Are You Being Manipulated?

mind control

Social media has changed drastically in the past 5 or 6 years. Small tightly knit communities have grown to ubiquitous parts of our daily life. The exploration of online human interaction and its ramifications has created an immense conversational platform widely used for marketing and commercial purpose, with a huge group of participants whose contributions seem to be aimed at creating of specious influence and false celebrity.

The attraction of social spaces centered around the engagement of individuals for their mutual growth and benefit. And those of us who were active in the early days of this evolution in communication spent hours in conversation about social contracts, social objects, and social capital.  They were, simply put, the terms under which we engaged, the things we had in common which became the focus of conversation, and the acquisition and depletion of online goodwill. The center of much of the online activity for business centered around the concept of ” doing well by doing good” – contributing to the communities you participate in without expectation of a quid pro quo , anticipating that doing the right thing and being generous would be its own reward. It was a wonderful place to be an active participant, but as the landscape changed, many people seem to have lost their  way.

As the second and third wave of participants arrived, they seemed to confuse visibility with influence and pontification with authority.As people engage online with the intent of building a name or a brand,they seek the highest visibility, and the greatest acclamation. As Ryan Holiday says in his book “Trust Me I’m Lying:Confessions of a Media Manipulator” , “Media was once about protecting a name; on the web it is about building one”. We must be careful of what name we build.

In a recent conversation with a friend of mine, Leslie Ebersole, about a Facebook group we both are active in, she said “ If I share something with a person for their private use I don’t expect them to project it as their own work, that will in fact influence other people…. I honestly am dismayed by so much of what I see in social media. For example re-tweeting someone’s post feels almost like cheating unless you have interesting or useful commentary on it”

Leslie’s thoughts are spot on, and reflect the manner in which thoughtful confident  people interact. People that create, or effectively curate, don’t need to plagiarize in order to appear smart – they are smart. But in a world of smoke and shadows , where Klout scores are confused with actual influence, and every comment  made in a Facebook group is received as if it was an authoritative statement, we are in danger of following people that have no business leading.

I’ve been involved in a couple of conversation recently about Klout for example, and what influence means. To me, people who can create change in the physical world have influence. Not the circular sycophancy whose online engagement is “You’re Great, No You’re great, OK, We’re all great”, but people whose actions actually cause the change in behavior of large numbers of people. People who can make a call or a request and see something happen. That to me, is influence.

Authority to me? That comes from knowledge combined with experience, not from the number of times you tweet or the amount of time you spend interacting on a Facebook group. If you’re a real estate professional that listed 140 properties last year, I am more than willing to listen to what you did and how you did it. But if you aren’t exceptional in your actual performance or even just real world activities, your online visibility doesn’t impress me in the least.

To build social influence, social capital must be acquired. It has been years since Tara Hunt wrote her book “The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business”  but the concepts of social cap[ital that she discusses is as valid today as it was then. Tara pointed out that acquiring good will online was a valuable way to integrate yourself into the community and that then, when you needed the good will of the community, they would in turn provide you with what you needed because of your good actions to that point. But when you do things that cause you to lose social capital - like appropriating the thoughts or work of others and portraying them as your own or betraying a confidence by using in public information gained in private, you lose credibility and your actions will begin to be met with negative reactions , causing you to lose social capital.

Holland says “..it is a world of many hustlers, and you are the mark. The con is to build a brand off the backs of others. Your attention and your credulity are what’s stolen.” And that is the danger of taking too much of the conversation at face value. Be thoughtful and know not only what is said, but who is saying it, and the basis they have for making their claim or statement.

Great personal brands are based on being real , being authentic, and being consistent, and giving value to the communities you belong to. They are built of ambition or plagiarism, or publishing popular cliches or memes. People want to be connected to people they can value. Think that’s not true? Back to Leslie again who said (in a private note to me that she has given permission for use here) , “I love the interaction and development of ideas that can happen with social media. I love sharing and doing whatever I can if I can help someone. But I am back to the idea of the importance of reciprocity and mutual effort when one is part of a community.”

So the good guys still exist, but you , the participant need to be willing to peek behind the curtain and differentiate between those that look like they know and do stuff , and those that actually know stuff and do stuff. I have faith you can do that, I just hope you will.

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How Not to Suck Online

Now that social marketing has become mainstream, everyone is doing it, but not many are doing it well. Sadly it is far easier to use social media than it is to use it effectively. When social media was new and exciting, most of the users exploring the space were like a pioneer community. Dependent on each other for insights and understanding, each pioneer sharing their impressions of the new territory they uncovered,and discussing as a group, including the implications for their community and the people yet to follow. As the number of users has grown,the number of people using social media to advance their personal or business agendas has grown as well.

Online engagement, social networking, and inbound marketing are three legs of the seat we have when we move our marketing program into the social space.  Ignore anyone of them and you have a very precarious perch, though many occupy that unstable position because they allowed form to triumph over substance . Here are three types of people that don’t seem to “get it”.

overshareThe Over-sharer

Some people seems to spend all of their time filling the interwebs with the minutia of their lives. Not  just the good meal, or fun vacation, or difficult day at work, but every random thought and opinion that goes through their head. Nothing is too mundane for them to share, or too personal. If they have a fight with their husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, family or all of the above, we’re going to hear about it in glorious living color. Things that they would not say at a small public gathering now become the center of their published actions. Their political and religious views are shared not just once or twice, or in appropriate conversations, but frequently, randomly, and loudly – especially during elections, where they engage no one and change no one’s minds.

A business woman shouting into a old style megaphoneThe Cheerleader

This person is benign, and for the most part are positive influences but their social engagement is like cotton candy, sweet, pretty, seemingly large and important, but without real substance when you get involved. They are characterized by being too sweet, too nice, and too positive. There is no one who values positive people more than I, or who recognizes the importance of positive support for our friends and communities when they are in strife or facing tough times. I know on a personal level how valuable emotional support from your online community can be when you are struck by an emotional challenge. But that having been said, online engagement is more than cheer leading or using superlatives. It’s being an integral part of the community on a deeper emotional level. It starts with recognition and interaction, but interaction by itself doesn’t necessarily generate engagement. That challenge needs to be met by becoming someone that is valued because of what you have give to the community.

Sleazy salesman pointingThe Promoter

This person is easy to see in others, but seems to be harder for people to recognize when they’re the ones originating the thread. Perhaps that’s a result of being raised in an outbound marketing world, or hearing the phrase inbound marketing without understanding what that actually means. But these are the people that pimp their services, get started in conversations about the value package for their product or services, or ask you to connect on LinkedIn because they have so much to share with you to improve your business.

 

 

Making it work is really pretty simple – be genuine, be honest, be consistent,  and remember the three social concepts that are the undercurrent of almost every interaction online – social contracts, social objects, and social capital.

iStock_000005658260XSmall copySocial contracts are not a community’s terms of service, but the contract between the members of any community  An often unwritten or un-verbalized agreement between the members of a community determining what constitutes behavior that is laudatory, acceptable or unacceptable.   The overtly commercial phrase or shameless self-promotion are just two of the clearest violations of the contract, but each special group has their own, more refined agreements which become obvious when you observe the group for a bit and see what actions on the part of its members generate praise or criticism, or even worse, no reaction at all. If you’ve ever “unfriended” someone because their actions bothered you, you’ve seen the social contract in action.

Social objects are things that people have in common – the shared experiences or passions that help us identify with individuals  or a group. Something that we have experienced in common, a high school or college we attended, a love of food or wine, a shared interest in a sport or a sorts team – the list goes on and on. Social objects are the glue that holds together a group of strangers on Google+ or Facebook, where our shared experience and shared emotions bring us together. Social objects are the things we search for when we first meet people to find common ground, and even in the online world they are the first way we connect.

Social capital is the collective value of all of your actions online.  Generous actions build social capital and self-interested actions deplete it. It is the core of the statement “doing well by doing good” in its application to the online experience. Your build social capital by being supportive or the actions of others, celebrating the success f others, and contributing to the welfare of your online community among other things.  But the crucial part is that all of this positive interaction is genuine and sincere, and is, unlike the cheerleader, a portion of who you are rather than the sum of who you are.

Being thoughtful about your engagement will make you a valued and trusted member of the online community – and that, in turn, will allow you to realize all of the benefits, personal and professional , that people seek from social media.  In the words of author Ruth Reichl  “Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.”

 

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3 Ways to Reach Inbox Zero

email globeI envy people that talk about “Inbox Zero“. The event that happens when you have read or disposed of all of your email. My problem is trying to keep my email manageable enough to reach “Inbox 250″.

Reading, writing and disposing of email takes up about 28% of the average office worker’s day. For people in service industries and sales, the number is probably much higher, and the need to handle email efficiently and in a manner that allows us to find and review important correspondence is crucial. All of us seem to have signed up for email lists that send us things we just don’t need to clutter our days with, so we need to find some way to organize our inbox in a rational and efficient manner. Thankfully with the deluge of email comes an avalanche of apps to help you handle the email more efficiently (ok, so maybe its not enough to be called an avalanche, but it sounded better in my head :)

None of us read terms when we install new platforms or sign up for information we want online and we end up with an awful lot of email subscriptions that we didn’t know we were participants in. Here are some great tools to handle your subscription woes and organize your inbox;

Unroll.me - End Email OverloadUnroll.me provides a simple platform to allow you to unsubscribe from lists you are no longer interested in, and then sends the remaining subscriptions to you in one simple “rollup” . An email digest that allows you to pick and choose what you want to read and ignore. The platform supports Gmail and Yahoo mail. You can review and redirect emails that you want directed to your inbox, and simply review and delete those you don’t. In addition you can organize your rollup by category to see specific items of interest.

TheSwizzle.com - Clean up your inbox!theswizzle.com is a similar site, but it supports not only GMail and Yahoo, but Gmail, Google Apps, Mac.com , and – Me.com This site is a lot more graphic than unroll.me. The process is the same, and the difference for users will be in their email provider or their preference for the user interface of each site.  As you sign up for theswizzle, you have the option of unsubscribing from the service, or unsubscribing and deleting the emails (an option I preferred). Swizzle also allows you to subscribe to brands through their interface so you can add brands to your digest, giving you the option to browse coupons and offers to your heart’s content while keeping your email load down.

 

 

Mailstrom- The smarter, faster way to clean out your inbox.Mailstrom.com, a site that is still in Beta, may just be a case of saving the best for last.

If you’re like me, you keep emails because you a) want to deal with them later, b) because you want to keep the email for some business purpose or c) because you read it and neither archived nor deleted it. After a while, you have lots of emails cluttering up your inbox when they should be stored in some organized manner. Having multiple email addresses just complicates the issues. Mailstrom  helps organize the thousands of old emails you have in a number of different accounts by creating archives using a number of categories. You can sort and review emails by sender, subject, date, time, lists you appear on,  and even the emails you receive from social networks. In just a short time you can archive and organize thousands of emails , keeping everything in easy to find folders.

You may not get to Inbox Zero today, but with these tools, you’ll get a lot closer! Have tips of your own? Please leave them in the comment section so others can benefit from your advice.

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The Best Ways to Get Unfriended and Unfollowed on Facebook,Twitter and LinkedIn

join my network by Tom Fishburne

Join My Network Courtesy of Tom Fishburne

I guess it had to happen.

People heard that there were a lot of consumers using social media, and perceived that those consumers had gotten together for the sole purpose of moving forward the business agendas of anyone with a computer or smartphone. Sadly for those of us who were exploring this new frontier, a whole new raft of socially unacceptable behavior was about to be born.

Using social media for business purposes is a balancing act, trying to increase your acceptance and build trust with an online community while advancing your legitimate business purpose. Like anything worth doing, its worth doing well, but if it isn’t done well, it can boomerang and actually decrease your standing with your community or their desire to listen to any of your communications. Here are a couple of things that tend ot drive people crazy online

  1. Automated responses - When people tweet or connect with others online  they aren’t looking to connect with an automation – they are looking for a real personal connection. A response that is obviously an auto-responder causes an almost immediate disconnect – leading may people to block, unfollow or unfriend the person who thought they were acknowledging the new connection. When people take the 2nd day of the e-Pro course, at one point the tweet out to the e-Pro team. We will respond personally, because that’s what there effort was a personal effort. Its no a lot of effort for the positive responses it brings us.
  2. Thoughtless Broadcasting- I get a lot of unsolicited requests on LinkedIn, a network that I keep the closest watch on and am most protective of. For example, I rencently got a request from someone in my marketplace that said  ”Find out why I use LinkedIn. Stay in touch and build your professional network.  - (Name Redacted) .”  Seriously? I don’t even know you. Why would I care what motivates you? Even in this smaller social space, we constantly get messages from people promising us things we don’t want or need, indicating they have no idea who we are or what we are interested in. These folks don’t take the time to cull their list and be sure that the message they were sending is at least potentially appropriate for the recipient. Direct mail marketers are more considerate than that – but then again they have to pay for stamps.
  3. Careless Commenting - I’ve always felt that we have two reasons and one mouth for a reason – listening is at least twice as important as speaking, and thoughtful speaking is far more important than speaking at all. People often feel the need to speak first and think later – but when they do that online, they create a permanent record of their thoughtlessness. Just as people need to wait before they send an emotion filled email, they should wait before posting an emotion filled response on Facebook or on a blog post. And if you are the target of such a response, remember that there are those online who live for the controversy. They make themselves appear larger by being the center of controversy because they have little or nothing of value to add to the conversation.

Interested in building a network online? Its very simple and can be explained in just a few words. Be Transparent, Be Genuine, Be Consistent. When people know who you are, know what you care about, and know that they can rely on you, they want  you as part of their network. Upon reflection, it seems so simple, and yet, for many its so hard. I hope that it isn’t hard for you.

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Hucksters, Hype and Honesty

“The Large Print Giveth” by Tom Fishburne

Everyone wants (or needs) to be a marketer in today’s world and they all seek different roads to success. Not all of those roads are effective, and many of them can be downright counter-productive. Being a member of a social network, or using the term social media doesn’t mean you’re using social media effectively,and you can as easily be a social media abuser as you can be a social media user.

Hucksters are, by definition abusers of the social space.  They are all over you waving their products and disrupting the online conversations of every community they participate in. Whether they didn’t read Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing , or they didn’t get the memo that marketing is conversation from the Clue Train Manifesto, these broadcasters are the online equivalent of the loud speaking movie goer or the person who spends the entire evening at a party talking to you about why you need to buy their product.  This annoying tribe is huge, comprised of people who see social spaces as a blank billboard for there personal use, and not a place where communities grow and prosper. The real estate agent who pimps their listings or open houses, the tech company that promotes their product or sales pitches thinly disguised as webinars , are seem by the overall communities online as old fashioned pitchmen or snake-oil peddlers, and have to interrupt huge segments of online communities in order to get a small number of people to respond.  Its been 119 years since  E. St. Elmo Lewis defined this process by his AIDA model, and yet for some people, this is how marketing works.

Hype is almost as annoying – people that make amazing claims and proclaim everything with excessive excitement based on nothing but their desire to be the center of online attention. Its not an uncommon type of promotion, and in fact Gartner even developed a graphic showing how it impacts the introduction of new tech products with their famous Hype Cycle that showed products moving from a “peak of inflated expectations” to a “trough of disillusionment” before reaching enlightenment and then productivity.  I’m a fan of genuine excitement, but you just can’t be excited about everything. Its the social media equivalent of typing with the Caps Lock on. when you spend all of your time SHOUTING, and everything you shout about is AMAZING, you lose the ability to emphasize anything. And after a while people just stop listening or paying attention to you. Add to that the disillusionment and disappointment that follows most hype, and it becomes an even worse choice for your online marketing.

The sweet place in social media – the place you want and need to be is where you earn the right to speak to people about your business because you have earned the ability to do so through an open honest dialogue that has created a relationship with them. To quote a line from Godin’s blog  ”Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.” People want to like you. They want to be connected with you – not your product, not your service, not even your company, but because they like you. The social objects that connect you to others are the places where you can build connections in a community online that wants to hear what you want to share, and in that place, you become the advocate for your service or product that the hypsters and huckster think they are. You become the real deal, not just the appearance of the real deal. It takes a little longer, but the positive impact lasts as long as you maintain your open dialogue.

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