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Are You Addicted to Social Media?

With social media becoming mainstream, and people embracing every new network for personal or business reasons, there’s a lot of clutter in our lives. Facebook users check their status first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Email takes up 28% of the average office worker’s day, but social media use is become even more pervasive.  And it’s now being seen as a problem for many users.

At a conference I emceed recently, two of the major presentations revolved around  our need to be unplugged and the physical and emotional perils of social media addiction.

The first speaker spoke about unplugging from the social web, and when we are plugged in, to have a purpose. The second day keynote was a discussion of social media addiction, Korean Social Media Rehabs, and the possible damage that being over connected can have on our minds and our bodies.

This need to be thoughtful about how we spend our time is not new, its just something we need to remember. Ecclesiastes (repeated by the 60’s rock Group The Byrds and the 1984 movie “Footlose”) ) tells us, “to every thing there is a season”. Technology of any sort is the proof of that.  The seasons are obvious when we look. We investigate first. Then we adopt, at first timidly, then with gusto. And then we integrate our lives, until, in many cases, we become so engaged that we recognize that we may need to back off.

It happened with television, cell phones, computer games, and now, social engagement on the web. Each appeared as a novelty, had wide spread adoption, then became ubiquitous , then a matter of concern for users.  Like a child with a new favorite game, we play it again and again until we tire of it, and then, if it is truly something that we enjoy, we learn to use it in moderation.

Obviously being thoughtful about social media is the key to any level of engagement. The web is immense and we desire to fill it with our contributions to the ongoing conversation. So let’s look at what we can do to make the time we spend enjoyable and productive.

  • Start With a Purpose – If your online engagement has a business purpose, first determine what it is, and which channels are most effective for achieving your goals. If you are only online for social purposes, figure out what makes you happy and determine how much of your leisure you want to spend doing that. Like any other social activity, you need to allocate the time you can spend, considering the needs fo your business and family- what’s left is yours.
  • Prioritize your online time . E-mail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and all of our other online engagements have different purposes – now that you have determine what you want to accomplish, it becomes easier to choose your battles. You don’t have to be everywhere because your customers or clients aren’t .
  • Set aside time for offline engagement. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but someone needs to tell you that most texts or phone calls can wait until after you son’s game, your date night, or the movie. You have voice mail for a reason, and you need to remember that in most cases, the people you are with are more important than that message from a distance. Whatever is going on at Facebook will still be there when you arrive its the internet people, you aren’t going to miss anything you can’t read about later.
  • Be Here Now. This simple statement was the  title of a 1971 book written by Baba Ram Dass and contains a message of importance that transcends the decades since its publication.The really significant moments of our lives happen off-line. It would be tragic to miss them because you were hiding out on Facebook. Spend some time with your friends and family doing things in the physical world. You can let your online community know when you need to unplug. You’ll be better for it, and they will understand your absence and not confuse it with a complete withdrawal.

Addicted or not, these simple suggestions can help you organize your online presence effectively , and without detracting from the value of your online engagement. In fact, they might even help increase it. What do you think?


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Did You Miss the Social Media Gold Rush?

In the past 5 years, I have watched the discussion of social media go from “What is it?” to “Do I need it?” to “How do I do it?”.

Now people who came late to the dance wonder if its not too late to create an effective online presence. It seems that no matter what their business, it there has already been a huge rush to stake out what has been perceived as valuable online territory. The fear of being just another tree in a forest filled to the edges is not a fantasy. Luckily, that’s not how social marketing works. Social marketing has never been (and I’m not sure it ever will be) a function of the tools we use. If you’ve ever heard me talk, you know that I am fond of quoting my son Hal Lublin who said, “three years ago , social media was Friendster and MySpace, now its Twitter and Facebook, and we don’t know what it will be next. ” In fact, I would expand on that to say that no one know what it will be next. Maybe Google+ and its integration in the basic search, maybe YouTube (since every year seems to be the year of video) or maybe FourSquare or Gowalla(since every year is also the year of location based services) But no matter what the tool, the basics will remain the same.

  1. Identify your target or niche market. Through the glory of what we used to call the information superhighway, we are no longer tied to just geography, but are free to work  demographics to reach our intended community
  2. Be a Joiner – Its better to be part of your community’s existing world than it is to try to create your own world and seek their participation. Why worry about competing for their attention when you can put yourself firmly in the middle of the place they’re already focused on? Join the existing conversations. Add to the comments in their community, respond to their statements and questions as a peer, and your acceptance will be almost immediate. People are finding that they get more traction by participating in Facebook Groups than they do trying to get people to engage on theior Facebook pages.
  3. Get Through Giving  People become pre-disposed to like you when you contribute freely and without question.If you  contribute to the community on their terms, at their pace, through the channels they choose to populate, you become viewed in the most positive fashion, earning a position of trust that leads to referrals and direct business, when the members of the community have a need for your product or service – it is the very essence of inbound marketing.
  4. Be Genuine At some point you’re going to be dealing directly with your consumer, and your interaction will have set some expectations in their mind about who you are and what you stand for. If you are not the person they expected to meet, their experience, and your ability to maintain their trust is severely limited.  You need to send a consistent message  and you need to make sure that your message has the right context. Context in terms of the ongoing conversation and in terms of the platform you’re sharing on. In the world of FourSquare, Yelp and Foodspotting, sharing what you’re having for dinner is not only acceptable, its crucial to the community – on LinkedIn, not so much…
  5. Be Patient You need to understand that this takes some time and you need to have realistic expectations. Whatever your business goals, social media is a long term investment of time and resources. Your strategy needs to be considerate of that fact. Because of the nature of the relationship process, consistency and patience are key to success. If you blog once a week, at the end of the year, you have accumulated 52 posts that create a part of your permanent presence online. Each picture post, tweet and poke contributes to an overall structure that becomes your online persona – a place where people can see not only what you are discussing or sharing today, but what you have contributed to the community at large.

Bottom line, there is still outstanding opportunity for small businesses and professionals in the social media space. Used thoughtfully, properly, and with integrity, you can connect with a wonderful online community that will profit  your business and enhance your life.

New opportunities are being created everyday, Where will you stake your claim?

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Is Hyper-Local Dead?

I really don’t like the term “hyper-local”.

If a writer concentrates on a specific geography, that seems to me to be local – not hyper. But I’m a minority (well,  Teresa Boardman and I are a minority) , and hyper-local blogging has become very popular among small businesses and professionals that serve a specific geography.  A few years ago, Google and other search engines began adopting hyper-local search (again with the extra word!) which provies you with the closest geographic results of your search.

Now, an inevitable evolution has developed which provides us with a new buzzword SoLoMo – the convergence of social search and local search (couponing like groupon or location based services like Yelp or FourSquare) using mobile applications. This combination of technologies and business strategies may be the next best disruptive  event in your business. The problem however, as always, is not in the idea, but in the execution.

On FourSquare, everyone from large brands to  individuals can create lists of locations and tips to share with others. At this writing there are 504 pages of lists available for FourSquare users, enabling thousands on individuals and brands to be noticed by local users. Each individual tip or notice is insignificant, but the impact of seeing the same logo or name again and again is huge.  Yelp also allows the creation of lists, and the same benefits obviously accrue.

Just as real estate professionals adopted Hyper-Local blogging  early, developing blogs for small communities and neighborhoods all around the country, some forward thinking companies and individuals are using this convergence to identify themselves with their geography in the most interesting methods.

Dreamtown Realty in Chicago took the simplest strategy- the made a Gruopon offer which allowed sellers to buy a coupon that they could redeem if they sold. Corcoran Real Estate in Manhattan has been using Foursquare tips and participation in Foodspotiing to establish an identification with local eateries and points of interest. If you get check in at Miami International, you will be greeted by a tip from Ines Hedegus-Garcia , offering to help you with your real estate needs in Miami.

Other local businesses can benefit from the same types of branding. A local independent bookstore might benefit from providing lists of places of literary significance, places where authors lived or worked, or locations used in books or movies. Local businesses could help locate emergency resources, community buildings, or recreational facilities. Art Galleries could pinpoint museums, monuments and statues.  The possibilities and potential are endless.

The challenge is to remember the social aspect of this new convergence is the most critical. A simple online coupon is a straight commercial engagement, and well written reviews on sites like Yelp or Foodspotting are appreciated by everyone, but the foursquare tips are another matter. If people find the tips to be more promotional than useful, they will be less well inclined to do business with you.

How could your business use SoLoMo?

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Who’s Using Mobile & Location Based Services ?

Mobile isn’t the future, its the present. Location based Services? They are becoming more and more a part of the social fabric as different services share location information as a function of the service’s use. FourSquare, YELP, FoodSpotting, Pegshot , Gowalla, Google+, and even Facebook all share location as part of their basic functionality.

For businesses and professionals, each piece of technology seems to hold new promise, but the first thought before executing any piece of technology should be “Is my community engaging here?” Thanks to our friends at ColumnFive and Flowtown, we have some answers to who is engaging where –

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The Next New Thing

As Social Media channels grow and develop, it seems that every day brings with it another new social network, location based system, or social game. Each one is a shiny object full of light and promise. For new users and the experienced users alike there is a natural tendency to want to be in on that latest new adventure . But that may cause us to overlook other “new adventures” that have been available to us for a while – platforms and channels which have been established for a period of time but haven’t yet been fully explored by us. Like an older car that we buy , which is “new to us”, these platforms offer many ways for us to increase our involvement with our online communities.

When you think about it, any platform you haven’t fully participated in is for you, the next new thing. It might be participating in a new manner in an existing venue. Started off by establishing a Facebook presence?  Do you feel like you’ve fully explored the potential of your personal profile? Then have you created a business page, started a special interest group? Are you using  questions to fully interact with your chosen online community? Are you utilizing Facebook Places in your strategy? If you have created a strong presence on Facebook  utilizing all of their internal channels and are looking for your next new thing perhaps you should be trying LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, or Foursquare?  Have you investigated them beyond a basic profile? Because if you have not explored the potential of those platforms, they are still new to you and are deserving of your attention.  Like the second owner of a house or a car, the network doesn’t need to be just built to be totally new to you.

There are a number of benefits to exploring existing communities thoroughly.

  • You can easily build your community in each new network by connecting with friends from your earlier communities.
  • You get to be more discrete about building and shaping each network because you recognize from their earlier actions who in your earlier community might be a less desirable connection because they spend most of their time “putting lipstick on a pig”.
  • There are larger numbers of members on these established platforms, many of whom may not be on other networks (because they haven’t been following our advice about cross channel participation)
  • Your relationships can become richer and deeper because you are interacting with people in more than one place and in more than one manner.
  • You can build a more significant online reputation because you will showcase different parts of your personality in different venues.
  • Anything you haven’t done or experienced fully is a new adventure and deserving of your attention.
  • Your path to community building and interaction may be simplified and accelerated because others have been there before you and shared their experiences, both successful and unsuccessful – still allowing you to add your own personal twist to your interaction
  • By exploring these more established channels, you avoid spending time creating interaction in a platform that might end up in the “deadpool”

A sense of adventure, willingness to explore new things, and the desire to grow and learn are all assets in the constantly changing world of  peer to peer communication and engagement. And I’m as big a fan of shiny objects as anyone on the planet, but that shouldn’t cause you to overlook the new adventures, and the potential relationships that can be created and deepened through these established channels.

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