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5 Ways Social Media Has Changed American Culture

america and social mediaI have to admit, this is the longest I’ve gone without blogging. For that I am sorry. But, I have made a commitment to blog more often, call it my early New Year’s resolution. Hold me to it!

For awhile now I have promised 5 Ways Social Media Has Changed American Culture. So with that, here we go:

1.       Cheap Birthdays

I would love to see how much money Hallmark has lost to the Facebook Birthday wishes, that are universally accepted as adequate. In all  honesty, every morning I look at the “Home” section of Facebook to wish people a Happy Birthday and accompany it with a ridiculous youtube video. The best part, people like it and accept it as a reasonable substitute to sending a card and taking the time to pick one out. In fact, I get more well wishes on facebook for my BDay then I ever did cards in the mail. I am not sure if that says anything about how much people really like me, but it sure made me feel good to be on the receiving end of all those kind words. No $2 to $5 dollar cards needed. I would call that a good ROI for social media. Money saved is money earned.

2.       Stalking Is Ok

Since when is it ok to “stalk people”? Apparently in modern American society nobody bats an eye when they come right out and say “I have been stalking you on Facebook!”  Really?! Ten years ago people would be uncomfortable and wondering how to go about getting a restraining order. Just the other day, I was in Starbucks and a guy got chatting in the female attendant behind the counter. They had a quick conversation about Kings Of Leon, who was being sold at the cashier counter in Starbucks. The conversation ended with the guy saying, and I quote; “hey what is your last name, I would love to stalk you on Facebook and Twitter!” Without batting an eye the girl gave out her name and seemed excited to be “stalked” by this stranger! This girl apparently did not see Silence Of The Lambs?

3.       Lousy Tableside Manners

Rebecca and I went out to dinner last night. While I was waiting for her to arrive, I looked around the resto and saw people texting, no doubt checking into Foursquare and taking pictures of their food. Am I guilty of all of these things? You bet! Think about our Grandparents generation! I remember how many times my Grandmother would yell at me for bring toys to the table. Dinner was sacred time. Today, it is about giving tips while you eat your 3 courses at a restaurant you really may or may not care about.

4.       Minimal effort to be a friend, ex-colleague, sibling, son or daughter

I spoke with my friend Rob yesterday. It had been months since either of us made any effort with each other That is ok, I was completely up to date with what he was doing and how is his birthday was. Likewise for him! See bullets 1 & 2 above.

5.       News Is Political & Politics Is Religious

Remember when you tuned into Dan Rather or Tom Brokaw (can someone find a better picture of Tom for his Wikipedia page? He looks more like a serial killer than a trusted news source) for your unbiased news? I call it vanilla news. News for what it was, nothing more! Simple!  Today everyone is part of the news, and because of that there are many times news items are delivered with a political or religious spin. The end result is a melted separation of church and state. In my opinion that is not a good thing. But with that said, the reality is American culture has a far more religious political landscape then it ever has in its history, and it started with Social Media making each and everyone one of us a news source.

The undertone of this post is a bit negative. But I wasn’t intending it to be. I in fact like being cheap, I don’t care if I am stalked and my table manners have always been suspect. Not to mention, Facebook makes keeping in touch just so darn easy. Lastly, I am personally not very religious, nor political. I don’t trust any politicians, there is always a gain for them. “Public service” is a silly term to use, there is always an underlying reason for everything they do. So I don’t have a strong opinion about bullet 5.

You could say that Social Media has made American culture a bit more lazy and maybe less moral? But think about this, Social Media has raised the value of a birthday card. Heightened the value of someone who respects a person’s privacy  online. Makes you more desirable when you are on a date if you leave your phone in your pocket. Take the time to call and visit those who are important to you. And finally, maybe worth more votes to the politician that is transparent about their reason for running public office, while leaving their religious views at the door. Is this a negative post, or a positive one? Do you agree or disagree? You decide, that is the beauty of Social Media. Like it or not, it is here to stay and is changing our lives and American culture.

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2 Examples Of Legal Marketing Utilizing Social Media Effectively

My last post filled my in-box! I was shocked at how many folks pinged me to see more about what Sokolove law is doing to educate and engage people prior to them taking legal action. Today the NECN Personal Injury Sokolove page went live, so it only made sense to share it out as an example of what we are doing from a Social perspective:

Click image to visit the site

personal injury, mesothelioma, asbestos, yaz The YazTalk site is also is taking an “educate before you take legal action” approach to legal marketing.  I cannot share any data points legally,  but I can say Social Media has been effective at extending the Sokolove brand.

Click image to visit the site

yaz, yaz lawsuit, yaz lawsuits

I am happy to speak further about these sites offline.

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7 Social Media Mentors & A Suggestion On Listening

Over recent months it has become apparent that there is a lack of mentorship in the world- especially in the Social Media space. Because Social technologies allow any yoyo who understands technology to decree they are an “expert” in the space, the market has been flooded with people who claim to be experts, or my least favorite term- “guru’s”. When in reality all they really have is partial knowledge of the value proposition of Facebook and Twitter and think that is all it takes!

With this knowledge in mind and Valentine’s Day having just passed, I would like to acknowledge the people who have been instrumental in my development, are true mentors, peers and friends and most importantly- really are experts and guru’s. Folks who think about SM with hardened business objectives in mind. We have grown together in a fledgling space and I feel fortunate to have worked with these people and continue to share, rap, learn and grow professionally with them today.

My “Social” Mentors, Peers & Friends

1)      Mark Wallace: Mark has been instrumental in my growth as a professional. He taught me a great deal about sales, business, being crisp and thinking about every action from a dollars and sense point of view. I worked with him at DCI-Shared Insights-Mzinga from 1999 on. Today, his Commonground Community won the Forrester Groundswell Award in 2009.

2)      Jim Storer: Jim was talking “community” back in 2001. His vision then was to create a stable of IT professionals to go direct to market too with new events. DCI was a IT conference event company. Frankly- his vision for the future of the business was dead on back then. Jim and Mark both asked me to leave the sales world, and do what I was doing in my personal life (running an online community for the music industry) for Shared Insights. This move was instrumental in a career shift that has served me well to date. He is one of the founders of the highly successful Community Roundtable where Social Practitioners meet and continue to grow and learn together in an ever evolving space.

3)      Aaron Strout and Heather Strout: This brother/sister combo are not only SXSW veterans, they are very social savvy. Aaron is a go getter that has travelled far in the space by being tireless in speaking engagements to drive both the Mzinga brand and the Powered brand today. Heather was my peer at Mzinga when we were both “Consultants”. Heather to this day is a voice of reason for me and is always there to bounce ideas off from. I have learned that perspective comes in the number of questions you ask- Heather is never short on answers!

4)      Pauline Brannigan: Pauline is one of the few sales professionals that understand how to map the use of Social to the hardened business objectives that result in real ROI. She too has challenged me on many occasions to think about strategies from a different angle. Today she works for a fantastic enterprise social computing solution called INgage. Check em out and hit her up on Twitter to learn more!

5)      Barry Libert: In 2004 Barry Libert said in a meeting “when you give your customers what they want, when they want it, and how they want it- you will win their business over and over again.” He went on to say that technologies in the not too distant future will enable the business to engage the consumer real time and for much longer life cycles. That conversation changed my professional life and made me realize that the future of business was shifting and the consumer would be empowered like never before.

6)      Tom Humbarger: Tom is what I would call a “knowledge sponge”. He soaks up everything applies it to his consulting business- smart! That way of “sucking and applying” has served me well and to this day,  I don’t let a day pass where my Netvibes page doesn’t educate me or open my eyes to new strategies and new ideas. Thank s Tom!

7)      I would also be remiss if I did not mention Chris Brogan and Jeremiah Owyang.  Although they are not my friends, I mention them because no matter how large their brand expands, they still respond to personal requests and DM’s as if they are your neighbor up the street. Exactly the point of Social! Even the smallest voice is heard with the “big guys”. They are practicing exactly what they preach to large organizations far and wide. Listen and react to everyone!

Social Media Suggestion:

Just because you buzz, doesn’t mean you are an expert! Listening is the key to knowing! Many people feel as though the more they talk, the more they are heard, the more of a “guru” they are. When in reality the more you listen, the more you are open to opinion, the more you react based on the feedback of the “we”- the more of a Social Media adopter you are. Brands and experts need to stop putting out fluff to flood the marketplace purely for exposure. Instead they need to write something of value that will penetrate a niche marketplace and help educate. If it is not of value, then don’t bother because you are hurting your brand creating content  solely to be heard.  Stop Tweeting just because a certain #hashtag is trending. If you don’t know about the subject, eat some pie- listen and learn. The people I mentioned above listen and learn as much as they teach- which is why they are successful. Just a suggestion based on their actions. 🙂

Listen, strategize, apply, create and don’t be afraid to be  a mentor is the message of this post!  Thank you to the folks mentioned on this list for being who you are and for what you are doing in business today!

social media mentors, listening, engaging
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3 Best Practices On How Your Brand Can NOT Be Intrusive

On Friday I was playing around with Thread. To put it bluntly- it is intrusive and not an application that I would suggest for clients to utilize. It is meant to be an application where you can meet friends of friends. I think I would find it to be rather annoying to have a friend of a friend hitting me up for a date or trying to contact me for a business opportunity. It just seems to cross that line in the sand…moving from being a helpful tool to a tool that is overbearing.

The last month I have been inundated with Twitter followers who include me in business offers in public Tweets. Instead of inspiring me to click on the link, it instead prompts me to go on a rampage of “offing  them!”  No, not putting on my Tony Soprano leather jacket- just unfollowing and blocking them!

So these two observations got me thinking about the importance of brands to be engaging but not intrusive! Three suggestions:

  1. Don’t use technologies like Thread that impose your will on people. It will do you no good- trust me! Make sure that you have unique nuggets of value within each channel. What does that mean? Read point 2.
  2. Don’t create a Facebook fanpage and just replicate blog and webinars from another location. Create unique content for that presence- otherwise you are simply creating another push channel. Give it value for your target audience!
  3. Ask questions of others & join the conversations important to your brand! This is for those organizations on Twitter that are well….completely obtrusive and turn my into digital Tony Soprano!

Lastly, be wary of new technologies moving forward. Be morally aware of how obtrusive or obnoxious they are before using them. It is ok to share value, but pushing your sales message is a no no! Some of new technologies make it easy to spam – you don’t want to be known for that! Err on the side of caution- if you feel like you are being intrusive and spammy- then you probably are. Have a gander at this…

cvm-social-media-resized-600


Chris Brogan & Success-Benchmarks, Business Objectives & Balance!

I woke up this morning to this post from Chris Brogan and the accompanied video:


I found myself responding to Chris with “Chris, I think success is finding balance in life between professional success and family time. Just saying…” Success to me is finding balance between professional success and being a good son, significant other, friend, sibling and when I get married- a great husband and father. From there I looked at some official Chris Brogan stats:

  1. Blog Ranked 11,725 in the world of Alexa.com
  2. 4,865 friends on Facebook
  3. 103,325 followers on Twitter

When I look at those numbers I think “critical mass”. Chris has in fact reached critical mass! Any brand that builds and maintains a following such as above is sure to have success. Yes, getting up at 5AM is necessary, but at what cost? Your family, your passions, your time on this earth? It is one thing to work hard (I work many 12 hour days), but I also feel like I do well by the people I care most about- including myself. Which leads me to why I wrote what I wrote to Chris. Success is balance. Not only in life, but also your profession. We live in a complex world where technology is invading our humanity if we let it. It is up to us to focus on the bottom line which is making a living with Social Media being the enabler.

These observations got me thinking about the obvious need to having a brand strategy. Burnout can happen if you don’t set:

  1. Project  benchmarks (what do when you have critical mass)
  2. Map every action to qualified business objectives
  3. And once you have critical mass- focus only on your bottom line which is new recognized revenue and reaching attainable business goals

From where I sit, Chris has reached critical mass and should only be spending time where his valuable time is paid for. And maybe that is the case, maybe he is getting up after 3 hours of sleep and the next 18 hours he is getting paid for. Who knows, but the valuable lesson is Social Media takes time, commitment, resources, unique content, a plan (realistic benchmarks and business objectives), execution and inevitably the need to find qualitative business value – or recognized revenue or business opportunities. If you and your organization execute on all of those items, I suspect you will be able to find the balance I alluded to already. If you don’t, your life can be lost upon you and you spend much too much time working when you should be enjoying being young and capable. Trust me, I have worked late and on weekends, more then I would like to admit. I have yet to find the balance either, but I at least can recognize that my success benchmark is balance. A novel goal for any business or professional working with the social business realm!

Do yourself the favor and spend some time with the people closest to you today. As for Chris, best wishes buddy- hopefully we can plan out that Trust Agents book signing at the Andover Bookstore. I know how you love your indie bookstores! Be well and safe travels.

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A Nine Inch Nails Social Media Strategy Plan- Don’t Give Up Yet Trent!

nin_with_teethTrent Reznor’s (from Nine Inch Nails) recent announcement that he is leaving Social Media because of trolls sums up the need for all business to- “have a plan”. Whether you are a musician or a corporate giant – a Social Media marketing strategy with a clear map to real business objective is necessary.

Reznor (@trent_reznor )says:  “The reason no record label knows how to market anything to new media is they don’t live there. They don’t get it because they don’t use it. What up-2ninyou’ve seen happen with the marketing and presentation of NIN over the last years is a direct result of living next to you, listening to you, consuming with you and interacting with you. Directly. There’s no handlers or PR people here, it’s me and my guys – that’s it. There’s no real plan, even – it’s just trying to do the right thing that respects you the fan, the music, and me the artist. That’s the goal – a mutual and shared respect.”

He is right! In a perfect world he could engage his fans transparently and be free and clear of negative sentiment. But the fact remains- transparency will lead to as much negative as positive. But to combat it, businesses need the resources to answer to both the negative and the positive. Reznor’s comments are nothing more than a call for help- not a white flag!

Here are 5 action items that Trent can do to remedy his troll problem and create a solid foundation fora  true Social Media Strategy Plan:

  1. Hire a Social Media Director – I am sure there are a great deal of recent college grads that would kill to put Nine Inch Nails Social Media Director on their resume. I am also sure this person would work on the cheap! They would be in charge of monitoring, responding, engaging, and consistently push/pulling relevant content to Nine Inch Nails. Essentially being the overseer of the NIN brand in Social Media channels. Instead of Trent doing it, this person will carry out  tedious tasks and put the most important content in front of Trent daily to respond to. Everything between the good ideas to negative sentiment!  This essentially removes the trolls and lets Trent focus on making great music. Lastly, this person will work under NIN’s PR folks.
  2. Purchase a Social Analytics tool– these tools help track, reply, document and recognize real ROI. For $500-$750 per month a business can have a birds-eye view of their social media presence. I recommend Techrigy – although the marketplace is becoming flush solutions. I would suggest demoing several and deciding what would work best for a music artist.
  3. Migrate to Modlife: Because Modlife is fee service for fans to join, it eliminates trolls and allows musicians to create almost their own safe market research community. They can share, test, and interact with passionate fans. My suggestion is to utilize Modlife as a musicians center location, and use Myspace, Twitter, Facebook and Social Bookmarking sites to push information, take information- but most importantly to draw in the “real fans”. The innovators if you will- NIN’s very own market research community. Look no further then what Angels & Airwaves have done here: http://modlife.com/angelsandairwaves Perfect for NIN!
  4. Create a Recognition Rewards Program– Use meet and greets as a way to build a group of online body guards. Dangling a “meet Trent Reznor opportunity” is a stellar reward for being a pro-NIN presence that pushes the band in the social channels. This is enabling and empowering and can be done with nothing more than a bit of organizing and a brief shining of the spotlight on these do-gooders electronically. It is amazing what a simple tweet from rock star can do from an ego perspective.
  5. Build a Content Schedule & Engage– Start doing chats on TinyChat. Conduct monthly webinars and podcasts where fans get to hear new material or offer feedback on what artists NIN should tour with. The content schedule should be focused on the business goals of  fan feedback and innovation to their voice. When you give your customers what they want, you will win their business repeatedly. Once again, the content schedule is geared towards enabling, empowering and organizing NIN’s own market research community. It is no different then what Barack Obama did to get elected.

My life as a social media consultant consists of creating plans such as these-although much more in-depth than this blog. But every business is different in their needs, desires, and objectives. In fact, how each business measures ROI is vastly different.  In Trent Reznor’s case, his ROI is to be able to engage Social Media effectively so he can listen to his customers (the fans) and innovate his music based on their feedback. His desire is no different than a billion dollar corporate empire- to be able to go direct to consumer with new products-thus lowering marketing churn, while having a product that is created based on the voice of the customer. Trent just needed a strategy plan….

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MyFoxBoston Tweets In Real Time With Sparky!

As you read this there is  a news and print executive somewhere trying to figure out this new-fangled Twitter thing! How can we use it to survive in a changing marketplace that executive will ponder? It is a question that both the news and print industry must figure out now-or there may not be a tomorrow for many.

sparkyMyFoxBoston has been diligent about Twittering and using Facebook to this point. But what I found really exciting is how my friend Mark Parkinson (@sparkythepit) has been effectively using Social Media to driving brand awareness and brand affinity on Facebook and now Twitter. Sparky (known to many as Mark Parkinson) is the overnight cameraman for WFXT-FOX25 News here in Boston. He began posting updates to his Facebook wall for his wife and friends to follow what he was up to over night. He follows exciting stuff like rolled cars, fires, and even some of the more dramatic items  like shootings and drug busts. What happened was he started posting (in real time) what he was following and his friends and other friends started commenting on his live news updates. So it occurred to Sparky that it makes sense to Twitter those updates, connect his Twitter posts to his Facebook status and organically share the news – real time! No more having to wait till the morning show to know what is going on in the greater Boston metro.

For the news buffs it is a great way to “stay in the know”. Instead of listening to police and fire scanners you can follow your friendly neighborhood camera man for the latest news in real time. But what does it mean for the news industry? I think it is inevitable that that the future of news has already begun! Look no further than CNN’s iReport-news and opinion from the masses. As Mobile technology becomes more prevalent and easier to use, the ability to share happenings in real time will change the way news is delivered. What traditional news and print agencies need to do is find a way to mobilize a fleet of writers and iReporters to deliver the news and opinion to one online destination that updates news within seconds-instead of within hours. Move television and print advertising money to this new entity. Sadly the casualty of this new shift is the presence of reporters. The reporters will be the camera men & women, the writers, and you and I. That team coupled with the a second to none mobile upload and blog experience will transform both national and local news to a scalable and cost effecitve news organization for the next generation.

Sparky is simply doing what seemed natural to him. Telling the people that matter to him what he is up to. But what he didn’t realize is that he matters to many more people then he thought-the Social News world. I have no doubt that he will garner a huge following in the Boston area and be a trailblazer in the evolution of the delivery of news through Social Media. So the question now, who will be the first sponsor of his Twitter posts?


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