Are you Lowering your Networking Standards?

Photo cred: Coal Miki

At what point do you consider someone a trusted connection?

Is it after a tweet or two?

Is it after an email?

Is it after a skype chat?

Do you have to meet in person first?

How many times?

Let me phrase it another way.  What does it take for you to trust someone enough to recommend them to others as a professional?

I see social media tools constantly launching with new ways to help people connect with each other.  But as it becomes easier to connect with someone, it seems like we lower our standards for what qualifies as a “trusted connection”, or even as a friend.

What social media allows us to do is create these passive relationships, or “weak ties“.  People have always created weak ties with others, but with social media it becomes possible to do it on a much larger scale.

Now we’re (the social media bubble) even doing it in person.  There’s something that always bugged me about bump and hashable type apps.

Instead of really talking to a person and taking the time to get to know them when you first meet, you can just do a quick info swap on hashable.  It’s this “I’ll get to know her later” mentality.  It weakens our relationships.

The guys at addieu have built something better, because it actually connects the accounts.  It’s more permanent so the exchange actually means something.

Information about a person doesn’t create a relationship, interactions do.

Have you been making real connections with people?  Or are you just bookmarking as many people as possible for later?

Debate: Do All Community Managers Need Social Media?

Photo cred: Rishi Bandopadhay

Seems that a lot of people are under the impression that all community managers have to use social media.

Social media is one tool.  It’s one of the many tools available to marketers, community managers, PR professionals etc.  It is not a requirement for all roles that a community manager could possibly take on.

On twitter, I had a long debate with Alana Joy on this topic.  This discussion led to this post on the ever insightful social media explorer.  This is my response to the twitter debate and that blog post.

We’ve cast this term “community management” over an entire range of roles and responsibilities.  Honestly, most of this debate could probably be settled with better defined roles within the “community manager spectrum”.

There’s so much more to it just than social media outreach and engagement.  Today’s community manager might be responsible for anything ranging from customer service to marketing to event management and the list goes on.

Can social media help all of these potential roles? I don’t know…maybe it can.  Is it required in order to be successful in each of these roles? Nope…

Debate the semantics of social media all you want but for the purpose of this discussion, we’re talking about the twitter and facebook type sites…not email, forums etc…

To give you an example, I spoke with my friend Justin, who has several years of community manager experience and is currently the community manager for Change.org. Here’s Justin’s take:

“I focus primarily on internal communities. Turning “owned communities” (an ugly term for “on my site”) into rabid evangelists who love the people who are there as much as where “there” is, will defend it, contribute to it, and go out on a limb for it. Managing, engaging and leveraging “owned” communities vs. external communities are two distinct skill sets. Both are needed, just like you have “PR” and “Advertising” as two separate but related industries. Internal communities and external communities are two different beasts, meet different business needs and have different tool sets.

One of the communities I managed was a casual gaming site.  My goal was to take the community that we had (~400 people when I was hired) and turn it into an asset, there is good competition in the gaming community, so trying business in the area has to be done in a smart way. The community produced content, moderated our forums, ran tournaments, produced plugins and dealt with cheating, abuse and customer support issues. My job was to manage the community we had and to leverage the shit out of it. It was someone else’s job to do user acquisition, but once they were on the site, they were mine.

Am I a social media expert? Far from it, and I’m ok with that. I don’t use it in my day to day job because it’s not my primary value driver at this point. Is it incredibly valuable to many many organizations – most definitely. Will I ever need it? Maybe. Will I definitely need it? Probably not.”

Justin’s full response can be found here.

Justin doesn’t use social media in his community management role because it doesn’t make sense for his objectives.

When looking for the community manager that I’d like to achieve these kinds of goals I’d look for someone who:

  • Understands the userbase and the content related to the userbase.
  • Can create a platform where members of the userbase can interact and connect effectively.
  • Can effectively engage with users.
  • Understands the advantage to the company of turning a userbase into a community.
  • Can organize events and projects to strengthen the community.

…none of which require the use of social media.

It’s easy to think that social media is ubiquitous to those of us who spend hours and hours on these platforms every day.  In reality though, even with their enormous stats, not everyone is using social media and those who do aren’t using it as religiously as one might assume.

It’s definitely popular and it’s definitely a growing trend, but to call it a ubiquitous form of communication is ridiculous.

So before you blindly slap on “social media expert” on your next community manager job description, take a serious look at what you’re really trying to build.

Have at it.

Social Media is for Fakers

Photo cred: Ben Fredericson

Sitting in the subway at 12:00am, reading the chapter titled “The Cost of Social Norms” in Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, I realized what it is that bothers me so much about businesses in social media.

Businesses cannot honestly exist in the “social” realm.

I’ve touched on issues I’ve had with the “I’m here to be your friend” mentality that professionals and businesses take in social media communities.  I just can’t agree with the idea that everyone is really that close with each other, and that everyone gets along so well based on sincere feelings…  not when there’s money involved.

While Dan wasn’t discussing the issues I bring up here, the concepts that he studied and shared in his book are highly relevant.  The subtitle of the chapter that I read was “Why we are happy to do things, but not when we are paid to do them“.

Ariely goes on to explain that people simultaneously live in two worlds:

The Social World

The interactions we have in the social world are founded in emotions and relationships.  It’s why we’ll cook a full feast for our family on Thanksgiving without expecting anything in return.  It’s why we hold the door open for others.  We do these things because it makes us feel good and there is no immediate reciprocation required.

The Market World

The interactions we have the market world are different.  In the market world, we do things based on the financial returns that we get.  The exchanges we make in the market world are based on a cost-benefit analysis.

So what does this have to do with social media?

Well as Ariely explains, “When social and market norms collide, trouble sets in.”

Many interactions that are considered “best practices” for businesses using social media, are made to look like “social” interactions, but they’re really not.

Look at the common advice you hear about joining the conversation, building trust, engaging in communities… it all sounds like it’s in the “social world” when in reality they are in the “market world”.

The very fact that businesses are concerned with the returns that they get from their time spent on social media, makes it a purely market based interaction.

Ariely uses the example of a guy who takes a girl out on several dates and pays for dinner each time. He grows impatient because he’s spent a lot of money and hasn’t gotten laid.  A situation that seemed to be purely social, was really founded in market values, and all came crashing down then the true motivations came to light.

Making exchanges in the “market world” isn’t a bad thing.  Making them out to be purely “social” interactions? That’s wrong and can cause trouble.

And so I ask…Is social media for fakers?

Is it for those who can pretend to be your friend?  Is it for those who can paint the image that they care when really their actions are motivated by market forces?

The very nature of business makes it impossible to have truly sincere social interactions…maybe we should start treating it that way.

The Stupidly Obvious Secret Ingredient to Social Media Success

Your success in social media is determined by this highly scientific equation:

Effort + How Funny You Are + (Luck/100000) = Social Media Success

You can’t control luck. You definitely can’t control how funny you are. So what do you need improve to find success with social media?

Effort.

Photo cred: Ferdinando del Drago

The more effort you put into blog posts, into helping customers, into building relationships with bloggers, into participating in conversations etc…the more you’ll start to see returns.

No one said it was going to be easy.  Setting up a twitter account, a facebook page and a blog doesn’t take much effort.  Keeping these things updated and getting returns will take a great deal of effort.

Get your hands dirty, go above and beyond for your community, struggle for the of benefit others, and rack your brain for new ways to help people.

And yes, as hard as you work, you’ll still have to be patient.  It will take time and you will make some mistakes… but if you’re willing to contribute a great deal of effort into social media, then you will see returns over time. I guarantee you will.

The tools, the tricks, the tips…that’s all easy to pick up with a little practice.

Effort won’t always work in other areas of business.  Certainly, you can put a great deal of effort into marketing, and still see no results.  Same with advertising and traditional PR, sometimes you need to get a bit of help from companies that will apply solo ads to your marketing strategies.

The good part?  Once you start to see returns, it gets much easier.  It starts to flow.

Take a look at some of the most “successful” people and companies in social media.  Look at Chris Brogan, Amber Naslund, Gary V, Scott Stratten, Scott Monty and the list goes on.  They’re bringing success to themselves and their brands because they’re hustling their asses off day in and day out.

So, stop acting confused when your blog post that you threw together in 10 minutes didn’t go viral.

Stop questioning the value of social media when you can’t get any twitter followers in the first few months.

Stop dipping your toes in, and wondering why the rivers of cash haven’t started flowing.

It’s frustrating.  It takes time, it takes practice…it takes serious effort.

But trust me…it’s worth it.

Recap: PRSA Digital Impact Conference Day 2

As promised, here is the recap of Day 2, of the PRSA Digital Impact Conference in NY this week.  I was invited to cover the 2 day conference, and was happy to join the discussion with all the bright and interesting professionals that it brought together.

Unfortunately, I missed Jennifer Preston’s talk but fortunately for you, Eric Schwartzman has you covered.  You can watch the whole talk here. I heard it was really good.

The first speaker I caught on Day 2 was Carlos Dominguez.

He said that people don’t want to change, which makes it hard to change a process within a company. It usually isn’t the system that’s the problem, it’s the people in it. Once they become comfortable with a system, they don’t want to change it.

He went over a lot of the stuff you hear all the time.  Know your goals and objectives.  Measure…etc.

He mentioned that Cisco does a lot of reverse mentoring with their employees.  They host meetings and create an environment where the younger (Gen-Y) employees mentor the older employees on how to use the new tools.

You guys know where I stand on that one.  Reverse mentoring is great, and needed…but to assume that a young professional is more knowledgeable on how to use social tools for business than an older professional, is a mistake.  Gen-Yers grew up using these tools recreationally.  It’s very different than how businesses approach it.

Carlos also said, “Video is going to be the killer application”.  I think it already is.  Either way, he’s right, and he spoke a lot about how cisco is embracing video.

Next, I listened to Rishi Dave (Dell) speak.

"Forget the numbers. The impact of SM is this big"

Rishi had some good stuff.  Here are some gems:

“It’s all about who and how many you follow, not how many follow you”.  On twitter, it doesn’t matter how many followers you have.  What’s important is that you’re following the right people.  This way:

  • You can gather the best viewpoints in that space, and organize it for potential and current customers to consume.
  • The followers will come.

He broke down the growth of the web, and it’s purpose in terms of information, into 3 stages:

  • Internet Age: Used to send information (ie. Yahoo)
  • Information Age:  Used to find, or search for information (ie. Google)
  • Connected Age:  Used to follow, as in a stream of information (ie. Twitter)

Towards the end, I appreciated this line: “Successful companies in social media act like party planners aggregators and content creators.”

Next I watched Kevin Roderick – UCLA Newsroom

To be honest, I was pretty disappointed with this talk.  I really don’t have points to share with you because he didn’t say much.  He had great content, with a timeline of videos and images from the crisis they faced when Michael Jackson passed away, and mobs formed around the hospital.  In the end, it just sounded like they were in a tough situation, and had no idea what to do.

The talk was supposed to use this situation as a learning experience,  and show us how we can apply UCLA’s insights to developing a social media program that’s nimble and ready for anything.  It really didn’t.

Or maybe I’m just a bad listener.

Finally, I truly enjoyed a panel about “Where is PR headed?” with Kami Huyse, Clay Hebert and Jonathan Kopp.

The responses were a bit scattered so I’ll try to just list out a few key points from the panel as a whole.

Trends to look for:

  • Augmented reality is going to be huge.
  • Location is also going to be huge.
  • Social media overload is only getting worse.
  • Mobile will continue to grow and will probably be the most important platform for business.
  • End of privacy as we know it.  (The hot topic as of late)

Overall I really enjoyed this conference.  The speakers were pretty insightful and the crowd seemed to genuinely find value in the content.  Everything ran on time, the people were great, the food was awesome, the Day 1 networking after party with Groupon for fashion was done really well and the location got the job done.

I’d like to thank the fine folks of PRSA for inviting me to cover the conference.

You can find all of the photos from this event here.

You can find the Day 1 recap of this event here.