5 Completely Surprising Marketing Tips Learned from Fifth Graders

January 21, 2014

fifth grade classroom

Photo source: User Michael 1952 on flickr.

This post was originally published on the DNN Software blog.

Recently, I served as “teacher for the day” in my daughter’s fifth grade classroom. My guest appearance was coordinated by a great organization, Junior Achievement, who “teaches young people about money management and how business works.”

With a lesson plan provided by Junior Achievement, I taught five, 45-minute lessons on topics related to business and entrepreneurship. I know about raising fifth graders from the one I have at home, but spending a day with a class full of them gave me further insights on their attitudes and inclinations.

Before long, these fifth grade students will grow up and become part of the target audience for your marketing. Here are five surprising marketing tips based on my observations.

1) Forget about social media marketing.

I asked students to name examples of businesses. Here’s the list compiled by this Silicon Valley-based class:

social media top of mind with fifth graders

Perhaps they were too young to name Snapchat? The point is, fifth graders are on the bleeding edge of technology. They used iPods as toddlers, then graduated to iPads. They may not be using Facebook, but their siblings and parents are. So they’re aware of what it is and what it does.

That being said, forget about the social media marketing you’re doing today to reach their parents. Once these kids enter the workforce, social marketing will no longer be relevant, because another form of advertising will have emerged.

2) Invest in billboard advertising.

T-rex billboard ad

Photo source: Eric Fischer on flickr.

We did a lesson on advertising. The fifth graders were given a business scenario and asked to work in teams to devise a business, then create an advertisement for that business. Before they started designing, they were asked to name examples of advertising.

Many of the students mentioned billboard ads that they see on Highway 101 in the Bay Area. They were able to recall the messaging contained on those billboards in impressive detail. Out-of-home advertising works! It’s effective because of the captivated audience it commands. So as these fifth graders grow into adults, think of ways your own marketing content can be delivered to a captivated audience.

3) Decrease your online marketing budget.

If you think about standing up in front of a fifth grade classroom for an entire day, it can be worrisome: will the students have any interest in what I’m saying? To be honest, I noticed that some of them “tuned out” during segments of the lessons.

But what got them to pay attention, engage and interact? Activities. The Junior Achievement lesson plans pair verbal instruction with a fun activity that reinforces that instruction.

Online marketing is great. It’s cost effective and it’s measurable. But to make a deeper connection with your  marketing, consider programs that include face-to-face interactions. The fifth graders are kind of expecting it.

4) Tomorrow’s workers won’t be motivated by gamification.

Many of the day’s activities came in the form of games. The fifth graders would high-five each other when they rolled a six, but what got them most excited were forms of peer-to-peer connections and recognition.

WHITE PAPER: How Community Managers Can Use Gamification to Create Sustainable Engagement

We did an exercise in which two students were named partners in a popcorn and ice cream business. The two partners stood at the front of the classroom. Next, they called up classmates (one by one), assigning them to assorted roles within the business (delivery people, business analysts, attorneys and ultimately, a CEO).

Students were most excited when they were called up to the front of the room. The selection and “job assignment” (in front of the entire class) gave meaning to the activity. It made them feel rewarded. How do you “gamify” experiences for tomorrow’s workers? Make it less about points and badges and more about peer-to-peer relationships and recognition.

5) Make them wait for it.

child using tablet

Photo source: User nooccar on flickr.

Today’s generation of kids live in a world of instant gratification. With timeshifting and on-demand consumption, they get what they want, when they want it. Remember how Thursday nights on NBC were called “Must See TV?” Today’s generation calls it “I See TV” (“When I Want It”).

So first, make your product, content and experiences great. Then, act differently with it. Don’t give it to them right away. Make them wait. Make them go through hoops to get it. Why? Because when they do, they’ll cherish it. They’re so used to getting everything right away, that making them wait adds to the enjoyment.

Conclusion

Today’s fifth graders are tomorrow’s customers. While I enjoyed my time in the classroom, I also considered it a form of market research, in better understanding tomorrow’s buyers. Hopefully, I learned from them as much as they learned from me. And, I hope this post served to spur forward-looking thoughts on how to do marketing in the future.

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Why Personal Branding Begins at an Early Age (and What to Do About It)

December 7, 2013

Photo source: Dave Lawler on flickr.

Introduction

I asked a class of tenth grade students how many of them have a personal brand. A few looked around the room to see who raised their hand. One student did. And that was it.

When I grew up, the Internet did not exist. Back then, personal branding was centered around experiences and achievements and how they combined to form a reputation – you know, tangible things. Today, those things still matter for your personal brand, but so much of that brand is formed online.

Junior Achievement Program

San Mateo High School

Photo: I visited a tenth grade class at San Mateo High School.

My visit to a tenth grade classroom was part of a Junior Achievement program called JA Career Success.

Junior Achievement is “the world’s largest organization dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs.” (learn more: Junior Achievement website)

The JA Career Success program consists of seven sessions. I participated in the seventh session, which is titled “Get Hired: Know Your Personal Brand.” The session’s objectives, as defined by JA:

  1. Explore how to hunt for a job and the tools needed
  2. Determine choices they can make to create a positive personal brand as they build their careers

Why We All Have a Personal Brand

An informal poll of the classroom determined that every student is on Facebook (although their teacher does not use the service), 15% are on Twitter and everyone has an Apple device at home (iPhone, iPad or iPod). In short, these students grew up with mobile devices connected to the Internet.

So I told the students: if there’s one thing you remember from today’s program, it’s this:

You’re online, which means that you already have a personal brand.

Well said.

In other words: whether you like it or not, the digital footprints you’re leaving across the Internet are the embodiment of your personal brand. By being aware and proactive, you can manage that brand. By being reactive and unaware, it gets managed for you.

So let’s consider ways in which you can start managing your personal brand. And yes, it’s NOT too early to start this in high school, or even middle school.

5 Personal Branding Tips

1) Always Be Mindful of What You’re Sharing

This photo could become a future issue

Photo source: Dennis Harper on flickr.

I know that high school students will do things that their parents would not approve of (example: throwing a wild party at the house when the parents are away for the weekend).

High school students will have their fun and should continue to do so. But take a moment to ponder before clicking the “submit” or “tweet” button.

Be sensitive to what you share and know that there can be implications and ramifications. If you post something online, accept the fact that it never goes away.

Even if you’re careful to limit your posts to particular groups, the fact remains that the post is online. Understand that when you apply for a job as a forty year old, what you posted as a teenager could come back to haunt you.

Here’s a good mechanism: when you’re ready to post something online, think whether your parent(s) and your teacher would approve. If they wouldn’t approve, then don’t post it (hat tip to Junior Achievement for this).

2) Pay Attention to Details

When you interview for a job, body language can be far more important than the words you speak. You might have an eloquent and insightful answer, but if you’re slouched in your chair and not making eye contact with the interviewer, your answer doesn’t really matter.

With personal branding, every little thing matters. Start with your email address. People will need to contact you, whether it’s a college admissions officer or a potential employer. Select an email address accordingly. “ilovetoparty” at (gmail dot com) will not curry favor with potential employers.

If you have an unfavorable email address, get a new one to use for college admissions and job applications. Next, have friends and family call your cell phone and listen to your voicemail greeting. Does it say something like: “Yo. Do it now. Over and outtie”? That would make a college admissions officer think twice about your application.

3) Sprinkle in Brand-Appropriate, Proactive Sharing

Photo of an academic award

Photo source: COD Newsroom on flickr.

Yes, you should do some proactive “brand building,” even in high school. Some tenth graders will apply to colleges in a few short years. When you apply to a college, the admissions officers will review your social profiles.

Did you recently receive an academic achievement award at school? Have a friend take a picture of you (with your award), then post that to Facebook. This digital footprint can make a difference, when discovered by the admissions officer (hat tip to a parent volunteer, who provided this suggestion).

4) Don’t Let Your Inside Voice Get Outside

In other words, keep your posts and status updates positive. We all have our dislikes, whether it’s jobs, other people or situations. Think twice before you share those dislikes with the entire world. Social media should not be a venting mechanism.

If you found a new job, but really disliked your previous job, keep your feelings about the previous job on the inside. Negative comments don’t play well when viewed by potential employers. And who knows? Things change and the employer you disliked years ago may be one that you return to years later.

5) Advanced Topic: Start Blogging

I started this blog five years ago and it’s helped a great deal with my personal brand. I’m able to share thoughts and ideas (with you!) and I consider it an add-on to my resume. In fact, blogs and social profiles (e.g. LinkedIn) are far more relevant than the old-fashioned resume.

One important point, however: figure out a “focus area” for your blog that’s tied to the personal brand you’d like to portray.

Your blog should not be an extension of Facebook, in which you share anything and everything going on in your life. Instead, it should be an outlet for you to share thoughts and observations.

Consider what you’re most passionate about and start writing about it. If you write well and share interesting things, I’m sure college admissions officers will take note.

Additional Thoughts on Personal Branding

Jonha Revesencio

Photo: Jonha Revesencio (@jonharules).

While writing this post, I posed a question on Twitter:

At what age should we start building our personal brand?

Jonha shared the following:

“In a world where technology has helped in facilitating questions, I think there’s not really an exact “age” to best build your brand, or as I like to put it, #BrandYOU. I think, though, that it’s most essential to “position yourself to be found so you won’t have to look around.”

That means it’s important to provide value even before you ask for one. I’ve given a presentation before college students about this and my main message is for them to use the time they spend on social networks by building their brand instead of using it for activities which will at some point break it (even before they try to build).”

Conclusion

Thanks for those thoughts, Jonha!

The concept of a personal brand was quite new to the tenth graders I spoke to. And that’s a big reason why I wrote this post: to create awareness around the fact that personal branding starts at an early age. Those who get an early start will have an advantage. Start working on your personal brand today.



10 Ways to Optimize Your Social Media Channels

September 14, 2013

Social media channels
Photo credit: Flickr user mkhmarketing via photopin cc

Introduction

Some organizations are rocking the house with social media (a few come to mind: Coca Cola, Starbucks, Virgin America). At the same time, many organizations I speak to are challenged to achieve the results they desire using social media.

ON-DEMAND WEBINAR: Social Media Optimization: 10 Tips in 30 Minutes.

The challenge? It’s usually a combination of “lack of know-how” and lack of resources (or both). So here are ten easy steps to take to optimize your social media channels. You can perform these steps in any order.

1) Use consistent branding across channels.

For personal use of social media, I recommend that people use the same profile photo across all social channels. Why? Because followers who know you on Twitter will recognize you on SlideShare.

So the consistent photo removes a barrier to gaining that new follower. For organizations, use the same logo everywhere. Also, if you’re running a campaign, use the same campaign theme across your channels.

2) Strategically hyperlink from profile pages.

Check out all the valuable hyperlinks we’re afforded on the DNN Google+ page. Take advantage of these opportunities. You can drive clicks (to your web properties) from views of your social profile pages.

And, the inbound links will help with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Don’t be too cute, however. Make sure your link’s anchor text aligns with the page you’re linking to.

Additional tip: YouTube allows hyperlinks in the description area of your video:

Hyperlinks on YouTube

3) Reciprocate.

Gain a new follower on Twitter? Verify they’re a “real” person (vs. a “bot”), then follow them back. It’s a nice gesture on social media to follow back. And, by following back, you get the opportunity to listen to what your followers are saying. On Twitter, following back allows your followers to send you a “Direct Message” (a private message), which is often an effective channel for customer service or related inquiries.

4) Tag (link to) other users.

When I share an article on social media, I like to “link” to both the publication and the author. Why? Because it gets you (or your organization) noticed by the publication and the author (in addition to sending them some good karma). The author may follow you, retweet you or respond to you. In turn, the author’s followers may decide to follow you. In short, good things can happen.

5) Learn the tricks of the trade of each social network.

Using the “retweet” button on Twitter. Setting up a Google+ Hangout. Managing your Circles in Google+. Each of these things is unique to that service: get to know these unique features well and your use of that service becomes more effective.

6) Measure, evaluate, adjust.

Become BFF’s with analytics (and yes, you really should become best friends forever). Did you know: Twitter now provides free analytics dashboards to all Twitter users (read more on the Constant Contact blog).

Use analytics to evaluate your social media effectiveness across a number of dimensions (e.g. content type, content format, topic, time of day, etc.). Metrics to track include reach, engagement and traffic. Next, draw conclusions that help inform your subsequent social sharing.

7) Mix it up.

I know of professional sportswriters whose Twitter profile is an automated feed of every article they write (and nothing else). While I love their sports writing, I don’t follow them on Twitter. Instead, I follow other sportswriters who comment, respond, retweet and engage. So mix it up: share content, retweet, respond and engage. Don’t be a social media automaton.

8) Engage proactively and respond promptly.

Users on social media can be chatty. And they expect responses to their issues or comments. Your role: listen to what they’re saying and respond promptly. A same-day (or same-hour) response is far better than one that comes tomorrow or next week.

9) Cross-promote your channels.

While your primary goal is to “be useful” on any given social network, there are times when you’ll want to promote your other social networks. Let fans know that you “exist” elsewhere. And, when you’re running events, contests or campaigns on a particular network, use your other channels to drive additional awareness of those activities.

10) Experiment with paid advertising.

Twitter Ads Dashboard

Image: a Twitter Ads dashboard for Promoted Tweets.

It’s great that you have a lot of fans and followers on social media. But did you know they’ll miss 80+% of what you post (that’s my own, unscientific estimate)? That’s just reality.

Paid advertising can create a higher likelihood that fans see your content – and, it extends your reach to people not currently following you. We’ve had fun experimenting with it here at DNN.

Conclusion

Social media can drive tremendous value to your organization – and, it can be a lot of fun doing it. I hope you found these tips useful. I presented a DNN webinar on this same topic recently – you can find the presentation slides below.

Originally published on the DNN Software blog.


5 Reasons to Hire a Social Media Consultant for Your Small Business

August 14, 2013

Social network collage
Photo credit: Flickr user kdonovangaddy via photopin cc

Note: the following is a guest post by Sara Collins.

Introduction

Marketing and advertising are essential factors in a business’s growth. One of the most increasingly important strategies is social media marketing. Social media marketing refers to the process of gaining traffic through social media sites.

For a company or individual, social media marketing efforts will usually center on the creation of content that will attract attention to the business’s products and services.

This content will be spread to others by your readers and customers as opposed to direct marketing efforts, which is a more limiting marketing method. As a business owner, you may not have enough time or experience to do the social media marketing yourself, so considering a professional social media consultant can help you achieve success with your brand identity.

Social Media Consultant

A social media consultant is someone who can implement, optimize, and build your online presence and social media efforts in a structured way that will not only achieve visibility, but lead to tangible results i.e. sales.

Social media consultants usually specialize in a particular brand or product in order to achieve the best possible results. Along with helping your business, social media consultants can also enhance your marketing team’s work quality and bring new ideas to the team.

What a Social Media Consultant Can Do For You

1) Analyzing Business Data

Using such tools as Google analytics, a consultant should be able to see how engaged your audience is. They would then be in a position to tell you what you’re doing right or wrong and provide the solutions that are necessary for you to grow your presence.

2) Creating a Social Media Policy Tailored To Your Brand

Depending on what brand you are promoting or selling, a specialist should be able to let you know which platforms would be or wouldn’t be effective for your business. For example, a clothing brand would find that engaging on a platform, such as Polyvore, is necessary while a platform, such as Café Mom, is unnecessary.

3) Integrating Your Content

All the content on the web that relates to your business should intertwine and lead to your website. This means that any accounts, blog posts, tweets or pictures should be structured in such a way that the user eventually ends up on your website.

4) Mapping Out a Strategy

A consultant should be able to provide you with a clearly defined plan on how to build your social media presence as well as give you advice on how to sustain the growth that they will help you achieve.

5) Always Updated On Latest Trends And Predicts Future Trends

A social media specialist understands the ever-changing Internet trends, whether users are flocking to Pinterest or Twitter. By keeping up with the latest trends, a consultant is able to predict how to best plan your future marketing strategy, ensuring that your business will always stay caught up with the most recent online platforms.

Hiring a Social Media Consultant

Before hiring a social media consultant, figure out what goals you have for your business. Consider the following to decide your business’ goals:

  1. Do you want to sell a product or service?
  2. Will social media marketing be beneficial to your business?
  3. What is your budget for a social media consultant?
  4. How do you want to reach your target market?
  5. Can your marketing team handle the social media marketing and continue implementing strategies after the social media consultant leaves?
  6. What specific skills do you want in a consultant that can help your business?

Once you’ve defined your business goals and have decided to hire a social media specialist, write down what you’d like to ask them to ensure they will be a good team player. Here are a handful of questions you can ask during your interview:

  1. Do you have any experience in digital marketing to my business’ target market?
  2. How can you engage my clients on social media platforms?
  3. What social media tools have you used before?
  4. Do you have one social network that you focus on the most? If so, do you think it would be beneficial to my business and why or why not?
  5. What campaigns have you created or planned before?
  6. How long would it take you to develop my business’ social media presence?

Conclusion

Social media consultants focus on everything that has to do with digital or Internet marketing. Due to their focus, your marketing team can grow in other areas of your marketing strategy, from website design to email marketing. With a social media specialist on the team, the team can also learn different ways to bring more to your business’s online presence that accommodates each member’s specific tasks.

About the Author

Sara Collins of NerdWallet

Sara Collins is a writer for NerdWallet, a site dedicated to helping consumers find the best balance transfer cards.


10 Ways to Prepare for Your Social Media Manager Interview

August 10, 2013

How to prepare for your social media manager interview

Introduction

Social Media Manager has become a rather popular position lately. Whether it’s a dedicated or partial position, the function exists within most organizations.

Enterprises, non-profits, small businesses and associations understand the benefits of maintaining social media channels to generate awareness, engage with prospects and interact with customers and partners.

A Friend’s Interview

Recently, a friend of mine was preparing to interview for a Social Media Manager position. He was looking to transition into that position from a related role and asked me for advice on how to prepare for the interview.

Here are ten tips on how to prepare: they’re meant for people who haven’t done the job before.

1) Clean up your social media profiles.

It's important to manage your privacy settings on Facebook

Pictured: privacy settings options on Facebook.

I can guarantee you that your social media presence will be a key consideration for this position. Your prospective employer will look you up on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter (in that order).

Congratulations on passing the “sniff test” – you scored an interview.

That being said, between now and the interview, clean up and optimize your profiles. Professional-oriented sites like LinkedIn are a given; also be careful to review the “Who can see my stuff?” settings on Facebook and un-tag yourself from photos that you wouldn’t want your mom to see.

2) Find and discover the organization’s “brand voice.”

Every organization has a “brand,” which means that every organization has a brand voice. In other words, do some research on your potential employer.

Check their website for a listing of their mission statement or core values (example: the core values of Zappos).

Understand what’s important to the organization, along with their vision for the future. Then, subtly reference some of the information you learned during your interview. When you get the job, you’ll need to tweet, post and pin with the brand voice.

3) Practice being the organization’s Press Secretary.

Jay Carney (photo via Wikipedia)

Photo of Jay Carney via Wikipedia.

Jay Carney is President Obama’s Press Secretary. Like all presidential press secretaries, Carney has a challenging job. He needs to stand up in front of the White House Press Corps and answer questions.

Sometimes he’ll be thrown “softballs,” while other times, he’ll need to address pointed and difficult questions. Carney needs to answer the questions in the “brand voice” of the Oval Office. As a Social Media Manager, your followers on Twitter (for example) are the press corps and you’re the press secretary. So watch a few White House news briefings and see how Carney handles questions.

4) Immerse yourself in the role.

Plan a number of 30-45 sessions during which you observe brands in action (on social media). “Like” some brands on Facebook, both in the target industry and a few outside of that. See how they’re crafting their status updates on Facebook.

Then, venture over to Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and other social networks and observe how brands are using those channels. Pay particular attention to how those brands engage with their audience. You get bonus points for tracking a single brand across channels and figuring out how they uniquely use each one.

5) Be prepared to define ROI.

It’s great that you’re proficient at tweeting, posting and tagging. It’s even better when you can do it in the brand’s voice. Some organizations will want you to take it to the next step and measure the Return on Investment (ROI) of social media.

So do some research on ROI models (for social media) and be prepared to talk through some of them. Then, turn the question around and ask about the organization’s goals with social media. Suggest particular social media metrics that can be assembled to tie back to those goals. The key point: the definition of social media ROI should be unique to each organization.

6) Do research on social media advertising.

Twitter's Promoted Tweets set-up

Pictured: some of the targeting options available in Twitter’s Promoted Tweets.

There are lots of options for spending money to augment your reach on social media: Promoted Tweets, Boosted Posts (Facebook), Sponsored Updates (LinkedIn), etc.

Do some research on how these work: how are they priced, what are the benefits, how can you measure, etc. If your prospective employer is not yet using these tools, you can score bonus points by planting the seed (with your knowledge).

7) Consider celebrating your outsider status.

Let’s say you’ve never worked in the industry of your prospective employer. Especially for social media marketing positions, employers are starting to look past the “industry experience” pre-requisite.

If the topic comes up during the interview, be prepared with a way to celebrate you outsider status. You may bring a new perspective to the organization’s approach to social media and be able to communicate in a fresh, new way (while maintaining the brand voice).

8) Research agency relationships.

While this may only apply to larger organizations, do some research to see if your prospective employer uses agencies in its social media: PR firms, design firms, interactive agencies, etc. A good place to check is the “Press Release” or “News” pages on their website. Having this information in your back pocket keeps you better informed going into the interview.

9) Think up a creative idea or two.

Do NOT tell your prospective employer what they’re doing wrong on social media. However, it’s fine to observe what they’re doing and think up new and creative ways to do the same thing. Sort of like this: “I noticed you’re doing <this>, have you considered doing <that>?”

10) Research past campaigns and contests.

Take a look at past social media campaigns and contests run by your prospective employer. Understand what they were looking to achieve and how it was received by participants. You’ll have a role in campaigns and contests going forward, so speaking knowledgeably about them during the interview puts you ahead of the pack.

Conclusion

It’s important to remember the “larger calling” of your role. It may be neat to tell friends that you get paid to tweet, post and pin, but it’s all in the context of the organization’s goals.

The social networks are the tools that you use to help achieve those goals. Portray that message during your interview: your excitement about the opportunity is less around social media and more about leveraging social media to advance the organization’s cause.


10 Lists of 10: Insights on Social Media, Product Marketing and More

May 27, 2013

Top 10 Lists on social media, product marketing and more

Introduction

Because “lists of 10″ is a popular format on this blog, I decided to round up a “list of 10 covering the lists of 10.” Without further ado, I present you with my ten favorite lists of ten.

1) 10 Reasons Print Rules in The Digital Age

Call me old fashioned: this post provides ten reasons why I enjoy magazine subscriptions to The Economist and SI.

2) 10 Steps to Creating Blog Posts Your Readers Will Love

My ten step process for writing blog posts. Since this post is a compilation of past posts, I didn’t use the process this time.

3) 10 Reasons Texting Has Taken Over the World

10 reasons texting has taken over the world

Texting is not limited to the younger generation – in fact, texting is taking over the world.

4) Unable to Attend an Event? 10 Ways Twitter Fills the Gap

You simply can’t make it to all events. And when you can’t, turn to Twitter to fill the gap.

5) 10 Reasons Storytelling is The New Product Marketing

Storytelling is the new product marketing

Calling all product marketers: tell good stories.

6) 10 Reasons to Skip the Web Site in Favor of Twitter (When Researching a Company)

When I research a company, I find it more useful to skim through their home page, then jump directly to their Twitter profile.

7) Top 10 Tips for Social Media Time Management

How to manage your time on social media

Intimidated by the amount of time social media consumes? Check out this list of tips on social media time management.

8) The 10 Things Marketers Should Do When Starting a New Job

When Marketers start a new job, they should engage with Sales right away, among other things.

9) 10 Reasons Social Media Addicts Should Go Camping

Camping lets you take a break from social media

Want to get off the grid and disconnect from social media? Go camping.

10) 10 Reasons Product Managers and Event Managers are Kindred Spirits

How product managers and event managers are alike

This list argues that documents how: product managers and event managers do a lot of the same things.


10 Reasons to Skip the Web Site in Favor of Twitter (When Researching a Company)

March 25, 2013

The profile page for Twitter

Exception to the rule: when researching Twitter, you’re more than welcome to visit Twitter.com.

Introduction

Let’s say you’ve never heard of a company before, but want to learn more. You land on the company’s home page and need to answer some rudimentary questions:

  1. What does the company do?
  2. Where are they headquartered?
  3. What’s been going on lately?

You’d typically look for pages such as “Contact,” “About Us,” and “News” and perhaps you’d get some answers. Lately, I skip those pages and simply look for the Twitter icon (which 90+% of companies have). Visiting their Twitter profile tells me everything I need to know.

Let’s consider ten reasons to skip the web site in favor of a company’s Twitter profile.

1) Character limit increases clarity.

What does a company do? On an “About Us” page, they have an unlimited amount of space. The description on your Twitter profile has a limit of 160 characters. As with tweets, the economy of characters forces you to be simple and efficient. The description on a company’s Twitter profile is far better than the text on their “About Us” page.

2) A picture is worth a thousand words.

Photos posted to Twitter by @VirginAmerica

Photo source: the profile page of @VirginAmerica.

Twitter’s profile page displays six of the company’s most recently posted photos (in thumbnail size). These images helps paint a picture of the company and are more personal (i.e. “real”) compared to what they might post on their web site.

3) Find out where they’re based (right away).

I like to know where a company is based. On some web sites, you’ll get a “Contact Us” page, but no physical address. You might have to navigate to the Press Releases page and find out where the releases were issued from. It’s all too hard. The Twitter profile asks for “Location” and most companies list their headquarters’ location. Just what I need.

4) Find related Twitter accounts.

Other Twitter handles from Constant Contact

Photo source: the profile page of @ConstantContact.

Companies will use separate Twitter accounts for assorted functions (e.g. customer support). Sometimes, knowing about these additional accounts can be useful.

5) Now what do you REALLY do?

McAfee's Twitter profile

Companies that sell complex products can lose us when they begin to describe just what it is they do. The first instance of jargon brings with it the potential for confusion. The description (above) by McAfee doesn’t go into detail on products or solutions. But it’s an elegant and simple statement that we can all understand.

6) What have you been up to lately?

Read a company’s five most recent tweets. More often than not, you’ll have your answer. Here’s an example of a recent tweet from @Bunchball:

7) What’s your “social persona”?

A company’s Twitter profile can tell a lot about their approach to social. Consider these questions you can ask:

  1. Do they follow back?
  2. Do they retweet others?
  3. Do they interact with other users via “@ mentions”?
  4. Do they post photos?
  5. Do they share others’ content, in addition to their own?

8) View creative images you won’t see on the web site.

I love seeing the creativity used by some companies in their Twitter profiles. When Twitter launched header images (to complement your photo), it unleashed a torrent of creativity. Check out the image combination from @Ford:

Ford's Twitter profile - love that steering wheel

9) What’s your personality and culture like?

A company’s tweets tell us about their employees and their culture. In addition, the Twitter account embodies an answer to the question, “hey company, what’s on your mind?” And that’s something social media provides that a web site cannot.

10) Are you following me?

OK, I had to add this one as a form of “Twitter vanity.” If you’re checking out a company and they’re already following you, make sure you follow them back (if you’re not already doing so)!


20 Social Media Predictions for 2013

December 17, 2012

20 Social Media  Predictions for 2013

Introduction

It’s December, which means that it’s that time of year. Predictions! While 2012 was an exciting year for social media, I find it challenging to look back and characterize it. Was it the year of the mobile app? The year of the pinboard? Pinterest was certainly one of the big stories of 2012.

What will 2013 hold for social media? Let’s explore.

Social Media Predictions for 2013

  1. Social media becomes a “given” and we no longer call it out separately. We use terms like “marketing strategy,” “engagement strategy” and “audience generation strategy,” and NOT “social media strategy.”
  2. Likewise, organizations with “social media” job titles broaden those roles to cover a wider set of responsibilities. For instance, the “social media marketing manager” broadens to become the “marketing manager.”
  3. We see the major players doing more blocking and disabling of each other’s services, not less. The measures taken by Twitter and Instagram (in 2012) were the start of what we’ll see far more of in 2013.
  4. Venture capital will dry up for “pure” social media start-ups. You’ll need to pair your social media offering with a mobile or big data angle – or, whatever will emerge as the hot new thing in 2013.
  5. The “social media darling” of 2013 will be a new app that uses your social graph, your “interest graph” and your location to facilitate face-to-face connections. It’ll have specific features to discourage its use as a dating app.
  6. There will be a drop-off in blog postings on the topic of social media (consider this one an endangered species).
  7. Twitter publishes its definition of “spam user / spam bot” and drops those users from its official registered user count. Its reported user base drops by 20%, but advertisers give them a pat on the back.
  8. One among Klout, PeerIndex and Kred will be acquired for an eight figure sum. My money’s on Kred.
  9. Yahoo! acquires Quora for $800MM. Quora remains an independent site in 2013, but merges its user database with Yahoo’s.
  10. Despite investigations of anti-competitive actions, Google places increased emphasis of Google+ content in its search engine results. This forces social media marketers to tell their clients, “If you’re not on Google+, you lose.”
  11. We’ve gone from blogging to microblogging. In 2013, our sharing isn’t 140 characters at a time, it’s 1 character at a time. As they say on Wheel of Fortune, “Can I have an ‘E’?”
  12. Twitter’s makes further progress with the stability of its infrastructure. The fail whale faces extinction.
  13. MySpace expands beyond music into sports, recreation and other selected hobbies. It makes some acquisitions to grow audience in those areas and becomes the talk of the town at year-end 2013.
  14. After making significant concessions to the Chinese Government, Facebook is made available in China.
  15. As Facebook, Twitter and others focus on growing revenue, their end users experience “ad fatigue” and response rates (e.g. clicks) take a hit.
  16. Finding success on Twitter, The Pope expands to Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest. He declines an offer, however, to become a LinkedIn Influencer.
  17. Facebook considers a move into the “data locker” space, figuring that they already have the critical mass of users – and, that it’s more effective than serving banner or text ads. See this related piece on data lockers from the New York Times.
  18. If there’s such thing as a “social media product of the year,” then in 2013 it will be Google+ Hangouts.
  19. Crowdfunding via social media is big. In 2013, it becomes huge.
  20. This post will receive precisely 17 comments. So leave your own social media predictions –and perhaps you can make this 2013 prediction come true in 2012.

Bonus Prediction Number 1

Bonus Prediction Number 2

Heidi Thorne (@heidithorne)

This prediction comes from Heidi Thorne (@heidithorne):

In 2013, I think that people will continue to collapse the number of social networks in which they participate to the Big Three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

YouTube, though I have a hard time classifying it as a “social” site, will continue to dominate the web. Google Plus, while an awesome platform, will continue to struggle to be relevant due to their late entry into the social game, but will be used for unique functions such as Hangouts.

Pinterest? I’m biased, but I think its sizzle will fizzle in the not too distant future. Other social sites, such as the reinvented MySpace, will become, for lack of a better term, “sites.” May have social sharing capability, but would not qualify as social “utilities” such as Facebook or Twitter.

Conclusion

Thanks for stopping by throughout 2012. Hope you had a good year and I hope 2013 is even better. Happy Holidays!

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


Let Me Explain: Why I Have Not Endorsed You on LinkedIn

December 3, 2012

let-me-explain-why-i-have-not-endorsed-you-on-linkedin

Introduction

In September, LinkedIn rolled out Endorsements, “a new feature that makes it easier to recognize them [Connections] for their skills and expertise.” In their Q3 2012 earnings announcement, LinkedIn noted that “members have generated more than 200 million endorsements to their colleagues.”

I contributed just a handful of endorsements to the (quite impressive) 200 million total. While I’m fairly active on LinkedIn, Endorsements is one feature I haven’t used much. Let me explain why.

1) It’s too easy and convenient.

What skills do connections have? Asks LinkedIn

Yes, that does sound counter-intuitive. And granted, LinkedIn wanted to make it easy and convenient, a la the “Like” on Facebook. On Facebook, I’m happy to “Like” a friend’s witty comment or interesting photo. It takes less than a second and provides an endorsement of sorts.

But LinkedIn is a business setting. And if an action takes so little overhead to perform (just a single click), then the meaning and significance of that action is diminished. To “endorse” a post on Facebook is one thing, but to endorse a colleague’s work? That should take more effort.

That’s why I like LinkedIn’s Recommendations feature: you need to put some effort into expressing why you’re recommending your Connection. And you need to do so “in writing,” rather than via a single click.

2) It doesn’t describe quality or depth.

Notice the language used by LinkedIn: “Does [NAME] have these skills or expertise?” and “Does [NAME] know about [TOPIC]?”. So the Endorsements feature is a way to validate the skills that users list on their profile. That’s fine and good, but it doesn’t capture the depth or quality of the particular skill.

You could measure depth based on the quantity of endorsements received per topic. But all that says is that people confirm that you have the skill. It doesn’t denote that you perform the skill particularly well.

3) Creates awkward decision-making moments.

Does Diane have these skills?

I don’t know about you, but I find this process a bit awkward. Do I endorse Diane for all of the listed skills, or would that be too generous? Do I remove a few, then endorse her for the rest? Should I feel bad that I’ve chosen to NOT endorse Diane for particular skills? These are some of the questions that run through my head when I see the Endorsements “prompt.”

Feature Ideas: LinkedIn Endorsements

Let’s discuss ways to address some of the issues I list above.

1) Reverse the model.

What if Connections could view a set of skills and expertise and endorse you from that list? This way, the endorser determines the list of skills, not the endorsee. When making an endorsement, it would be ideal to hide the pre-existing endorsements (from others), so as not to influence the endorser. This model would make the endorsements more meaningful, as they’re independently selected by the “audience,” rather than being influenced by the user (i.e. via the skills that they choose to list).

2) Use up/down voting.

LinkedIn renders your endorsements in order of quantity received

Currently, proficiency in your skills is based on the quantity of Endorsements you received. Your Connections can influence your proficiency based on the specific skills for which they endorse you. An endorsement for a “highly endorsed” skill widens that bar, while one for a previously un-endorsed skill creates a small blip.

Instead, why not let Connections perform a set number of up/down votes. Is “social media marketing” listed too far above “lead generation”? If so, I’ll up-vote lead generation, if I think you’re not getting enough credit for that skill. This model allows Connections to more directly influence the relative order of your skills.

3) Endorse particular achievements or completed projects.

Did you work on an impactful project? Pull off a world class event? If you did, then I’m sure the project involved a number of people. List the project (or event) on your profile and allow those involved to endorse your work on it. And, they can leave a comment on how the project impacted them – or, how your role was instrumental to its success.

4) Use comments to capture depth of particular skills.

Ratings and endorsements, in the form of clicks, can be gamed. And that makes them less meaningful. It’s harder to “game” a written endorsement, however. So similar to LinkedIn’s existing Recommendations feature, Endorsements could have particular areas (e.g. the “project idea” listed above) that allow endorsers to chime in with their thoughts. Rather than long paragraphs of text, perhaps this uses the Twitter approach (140 characters or less).

Conclusion

I hope this post helps explain why I haven’t been active in LinkedIn Endorsements. I have participated quite a bit in Recommendations (rather than Endorsements), because I believe in the worthiness of the written (vs. one click) form.  Leave a comment below to let me know if you endorse this post!

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


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