Redefining ‘Social’ – The Power of Community

Social Media uses

When social media landed a few years ago, many of us scratched our heads for a while before we set about sharing the details of our takeaway sushi lunch with the world. At the time it felt important, but a few weeks down the line we couldn’t help but think these platforms were designed for more than extolling the virtues of shredded ginger and wasabi.

It’s fairly typical to attempt to pigeon-hole alien concepts and ideas; we’re comfortable with labels. It’s even more typical to assume we’ve seen something very like it before so we already know how to utilise them. So the next step for many of us was to use social media as a broadcasting platform, because it was  just ‘a new name for marketing’, right? Hmmm. Not quite.

Today we’ve grasped the idea of mutually beneficial two-way communication, and social media is helping many businesses fairly and squarely get their name on the map, not because they’ve thrown loads of dosh at their marketing budget, but because they’ve tuned into what people want and what people value.

And whilst we’ve certainly made progress, we’re still a long way from having got this ‘social’ thing licked. The truth is we’ve barely even scratched the surface.

What’s proving to be the case is that people primarily want to be part of a community, because communities support, assist and, most importantly, they care. And from a marketing perspective, companies would do well to take onbaoard that we’ll take notice of our community long before we listen to a brand.

It’s the sense of belonging that people want, because that’s where they can speak freely and where they’re listened to. And it’s not about becoming weak and dependent, it’s about adding strength and resilience to the foundations of independence.

Have you seen the jocular images of herds of people staring down at their smartphones in restaurants, bars and other notably crowded public venues? We laugh at the absurdity of individuals who shun actual face-to-face contact in order to stare at their phone, but the truth is they are making contact. They’re communicating with people who have shared interests and values; they’re just not the people they’re sat next to.

Of course, there’s a line to be drawn when it comes to continually checking Facebook when you’re out to dinner with friends, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that we’re turning into passive automatons who have no contribution to make. If anything it’s the reverse that’s true.

Supported, strong communities result in prosperity for everyone, and prosperity as many of us are now realising is about far more than simply money in the bank.

And whether those communities exist on or offline really doesn’t matter.

What matters is that they exist, and that they thrive.

If social media continues to evolve as a conduit for care, compassion, kindness, support and understanding, then so be it. That’s a trend I’ll happily support.


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Connect, Create, Change – Three Steps to Staying Social

Simplicity is a much underrated format. Sadly we all too often become bogged down in identifying a thousand and one ways to overcomplicate the most straightforward of topics. In actual fact ‘a thousand and one’ is probably far too low an estimate.

And in the quest to be the best, the biggest and the most popular social media user of all we can all too easily become wrapped up in analytics, data and metrics that in effect do little more than create a diversion from the simple facts … And the facts are remarkably simple.

You don’t need to pay anyone thousands of pounds to tell you what you need to do create a walking, talking social media success story.

It’s all about the three C’s …

social media communication

As soon as you and I have uttered our first ‘hello’ on social media, we have a connection. The ice is broken. We’re no longer ships that pass in the digital night.

It can be too easy to miss the opportunity to establish dialogue when we blindly make an assumption that the person in question isn’t someone we need to get to know. Don’t make assumptions that are based on nothing more than a hunch; build your connections.

create

Creativity plays a huge part in developing your social relationships. Purely presenting your content in the way you always have will never be enough to sustain the attention of your newfound audience because, to put it bluntly, they’ll dismiss it in favour of the next dynamic, compelling and alluring post on their timeline.

Continually producing interesting and compelling content that is genuinely useful* to the reader will ensure they come back, and maybe even pass it on to their network. The longer you do this, the more solid the foundations that bind you to your audience become.

(*Please don’t try and shoehorn your sales pitch into the term ‘useful’ here … Trust me, it won’t fit)

Change

Have you heard talk of Twitter being over and of Facebook spiralling into a nosedive? Me too.

The truth is that both platforms are changing and will continue to do so in terms of functionality, but here’s the more important aspect to consider: users are getting bored with ‘same old, same old’ content.

If you’ve had an active presence for a couple of years on any social site and have noticed a drop-off in activity, it probably isn’t them … it’s you. Or your content to be more specific.

Social media is as busy as it ever was, but with ‘busy’ comes ‘noisy’. The savvy social animal knows they have to change how they present their content in order to get continue being noticed and heard (note that I’m not telling you to change your content … just how you present it)

Data and analytics are great to a point but never forget that social media is driven by people, not sophisticated software. When you learn to tap into what drives people, then you’re really onto something ;)

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At-a-Glance Business Guide to the 2014 Social Landscape

Social media … it ain’t what it used to be.

As more platforms emerge, it’s good to reassess the sites in which we’re investing our time to ensure they’re likely to yield positive results for our business.

Here’s a useful infographic that helps define the strengths and weaknesses of the eight leading social networking sites … (click on the image to enlarge)

The CMO

by johnmnelson.
Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.


 
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Accept it, You’re not Beyoncé – Social Media for Small Businesses

Social Media for Small Business

Big brands and even bigger personalities … they have it all, don’t they?

The slick, well-designed Facebook pages, the ultra cool ‘n’ creative Instagram posts, the brilliant short, sweet tweets that get shared around the world in a heartbeat.

They’ve got every conceivable base covered brilliantly on every platform, emerging or otherwise. And the public can’t get enough of them.

It’s easy to see why many a small business owner has looked at the activities of super social globals and inwardly sighed with downbeat resignation.

It’s the Beyoncé factor. We all want to walk in her shoes and have a little taste of everything we touch turning to a spangly shade of gold.

Or the Audi affect. Super-sexy, well-designed posts that purr with sublime style as they  cruise across your screen. It’s vorsprung durch deflating.

When we see how the big boys and girls do it, there’s no wonder that our zest and drive suddenly splurts to a splurty halt.

But you’re not comparing apples for apples, as my sales manager used to say.

When you make a conscious decision to celebrate, embrace and ignite all that is fabulous about being the whirlwind of a small business that is YOU, the social arena looks very different indeed.

Here’s a peak at how to get started.

Get Personal

Beyoncé, Coca Cola … They’re not going to form strong, unique and individual connections with their followers on a daily basis. And the truth is most small businesses won’t either … but you can. I call it the Ultra Social Factor (actually I just made that up, but I like it …) When anyone tweets me and includes my name, from that moment on we have context. The ice is broken for me, purely because they’ve used my name. It’s really that simple, so start right there.

Beware the Big O

I know all about ‘Overwhelm’; most of us do. It comes from pining for a dream so huge that you can’t see a practical route to achieving it, such is the shadow the dream casts over you. Try this simple daily step for starters: make one truly engaged connection every day, one where you take the time to learn just a little more about the other party. It’s about being interested and when it gathers momentum you’ll be amazed at where it will take you.

Loosen Up!

When I read about the need to always be ‘on message’ a little part of me falls asleep. I’m pretty sure I’d rather scoop my eyeballs out with a teaspoon than read a stream that was constantly ‘on message’. Even Beyoncé posts photos of herself first thing in the morning without a scrap of make-up, which tells me she’s not so much ‘on message’ as ‘a real person’. Boom.

Learn to Swap ‘Creative’ for ‘Supportive’

In my humble experience the one thing that is sure to kill any chance of me feeling creative is worrying about not feeling very creative. Just hand me the duvet, a packet of digestives and move along … there’s nothing to see here. But in all seriousness, on the days when I can’t summon up a masterpiece, or even a minorpiece for that matter, I’ll set about looking for ways to help others. That’s not me looking for plaudits and praise, I promise. It’s just a good use of my time and I know that it makes a difference.

Mix It Up

You know what I think is the hardest aspect of any longterm relationship, be it a marriage or the one we have with our customer? The need to keep it fresh and interesting. Consistency and repetition are important, but don’t let your posts or messages ever become reruns of what you said twelve months ago. Zing it up a bit. The chances are that as your confidence grows you’ll see new ways to say the same thing in a more compelling way … So think less “How to Clean Your Car in Thirty Minutes” and more “Give Your Car Some Sassy Showroom Sparkle This Weekend!”

In short, learn to concentrate on what you are, and less on what you’re not.

I’m never going to be Beyoncé. But then neither is she ever going to be the England Rugby Team’s most enthusiastic mummy fan.

Some you win, some you lose.

Sorry, Bey.
 
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Grrrr … Give Me Back My Email Address!

email lists

There are many, many marketers out there who will tell you the secret to untold success and fortune is a huge email subscription list, and to be fair there is some merit in that theory.

It does seem however that a few too many now adopt the ‘get email address at all costs and hang the consequences’ approach, and I have to tell you that such tactics cause me to want to digitally hunt them down and put them under cyber arrest for gross violation of my trust.

Let me paint the picture.

Last week I decided to reassess a few webinar platform options for a series of forthcoming social media training seminars. What I discovered was that my previous supplier is now quite expensive, and that a few pretenders to the crown have seemingly caught them up in terms of favourable reviews, feedback and dependability.

So I pinged them an online enquiry asking them to get in touch so that we might discuss the matter further.

The next day I received an email from a customer service representative asking what time she should call me, to which I duly replied with a specific time slot.

No call.

But have no fear … they have kept in touch! With a series of unwanted email newsletters telling me how to transform myself into a webinar superstar of epic proportions.

I didn’t want their emails. I wanted them to call me back. You know the thing where people pick up a phone and you both have an actual conversation?

This is exasperating on so many levels, because it tells me that organisations still have no concept of personal service or of the need to take ownership of an enquiry and handle it in such a way that the customer feels they’re one step closer to making the right choice.

Now I simply think this webinar outfit were more interested in my email address than my business.

And that’s more than a little bit crazy.

Yet again I return to Kevin Spacey’s words of wisdom … “give the people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in …

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