Tag Archives: Online community

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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“Just Do It!” Just Isn’t Enough!

Emergency "Twitter was down so I wrote my...

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In 1988 Nike introduced an ad campaign centered around iconic athletes and the phrase “Just Do It!” , exhorting people to play and  exercise – and of course use Nike products. Business people have adopted that attitude towards social media. With the growth of social media and its mainstream adoption by small businesses and prfoessionals, peopel seem more focused on “doing it” than they are in “doing it well”. And the resulting efforts may be more damaging than helpful.

It used to be that the blog was the primary victim of “ready, fire,aim” social media strategies.  People would attend a seminar or read an article and determine that blogging was the best way to reach consumers, engage them, and convert them to screaming raving fans of their business. They would run to Blogger, or WordPress.com or wordpress.org, pick a spiffy name, an attractive theme, set up their new blog ,write their first post and wait for the world to beat a path to their business. And then, while the crickets wait quietly in the weeds, the lack of immediate gratification and the need to create new content regularly slowly suffocates the blog, which waits quietly in cyberspace, gathering cyber dust.

Facebook pages become the next newest flavor of the month. As some businesses, large and small were able to engage with their existing communities or create new communities by generating interesting spaces for conversation or dissemination of information valuable to the participants, there was a huge land rush to create facebook pages. No more complicated themes. No need for scholarly posts or clever insights wrapped with attendant graphics. Now all I need to do is post a line or two once in a while and you and your customers will enter a new phase of your relationship which will catapult your business to a new level – after all, they “like” you , they really, really, “like” you!  But with less than 5% of “fans” ever returning to a page once they like it, most of these businesses were once again disappointed.

Twitter accounts? Its tough to even get started there. I can’t count the number of people I have met as I travel, speak, and teach who tell me ” I have a twitter account, I just can’t remember what my name is there…” as if they had all rehearsed that sentence. Really? You have an account and can’t remember your name ? Guess you’re not tearing up the twitter stream in your community, huh?

Online success for small business people and professionals has, at its core, the need for engagement with your desired community. And if you’re unsure exactly what engagement means in your social strategy, let’s substitute the word conversation. Dialogues, not monologues.  No matter where you are, or what venue you choose, this is the key to creating relationships with consumers that make them predisposed to trust you and the products and services you offer.  And though we could spend quite a bit of time discussing the how and why of that, let’s talk about what the unintended effects  of this lack of engagement might be.

Along with the positive impact of good social engagement online, there is a negative effect when you start and stop in different venues. If your last blog post is three years old, and there is no interaction on your Facebook page, or you have a Twitter account with only three posts, these things are part of your “permanent record, and anyone looking for you may well trip over your abandoned outposts. If you have tried to position yourself as someone who is connected with an active community online, your credibility can be damaged.

So what’s the answer? Do you avoid new things? Ignore the herd instinct that leads you to follow the paths that others have blazed online?  I don’t think you need to. What you do need to do is to assure yourself that  your online strategy is sustainable. In other words that the commitment to creating or curating relevant content for your community is something that you are not only able to do, but are willing to do. None of the channels we use, are in and of themselves, a game changer for your business. What you do with those channels may very well be a game changer for your business. 

The great part about engaging online is that there are so ways to engage. It doesn’t matter if you like to write, sing, video or take pictures. If you don’t like to create content, there are lots of great ways to curate and share content, and still be a valued source of information for the members of your online community. It really all depends on who you are, what your skills and talents are, and how much time you can devote (on a regular basis) to your online campaign. Its not about where you do things that matters. Its about what you do that matters most. I’m not suggesting you get caught in “analysis paralysis” just that you give simple consideration to four points.

So before you choose a channel, be sure that:

  1. Your community is present and active in that channel
  2. That you are capable of adding to the existing conversation
  3. That you have a plan for enhancing the conversation
  4. That you can sustain your part of the conversation as long as the community is interested.

If you can just follow those four simple points, there won’t be tumbleweeds rolling down the streets of your virtual world – there will be the vital give and take of conversation, with you as a valued participant. Because you didn’t “Just do it” you went out and took the trouble to do it well.

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