Afraid of social media? Don’t be.

News, Social Networking

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I’ve been recently trying to encourage a client to incorporate social media channels into their advertising efforts. Their fears are the same I hear with all clients new to social media: they will lose brand control, there will be haters who post negative things, they don’t have the resources to do it, they need approval from someone else to do it, etc. But the real root of these fears is the fear of the unknown. They don’t understand the way this “New Web” works, and they’re afraid of it.

The way it was

The “Old Web” was a passive library of static information sitting on a URL waiting to be found and read.  To add content to the Web in the old days required knowledge of HTML. Your goal was to “get people to your website” and then make them stay as long as possible. There were a lot of expensive techniques we used to get people to find your website. Your website cost a lot of money, and you paid hundreds or thousands of dollars monthly to companies to do “search engine optimization” so that you could be found on the Web. Visitors had no way share what they read, unless it was by forwarding a link to someone in an email.

Good news. Those days are long gone and will never be back.

The way it is

The “New Web” is the web you see when you go online right now. It’s full of interactive blogs. it’s got Facebook, it’s got Twitter. It’s all googled immediately, thoroughly, and with pictures. Much of the content on today’s web is actually conversations between people. It grows and expands organically through connections.

Your website isn’t the only home for your brand anymore, whether you like it or not.

Your brand doesn’t live exclusively on your website anymore. It lives all over the Web, all over the world, wherever people are talking with each other. With the boom in blogging technology, social media tools, and smart phones, now people can say anything anywhere, about anything, without an iota of technical skill required. They can post on Facebook, on Twitter, on Yelp, on their own blogs, on the blogs of others, or in a million other places. But even though you can’t control what people say, you still have control over how you respond.

People are free to love you or hate you as they always did, but now they have the power to tell whole world about their experiences with you. What they say about your company is determined by how good your product is, and how good your service is. If you’ve got something fundamentally wrong with your company, they will tell you. If you listen and fix what’s wrong, you’ll win a loyal following and create a stronger brand.

It’s scary realizing you don’t have control of your brand. You can’t control the spread of information and the flow of conversation. So you really have only 2 choices left:

  1. Let it happen without you, or
  2. Make it happen with you. Join in the conversation. Create a Facebook page, get a Twitter account, brand it like your website so it all looks cohesive, and create a venue where you can connect to your customers directly.

Your website isn’t the only home for your content, either.

The information from your website doesn’t exist solely on your website anymore. Now, the same exact content can be viewed any number of places. With a WordPress-based website, you can simultaneously publish that content to your accounts on Twitter, Facebook, to your subscribers’ news readers or email boxes, with no additional work, technical skill, money, or effort. You can also add plugins to your website to facilitate visitors sharing your content with their own networks of contacts.

Free high-traffic advertising and web space for your very own content? People who like what you’ve said, and telling others about it? Pretty amazing! Remember how much we would’ve paid for that in the days of the Old Web?

I’ll leave you now with a couple of good articles I’ve run across lately in my quest to help clients get over their fears. They’re great reading, and I think will help the fearful to be a little less nervous about welcoming social media into their business strategy.

To quote one blogger, “The main thing I want you to take away from this article is that social media marketing is just a new twist on an old tactic. It’s not scary, and it’s not very different from many of the other forms of online marketing you’re probably already using.”

7 Common Misconceptions that Business Owners have about Social Media

Marketing, Mobile Computing, Social Networking

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It’s human nature to be skeptical of newfangled gadgets. Even for a technophile like me, I’ve been slow to adopt some things I can’t see a use for. I was cellphone-less until the late 90s, when my brother, frustrated he couldn’t reach me when I was out, finally bought me a Nokia 5110 for Christmas. I quickly came to rely on it, but kept that same old phone for 5 years because I didn’t see a need to upgrade. I used to actively resist the newfangled phones that had cameras built in. “All I need to do is sometimes make a phone call,” I used to say. (Now I have a Blackberry, and I can’t even understand the logic of anyone NOT using a smart phone.)

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My so-called parasocial life

Social Networking

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On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog. (New Yorker cartoon by Peter Steiner)Remember the 90s when the everyone worried about how truthful the Internet is? From lonely hearts on chat rooms posing as the hotties they wished the were, to one-person shops referring to themselves as “we” on their About Us page, people took advantage of the early Web Invisibility Cloak to reinvent themselves. New Yorker cartoonist Peter Steiner nailed it in his 1993 cartoon: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

But now, 15 years on, an unexpected shift has happened. Thanks to photo sharing sites, forums, social media sites, and Google indexing every step you make on the web, it’s getting harder to fake it. Your online self is now a more permanent and visible version of your physical self. Your every online utterance, drunken party picture, and speeding ticket is now up there for all to see. You now have 2 reputations to manage: your physical self and your online self.

My friend Ed Kless recently referred me to this excellent article in the New York Times about this phenomenon. An excerpt:

Psychologists and sociologists spent years wondering how humanity would adjust to the anonymity of life in the city, the wrenching upheavals of mobile immigrant labor — a world of lonely people ripped from their social ties. We now have precisely the opposite problem. Indeed, our modern awareness tools reverse the original conceit of the Internet. When cyberspace came along in the early ’90s, it was celebrated as a place where you could reinvent your identity — become someone new.

“If anything, it’s identity-constraining now,” Tufekci told me. “You can’t play with your identity if your audience is always checking up on you.”

I’ve been mulling this thought over for the past week, thinking about how little privacy we really have now. It’s interesting that the web has morphed from a D&D fantasy-scape to a gigantic reality show. In a way it’s good, because it forces you to be accountable for all your actions, which (hopefully) makes you act more responsibly, so as not to live with permanent cyber-embarrassment. On the other hand, it makes you wonder where (and if) there will ever be uncharted territory again. It’s human nature to want to escape, to clean your slate, to reinvent yourself. Is it even possible anymore?

Read the NY times article and tell me what you think. Is the web a better place than it was in the beginning?

Twitter distracts and annoys: yes or no?

Social Networking

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Someone on my Twitter feed this morning posted this link to a Business Week debate about Twitter. On the anti-Twitter side, Ilise Benun argues:

Twitter is the ultimate in self-centeredness. To imagine that anyone would want a running commentary of every moment of your life puts you—as a businessperson—at the center of your world when in fact that’s where your customer should be. It feeds the isolated narcissist who wants “followers,” rather than live contact with actual customers.

She goes on to say that if you’re tweeting, you’re not communicating in person or doing something in the "real world," which isolates you from people.

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Social media tools: they ain’t going away, so you better get used to ‘em.

Social Networking

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how to use a telephoneI recently ran across a hilarious list of instructions from a 1950s telephone directory from Drumright, Oklahoma. It explains how to get the most out of your telephone service, with tips like "Answer calls promptly. It’s courteous to do so and often keeps the caller from hanging up– thinking you’re not at home." They also recommend in the book to "Use a natural, pleasant voice. Don’t whisper. Don’t shout." (See the whole list.)

This made me recall my friend Madeleine’s classic story of a person who, in the early 90s, once phoned in frustration to her association’s headquarters after being unable to fax a conference form. Turns out she wasn’t actually using a fax machine: she was holding the page up to the computer monitor and slowly "scanning" it my moving it upwards.

It cracks us up to think that people once found routine technology so confounding. And yet, all technology is bewildering to start off with. That’s precisely the way I felt a few weeks ago when I started using Twitter and Facebook. I really had no idea what it was for, how to use it, or why I, never mind any of my clients, needed it. I only started blogging a few months ago, after years of summarily dismissing the whole medium as a self-indulgent exercise in time wastage.

Oh, how quickly things change. Now I’ve set up several clients with blogs, I’ve started Facebooking and Twittering, and I’m becoming a convert of all this new social media stuff. I’m realizing that it was starting to make me look like an old foagie to keep shouting "Get a horse!" 

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Promoting your business in 140 characters or less with Twitter (a review)

Social Networking

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Ebook by Geekpreneur Today I found this free downloadable ebook by Geekpreneur which outlines in simple language why they think Twitter is a great promotional tool for your business. This whole "microblogging" idea is sounding more and more convincing to me the more I read about it. Here’s a synposis:

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50 Ways Marketers Can use Social Media to Improve Their Marketing

Social Networking

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I discovered Chris Brogan from my recent Twitter experiment. His blog is an excellent resource of ideas, and this is one post that I particularly liked, as I have been trying to figure out how social media tools like blogs, Twitter, and Facebook can be beneficial to businesses– both my own, and my clients’.

Check out Chris Brogan’s 50 Ways Marketers Can use Social Media to Improve Their Marketing. Some ideas I particularly like:

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My Twitter experiment

Social Networking

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BeTwittered google gadget I’ve read so much about Twitter lately that I decided it’s time to give it another shot. Today I logged onto Twitter, had it search for people in my Outlook address book who are members, and fellow HOWie Von Glitschka (illustrator extraordinaire) turned out to be a Twitterer. So I clicked "follow" and he wrote me back and became a follower of mine– kind of exciting!

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Lawmakers using Twitter to keep political junkies in the loop during protest

News, Social Networking

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David read this article in the Dallas Morning News yesterday about another novel use for Twitter: as a play-by-play of what’s happening in Congress with the Republican uprising against Democratic leaders:

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Why Twitter is Better than Google (according to one guy, but not me)

Social Networking

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I ran across this post by Rick Butts about why he thinks Twitter is better than Google for finding information. The gist of it is that:

  • It’s easier to write a plain-English question in Twitter than it is to formulate the perfect search query in Google. (True)
  • Twitter is composed of humans answering queries to the best of their abilities, whereas Google is nothing more than an inhuman giant database spitting back search results. (True)
  • Twitter can’t be spammed or manipulated through fancy technological tricks (True)

“Just join Twitter and attract a group of followers and you’ll soon you’ll have created your own collection of living brain cells, capable of solving problems, reasoning, understanding fuzzy logic, and developing solutions, and pointing you directly to the answers you seek!”

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