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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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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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Generating Unbreakable Passwords

People are lazy. People don’t think that bad things are going to happen to them. People feel safe online. People have a hard time creating memorable passwords, and often create passwords that they cannot remember. These are the conclusions I have come to after thinking about how people handle their online security.

Millions of hacked passwords were analyzed in 2010 to determine that the most common password of those hacked was, …wait for it…Password.  In the recent hack of LinkedIn, the number one password hacked was “Link”, just edging out 1234 (there’s a winner!), and the variants 12345, 123456, 1234567, and 654321 all in the top 30.Obviously creating a good password can be a challenge.

So here’s a way to create a password that is really difficult to crack, yet really easy to remember.

  1. Think of something in your life.
  2. Create a sentence about it, preferably one that uses a number.
  3. Use the first letter of each word, and the numeric value of the number to create a password.

For example “When I was 10 I had a red bike” would be Wiw10iharb, a pretty difficult password to guess, unless the person knew you when you were 10, remembered the color of your bike, and knew that you had chosen that phrase to generate your password. Or “I graduated Penn State University in 4 years” generating Igpsui4y as your password.

Both passwords would be considered pretty strong, They are 10 and 8 characters long respectively. They have a mixture of letters and numbers, and the placement of those letters and numbers are not sequential. And we could make them even better by adding a character for example “I hated the Boston Celtics since I was 12” (IhtBCsiw12) would be made even stronger by saying “I hated the Boston Celtics & the LA Lakers since I was 12” (IhtBC&tLALsiw12) And either password would make me a 76ers fan, very happy 🙂

The possibilities are endless, and that is the strength of the password generator. Of course no password is truly impossible to crack, and the theft of passwords from LinkedIn and Sony, and numerous other sites is a strong recommendation for having several passwords rather than (as many people do) having one password you use all the time. But using this simple password generating trick will go a long way to making your online interaction safer.

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Are You A Networkist?

Map of Online Communities 2  by xkcd

Map of Online Communities 2 by xkcd

At a recent meeting of some social media masterminds, the conversation got around to a new network being designed by one of the members, and how it interfaced with other social networks. The speaker mentioned that they were interfacing with MySpace and that led to a series of jokes about guitar strumming and “is that still around” . The thought sprang into my mind ” Is that a networkist remark?”

That led me to wonder about network snobbery. Is our involvement in online communities creating new “class distinctions”? Are our reactions to others being formed by their participation in or lack of participation in social networking?

With 900 million members, it sometimes seems that everyone we meet is on Facebook, but do you react with some surprise or condescension when you meet someone who prefers not to be part of Facebook nation? Do people that concentrate their social engagement on LinkedIn feel superior because they are productivity related? Do we see Twitter users as flighty or find them too crass and commercial because they are constantly pimping links to their content or product? Google+ users see themselves as more cutting edge than there brethren on Facebook, but do Facebook users see them as disconnected Uber-Geeks?

Will all of this lead to network wars? Armies invading virtual space and spreading their social propaganda and vision of the future? Or on a more serious note, has social media become so integral to our society that we have started to measure others by the networks they join?

It may seem silly, or a flight of fancy, but as our online involvement leads us from network to network, and from community to community, its hard not to generate preconceptions of the people in these communities. Its merely an extension of the thinking that led to the creation of sites like Klout and Kred, where algorithms are purported to tells us who people are, what influence they wield, and who they influence. In other words, these sites look at the online activities of individuals, and from the where, and what or their participation, claim to have some insight into who they are, what they know, and who they influence.

On a personal level, we perform these mental gymnastics without the benefit of mathematics or hard data, to come to the pre-judgement we might unconsciously make when we see the results of a Google search, indicating where and how our subject interacts online. Little or no information online? No social network involvement? We judge the subject to be less relevant than they might be, or less important that they should be. Lots of friends and fans and followers? Tons of online interaction? Before we even investigate the specifics of their interaction, we begin to have form a “model of a modern major general” (If my Gilbert & Sullivan reference is too obscure for you , click here!)

But prejudgement, of almost any kind, is not good. It may lead us to over or under estimate the potential contribution an individual might make to our cause, be it business, personal or philanthropic. In variably pre-judgement leads to mis-jdgement, and we might find ourselves following the banner of an “evangelist” without portfolio, whose rhetoric outpaces their knowledge. Or fail to follow the next great idea, because it comes from a surprising source.

Mom always said “You will be judged by the company you keep” and Mom was always right wasn’t she?

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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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