you and give a full description in the profile.

  2. Assign responsibilities.
    Who will be tweeting on behalf of your organisation?
    Who will source the content?
    Who will monitor your stream?
    Who will respond to questions?
    Who will cover for holidays/sickness?

    If there are multiple owners of the account, list them by name in the profile. This openness takes away one of the most difficult barriers in government communications.

  3. Set goals.
    What are you trying to achieve? Is this just to push your news items onto Twitter? Or are you trying to engage your audience? Are you trying to raise awareness?

    Whatever the goal is will affect how and what you say and how you react. Record your goal and evaluate your activity against it in 6 months – 1 year.

  4. Timetable activity.
    Social media can give people the impression that you are available 24/7. In reality this is not always the case.

    Work out when you can realistically be available on Twitter and stick to those hours. You may not want to publish this but any deviation from your core hours will affect expectations.

  5. Set up your dashboard (Hootsuite)
    Visit http://www.hootsuite.com/ and add your Twitter account.
    Spend some time learning what Hootsuite will allow you to do. The key things are extra columns to track your @mentions, DMs, keyword searches and peer lists.

    Use Hootsuite to manage your presence at a glance and save time.

  6. Build search queries.
    Think carefully about what information you want to keep up with on Twitter. Ideally you want to be finding comments from people relating to your field along with content from similar organisations.

    Add these searches as columns in Hootsuite.

  7. Find similar accounts.
    Do some research into other organisations who’s content you find useful. This is inevitably going to be useful for followers of yours.

    Make a Twitter list of these similar accounts and add them as a column in Hootsuite. Monitor this stream and try to retweet any content which is likely to be of benefit to you and your followers.

  8. Content strategy.
    So you will be tweeting interesting stuff from people you follow and content that you have uncovered. You also have your own content to promote.

    Outside of this, what else do you have to say? Will you be generating content in order to engage with your audience, like a blog with comments enabled? Will you be highlighting content which colleagues are creating?

    Work out a plan of what content you will be pushing and how you are going to keep on getting it.

  9. Monitoring.
    Monitoring may not be done by the same person who tweets the content. Just make sure that the team talk to each other and that anything which is picked up in monitoring is fed into a process for tweeting and/or engagement.
  10. Evaluation.
    After 6 months – 1 year, look at your performance in relation to the goals you set out at the beginning.

Twitter planning

Things to consider when you are thinking of using Twitter for your organisation:

Commit to engagement. Draw up your service level agreement which outlines who will be looking after the account and when. Followers expectations should be managed if you can’t commit to replying to people who ask legitimate questions.

Plan any sign-off processes that you envisage. For instance, what do you do if someone tweets you with something positive. How do you respond? More importantly, how do you respond to negative coverage?

Make a plan to monitor Twitter and the social web in general so that you can respond to any coverage that you are getting which is not under your control. Develop your strategy for dealing with such coverage.

Evaluate your efforts. Before you start, work out what your goals are; awareness, media relations, resonance… From there you can plan how best to achieve them and you can measure the success of your presence after 6 months.

Don’t tweet drunk.

Dont say anything…

My maxim for posting anything using social media channels used to be:

Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t be comfortable shouting in the middle of a crowded room.

Recent stories, in particular the Ryan Babel/Howard Webb furore have led me to revise this. While I’m pretty sure that it would be OK to make a joke about Howard Webb being a Man Utd supporter as a result of the penalty decision, it’s clearly dependant on the subtleties of context which are all too absent when a tweet like this is taken in isolation.

You have to think about each individual message which you post online as a stand alone entity. If people stumble across it they will be unlikely to check up on anything else you have said, instead they will take that line verbatim. There is no place for subtlety, irony, sarcasm, double meaning or any other language modifiers.

My new rule is.

Don’t say anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable being repeated out of context by a scandal hungry media.

I may not stick to it though.

Mashable are doing it wrong

When I started to take an interest in social media a couple of years ago, the concern most often voiced was that marketeers would get their grubby hands on it and spoil it for everyone else. I never really felt that would happen because of the permission based nature of the thing. You only see the updates of people or brands that you have chosen to follow. For me that was an important distinction between social media and all traditional media up until that point.

What I hadn’t banked on was the pervasive nature of underhand marketing tactics. There have been a few things recently which have annoyed me. I already ranted briefly about marketing types making recommendations based on nothing but loyalty to their own clients.  This time my hackles have been raised by The Mashable Awards

I have nothing against the awards in principle, or awards in general.

What gets my goat is the requirement that any vote in the awards is automatically retweeted or posted to your Facebook account. It can’t be turned off. So if you want to vote for a few things then you are actively spamming your own followers on behalf of Mashable.

It’s most annoying because Mashable are the ubiquitous social media follow. Everyone with any interest in the arena is reading what they say and this begins to look like an acceptable approach to viral marketing. 

It’s not. 

It’s insidious. Any vote I might make on the site is purely an endorsement for that brand, it is in no way an implicit endorsement of Mashable, yet if I vote I am promoting their content without consultation. The status updates that it generates are junk mail and should be treated as such.

It may not seem like a big deal. If we are all following Mashable anyway then we do kind of endorse them right? Maybe, but that’s not the problem.

Rather, if other hooked up organisations begin to adopt the same approach, our Facebook feeds or Twitter streams will quickly fill up with this crap.

Just as we do with spam we will learn to ignore it and software will be developed to automatically remove it from our lives. 

Our carefully selected, permission based social media networks will cease to be of value and we will move on to something else.

Marketeers who use social media. Don’t take a leaf out of Mashable’s book. If you truly value your customers and have respect for whatever they CHOOSE to say using social media channels, trust them to work out whether they want to tell the world that they have just clicked on your call to action.

My awesome network

I would be nowhere without the network which I have developed through my use of social media. I have learned more in the last year than I did in the previous ten. No matter what challenges I face when trying to deliver digital strategy, I know that somewhere out there I have a friend who can help me deal with it.

That’s the real power of this new fangled stuff. You become part of a giant hive mind which is infinitely cleverer than you could ever be on your own. Getting on board with social media isn’t just a canny business move, it’s an evolutionary shift. If you don’t embrace it now then you’ll never leave the primordial swamp of wrong-headed “old thinking.” Those of us that do will grow legs. And one day they might turn into wings.

So, like some kind of a Gwyneth Paltrow acceptance speech, I’d like to thank the people who continue to make it all possible:

@danfrydman for being the ultimate connector

@craigmcgill for starting fights

@tartancat for breaking them up

@idle_bull for always sharing

@MacFack for asking the right questions

@timbarlow for pushing the envelope

@mike_mcgrail for always being on the pulse

@maniacyak for having answers to questions you haven’t got to yet

@2ourism for helping, always helping

@allanbarr for keeping me honest

@colingilchrist for blogging excellence

@scottgdouglas for a podcast that’s always relevant

There are many, many more. These are the ones who make my business better but there are countless more of you who are invaluable in a hundred different ways. You know who you are. My heartfelt thanks to you all.

So who’s in your awesome network?

My social media toolkit

I get asked a lot about what applications I use to do what I do. So I thought I’d share it with you. All of the applications below are ones that I use on a daily basis and I couldn’t do without. In every case there are alternatives which gives me some comfort given that all of the listed tools here are provided for free:

Social Media Dashboards

Hootsuite

This is the one thing I couldn’t do without. Hootsuite is a browser based social media dashboard which aggregates all of your feeds from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress, Foursquare, MySpace and PingFM.

It allows you to set up columns and pages so you can have easy access to all your lists, hashtags, searches, mentions, messages etc. It also allows you to manage multiple accounts (although the free version only allows 5 of these).

The free version probably does enough for a single community manager but upgrading to the paid version allows for teamworking which is a godsend when managing multiple users on larger social media campaigns.

Leading Alternatives: Tweetdeck, Seesmic

Blogs

This blog is powered by WordPress. For me it’s the best free blogging application on the net. Setting up a new blog is pretty much idiot-proof and they supply enough free themes to ensure that all of their blogs don’t look the same.

You can also add numerous “widgets” to the side of the page and do interesting stuff like bring in your Twitter feed or display your Flickr photos. I prefer to keep mine simple.

It’s incredibly well supported and they make it easy for you if want to graduate to hosting your own version. There’s also no shortage of WordPress developers these days.

Leading Alternatives: Blogger, Posterous, Tumblr

Media Monitoring Dashboards

NetVibes is great for bringing together a whole bunch of RSS feeds and displaying them as an easily digestible dashboard.

I use it to bring in feeds from across a number applications I use to monitor social media activity. So my Netvibes contains feeds from Socialmention, Topsy, Twitter Search, Google Alerts, Google Blog Search, Google News, Flickr, YouTube and Vimeo.

I have separate dashboards for separate projects but broadly I use the same feeds. This gives me an easily digestible view across a whole range of applications which allows me to keep on top of how my projects are performing in the wild. If I need to get more information to pull together a report then each of the sources is just a click away.

Leading Alternatives: iGoogle, Feedly

Twitter Aggregators

This is a great application that will allow you to add some meaning to the contents of a hashtag chat in Twitter. Log in and you can add a description of the hashtag (something that Twitter itself sorely lacks). From there it will show you who has tweeted, what they said and also throws in some handy stats.

The best feature, for me, is the transcript. You can create a transcript from any hashtag at the click of a button. It’s incredibly useful and we use it for the #smclinic.

Leading Alternatives: Twubs, TweetReach

Analyticss

I have issues with pretty much all the twitter analytic tools because you simply can’t boil success in human interaction down to one simple number.

Twitalyzer at least provides lots of different numbers, some of which ARE actually useful. For my monitoring of Twitter accounts, it’s exceptionally useful to see at a glance things like reference ratio, rewteets and reach. These numbers actually tell me something which I can then go and do something about. If I’m not sharing as much other people’s content as I am my own then I can immediately start to do something about it.

Obviously this doesn’t cover other social networks I haven’t found anything that does this even close to well, although Klout have just added Facebook so I’ll be watching that one closely.

Leading Alternatives: Klout

And the rest

I know that this is not comprehensive. It’s simply the toolset that I have settled on (for now). If there are any glaring omissions in my alternatives lists then please let me know. Equally,  if there’s some super tool that I’m missing out on then share it in the comments.