Expecting More from Traditional Media

At a recent Chamber of Commerce event in my town, I had a chat with the Operations and Sales Manager for a local radio station. As we talked about Social Media, it was completely obvious that he really didn’t care (and certainly didn’t understand) about the power of Social Media. In fact, when I gave an example of how Social Media improves the reach of their streaming Internet signal, being heard in markets as far away as Europe. He actually said “so what? Where the value for us being heard in Europe”. Honestly, I sat gob-smacked for a moment, as I wrapped my head around a sales manager not understanding the value to some of the businesses that contract to the station for advertising. “How about EVERY tourism based business that advertises on your station”. Suddenly, the light went on.

Doing it because the other guy is

Slowly, pretty well every form of traditional media (radio, TV, newspapers, etc), have jumped on the Social Media band wagon. Most, however, do it only because their competition is, without a strategy or focus, or even a goal. The Operations Manager I was speaking with was very pleased with the fact that their iPhone app had been downloaded over 12,000 times, but entirely missed the fact that this app was being downloaded to mobile devices. You know, those devices that have at least one Social Media app that a user can share what they are doing. Right now. Like listening to the radio station.

Their Websites feature Social Media links for people to access, yet there is little engagement or activity, mainly because their Social Media channels are managed by someone that has the task as a second or third hat. This one station has almost 2,400 “Likes” on their Facebook page, with virtually no conversation, or interaction with followers, on things they post, making you asks “why is this here?” Twitter is even worse, with fewer than 600 Followers and little in the way of interaction with those followers and, as I lead into the point of this post, virtually no discussion about the businesses that advertise with them.

The Ad Puzzle is Incomplete

Some of my personal business clients have virtually abandoned traditional media in favour of Social Media. I don’t recommend it, but they have obviously seen the value of their own engagement on Social Media, over the ROI on what they spend on traditional advertizing. While I suggest ways that they can leverage that traditional advertising with Social Media features, they decide against it. Why? Because those traditional media outlets are not helping them with that aspect of their promotion. It is an opportunity lost, because traditional media players cannot understand their place in Social Media, especially in smaller markets. Without a Social Media marketing plan or strategy of their own, it is nearly impossible for traditional media outlets to help their clients integrate Social Media into the advertizing package. Without traditional media understanding how Social Media helps create brand advocates through shared conversations, the chances of them adding it into their advertizing packages becomes even more unlikely.

The Field is Wide Open. RUN!

Social Media being used by traditional media is still relatively new, with the only real hurdle being the convincing of the old school owners, managers and talent. What is needed is to make sure that the old school does feel that their way of doing things isn’t being replaced, but rather being enhanced. Larger market traditional media has always fared better than smaller market, but now the field is being leveled by all outlets being able to reach the same numbers, globally. Here are a few ideas to explore, in order for traditional media outlets to leverage Social Media, rather than to simply use it.

  1. Feature Ads on Facebook Pages. Local radio and newspapers can feature their advertising clients, by simply adding images and links of their clients brands into the daily Social Media conversations.
  2. Tweet “Today’s Morning Drive/Show Time sponsored by @brandx in #mytown. Listen Live at www.ourstation.com”
  3. Engage with users that are WAY outside the traditional reach of signal. A conversation with a listener / reader on another continent generates interest that supports clients that want to access that market.
  4. Dedicate a staff member to working the Social Media channels, in conjunction with on air talent, reporters and sales people. They manage the conversations created by others and add the appropriate advertising client when the opportunity presents.
  5. Create a Social Media policy and marketing strategy that INCLUDES the advertising clients, and live by it!

Social Media is the best way to create new audiences for traditional media companies, as well as enhancing the experience for those who already follow. Make the effort to share that exposure and experience with your advertising clients and a whole new market opens up.

 

Politics in Social Media

Where I live (British Columbia, Canada) it is that time again. The silly season, when my door, my phone, my mailbox, my email and, now, my social media has the face of some politician saying, “Vote for Me!”. It’s OK though. I am a bit of a political junkie, so I follow all of it with some gusto. What bothers me, however, is that pretty well every party in the field and every politician in it, is doing their Social Media wrong. They, like so many businesses, miss the “Social” and focus on the “Media”. I find this odd. When is the last time you saw a politician go to a social function and just stand in the middle of the room, with a sign above his or her head, that said “Vote for Me!”? Never, right? Well, that’s what they are all doing.

They are starting to pop up like spring wild flowers. @ElectMe Twitter accounts. Facebook pages that sport the name “Elect So-and-So for This Place”. Streams full of promises, platforms and pandering, but very, very, few conversations with the unconverted.

Be Prepared for the Conversation

I have actually seen where one party was deleting posts that pointed out that party’s mistakes or was an opposite opinion, in an attempt to “moderate” the conversation. They even posted, 4 times, links to their Social Media policy, to emphasizes the point. Needless to say, that just makes matter worse.

Unlike traditional media, you cannot control the conversation. It’s not a sign that you replace when it gets defaced, or a flyer that layout your platform without the worry of having to answer questions about the content. Here, in the Social Media sphere, if you out it out there, you had better be ready to talk about it.

Not Your Granddad’s Media

Some in the political landscape understand there is power in reach with Social Media. In Rapid City, South Dakota, a young political upstart decided to take on that City’s two-term Mayor in the 2011 City election. While the incumbent spent $40,000 in traditional media, the rookie spent $3,000 on target Facebook ads, pointed at young voters, public servants, labour unions, seniors; and won. He engaged people where they were, speaking directly to them about their concerns and then continued that conversation after the election was over.

Think Beyond

If there was ever something that Social Media was designed for, it’s politics. If you follow hashtags like #bcpoli, you would see how passionate people are about their politics. So why have something that is only focused on getting to Election Day? If those in the political arena thought like business people, then they would look at an election campaign like a new product campaign. A chance to have maximum focus and eyeballs on your brand, as part of a launch, to build new followers and new brand advocates. Then, when it is over, carry on that interest and engagement, hopefully to the next election.

What is frustrating about the Election focused Twitter and Facebook accounts is the fact that the accounts have a shelf life that lasts as long as the final vote is counted, at which point they are about as useful as sticking your thumb out on a deserted road…..in the desert….in the dark.

Developing a long-term strategy for your Social Media, that goes beyond Election Day and into the days that really count. Here are a few things that politicians can do to build a successful Social Media environment:

  1. Create accounts that match. Having a Twitter account that says “@YouNameHere” and an FB account that says “facebook.com/YourNameHere” created name recognition
  2. Launch regular Twitter chats. Build a following and a conversation around your own Hashtag and a local political one.
  3. Connect with the Social Poli connectors, people that speak on or around politics in the Social Media sphere on a regular basis.
  4. Develop a targeted Social Media ad campaign that will reach specific demographics
  5. Prepare a post election strategy for your Social Media, which will allow you to carry on the conversation after the election and into the next.

What is key to a successful political Social Media strategy is the engagement online. Don’t be the person standing in the middle of the room, saying nothing, with your Vote for Me sign.

Social Media Doesn’t Fit Me.

I was recently sitting on a panel in my community, asking and answering questions from a bunch of students from a Lower Mainland university, working on a soci-economic project that compared the growth of 2 Vancouver Island communities hit by hard times. Now, before you say “what the heck does that have to do with Social Media?” let me assure you that you were not alone.

When I asked this group of 18 students, how many had Twitter accounts, I was surprised to see only 3 put up their hands. Really? Only three? I honestly thought that this generation of digital agers would have been significantly engaged, but I was wrong. So, when I went online to ask those who were on Social Media, if they had any idea why so few had that Twitter connection, I was struck by the answer that I am usually hit with when talking to a group of people in the business community; Social Media doesn’t fit with what they are doing.

It’s More than Marketing

Perhaps it is our fault. As Social Media promoters, advocates and mega-users, we have been working to raise the profile of Social Media as the ultimate marketing and customer service tool. We push hard the B2C and B2B potentials, perhaps to the point that those who are not part of, or interested in, the “business world” are looking at it and saying “there’s nothing for me here, so why bother”. As I pondered that question of “it doesn’t fit” this solely academic exercise by these students, it became abol we call Social Media, than arranging parties or promoting products to the masses. As I pointed out in the conversation, accessing Social Media as part of their project research would allow them to tap into a much broader range of information, directly from the source; the people in the communities.

Students Become Advocates

Educational institutions are businesses. Some are publically funded, other privately, but they all have the same goal: educate and prepare for the future. Some schools in Canada are adding Social Media into their circullum, but only specific to some programs. In the YouTube video “Social Media 2013” by Erik Qualman, it states that Generation Y & Z consider email passé and that some universities have stopped distributing e-mail account. This is strictly a communications strategy, with seeming little thought to helping the students use Social Media for far more than just letting them know what the next assignment is. Active conversations between the schools Social Media managers / faculty  and the student body creates a potential marketing stream just by the conversation existing, not to mention helping address issues that arise amongst the student, demonstrating the value of customer service as a marketing strategy. If students have their questions answered in the public forum of Social Media, they are more likely to promote the school as a great place for an education.

Social Media as a Research Tool.

As I went through the list of course available at one Univestity, I found that there wasn’t a single course available that could not benefit from having Social Media involved. From Arts to the Sciences to Business and Commerce, there is some facet to which learning how to leverage Social Media can benefit the learning process. A Poli-Sci student can engage in the process of following and creating discussions on Twitter (#BCpoli is one of the most active hashtags in British Columbia, right now, with less than 2 months before a provincial election). An ocean biology student can follow the entire track of whale migration on the west coast, just by following the Facebook posts by Whale Watching outfits. An art student can get their work seen and comment on via Pintrest or Flickr. A Commerce or Marketing student could spend days in the world of Social Media analytics, see what works and what doesn’t. The added benefit of helping a student learn to use Social Media as more than just a communications tool is that you are letting loose a new type of employee into the job market; one that truly is Social Media savvy.

 

If you are an educator in a post-secondary institution, here are some things you can do to get your students more active in using Social Media;

1)      Make it YOUR preferred method of communicating. If students know that this is the best way to get a hold of you, they will use it.

2)      Invite your student to join you in Social Media conversations, whether those conversations are started by you or simply involve you.

3)      Encourage your students to make use of Social Media as a component of all of their research and work. A couple of extra marks never hurt the old GPA.

4)      Connect your students with alumni who also use Social Media. Not only does it help build their networks, it also connects them with potential mentors and thought leaders in their fields

Social Media is not a fad and it is not going away. Perhaps we should ensure that those entering the workforce of the future are ready for it.

Mannequins Are Not Customers

For quite a while, the issue of buying Likes and Followers, has been a debated topic. It came more into the public eye when Social Media author and speaker Dave Kerpen debated BJ Medelson at the WOMMA summit regarding his status as a NYT Best Sellers list writer, creating the question of whether buying your way to the following you want has value.

It got me to thinking about it. If I walked into a room with 500 mannequins and 500 real people, am I really networking with 1000 people? If the answer seems obvious, then you are on the opposite side from a lot of people in the Social Media sphere.

Numbers vs. Content

For many, Social Media is a numbers game. They believe that it’s solely the Likes and Follows you have that give you the bigger and broader reach. Some businesses, wanting that “look how many people follow/like me” image, will go out and buy the Followers and Likes that make them look popular. In a lot of these cases you will see huge numbers and VERY little conversation or comment around their content. Why? Because it’s not engaging, relevant or even interesting. If it’s not interesting to the people that actually took the time to Like or Follow you, you can imagine how engaging it is for the mannequin in that group.

If you look into the world of Social Media, you will find some people that have huge numbers with a ton of interesting and well engaged content. In all likelihood, this person has paid attention to their analytics and metrics and has spent time watching trends and engaging influencers online. It is also very likely that this person has not come by these numbers overnight, but has earned them over time and with a lot of hard work. The short cut costs money and rarely produces real results.

But, aren’t they seeing my stuff?

One of the myths of buying Likes and Followers is that those accounts are actual people. While some are “real people” most are spam or ghost accounts, with no real engagement potential. Thus, you may actually have great content, but no living, breathing person is actually looking at it. Without that interaction, it is about as wasted an effort as walking up to a store mannequin and asking what it thinks of your new look.

Of course, connecting with a couple of thousand spam accounts does open the door one way: you are now on their radar. Many people are finding that their purchase has led to a sudden flood of spam coming into their accounts, eventually leading them to un-follow the accounts that they had recently paid to have follow them. The value of that purchase diminishes with each click of the un-follow button.

Don’t buy it. Earn it!

In the list of Tips and Tricks that you can find with only a few keystrokes in Google, none of them will show you a viable “short cut” to getting followers. There is no magic pill that will make you a Social Media Rock Star overnight. Some are able to make an impact faster than others, but that is often due to whom they already were, rather than what Social Media made them to be. No, the only way that you become a REAL Social Media presence is by time and effort. By connecting and engaging with influencers, opening up conversations with people that connect with you and sharing relevant content that is interesting and not “push the message” oriented, your business will start to stand out in the crowd. Throw in tools that help you focus and leverage your presence online, as well as paying attention to trends, and you can be sure that those earned follows and likes will be yours.

Here are some tips to help you build your following, without having to buy your way into one.

  1. Find a platform. Play a little with everything (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pintrest, etc.). Find the one YOU enjoy the most and are willing to spend time on.
  2. Connect with the connectors. Find the people that are on that platform that connect the most AND engage the most. Strike up conversations, share their content and get feedback form them on yours.
  3. Be positive and relevant. Nothing turns a follower off more than a stream of negativity or content that is all over the map.
  4. Become the “go-to” person. Work at establishing yourself as being knowledgeable on a subject, product, service or region. Share all that you know about it and be seen as the person that others can go to for that knowledge.

In the end, you want to be targeting a single goal: engagement. A conversation with 500 people is always going to be more valuable than one with 1000 mannequins.

When the Social Media Hits the Fan

It was like watching a snowball rolling down a hill. It picked up steam, got bigger and you just knew that when it hit, it was going to make a BIG mess. A formal wear and dress shop on Vancouver Island did some pretty poor customer service, a blogger wrote about it, the company fired back on their Facebook page (which they have since taken down) and Social Media did what it often does: it took off with a mind of its own.

So what do you do if Social Media turns on you and really hits the fan? How can you turn a customer service fail into a marketing win?

Don’t Just Close Your Eyes.

Believe it or not, just covering your eyes and hoping the angry comments will go away is about as far from reality as you can get without hopping on the crazy train. Once the first comments come and are shared, it will come fast and furious, depending on the level of supposed “bad” customer service. If you are paying attention to your Social Media feeds, you can potentially head them off by offering a solution to the issue.

Note that I say solution, not reason or excuse. Solution. While no business wants to feel that they have done wrong, this is one of the times where the customer is always right. Offering a solution, or even asking those in the stream what might be a good resolution to the issue, is the way to put the brakes on that rocket sled of bad comments.

From Antagonist to Advocate.

The goal of adding your input into the stream should not to be to try and stop it, but to change the direction of it. While most business owners will shy away from a flood of complaints, on Social Media you have no place to hide, and shutting down your accounts will only make it worse. By engaging the customers in their conversation and encouraging them to provide their thoughts on what can be done to make things work better, you change the direction from con to pro in the same time it took to turn into the mess it was becoming.

If a businesses owners focus an all out effort to ensure that all the questions are answered and solutions are offered, all the people watching will say “Hey. They admitted to the mistake and took ownership of it. That’s some good customer service!” Now you have people talking about your brand, not talking at your brand. Even more important, make every effort to reach out to the original poster or person who was at the beginning of the anti-you mission. Fix that first!

Step Away from the Keyboard.

One of the first things that the Vancouver Island store did wrong was that they answered back, defending themselves, loudly. In Social Media, where everyone has an opinion, informed or uniformed, this is like a red flag in front of a bull. You won’t win. If you feel like you need to say something that is just short of “this person was an idiot and deserved the service they got”, you need to step away from the keyboard. If you have someone else working on your Social Media (especially if you are a larger company) you need to tell those staffers what direction you want the conversation to go and how you want to come across. Remember, this is your business and your brand is at stake.

The Angry Hordes Retreat.

If you have engaged, discussed, planned action and followed up, those massed to watch your demise should now be ready to be marketed to. You have an entire new set of eyeballs on you and, if you were paying attention, you have made note of who and where they all are and you are ready to thank them for participating in the “discussion”. When the dust has settled and you have fixed the issues, you offer people to continue to follow and engage, offer ideas and suggestions and, most of all, continue to visit your online and offline locations. If done right, people that were ready to join in the Social Media lynching of your business will now be talking about the business that listens to its customers: your business.

If that Social Media snowball starts rolling your way, look to do the following:

  1. If you are on Social Media and you have an especially bad experience with a customer, say so. “Very unhappy customer today. Left before we could offer a solution. Hope they come back to chat.
  2. If comments start to flow, before you can get to it, jump in with “Yeah. We messed that one up, but we are about learning from our mistakes. Any thoughts on what we might do to turn it around?” Some will keep after you, but others will notice the effort.
  3. If you are REALLY late to the game, give a reason that points to a solution. “We have been watching and learning from all of your comments. Thank you for your input. We are attempting enact some of those ideas ASAP”.
  4. Write the angriest, all-caps, in-my-defence, rant you can, in your favourite word processor. Then delete it. You need to get it off your chest, so you may as well let your sub-conscious think you did.

Social Media posts may have a life cycle of roughly 13 or so hours and an angry mob won’t stay angry forever, but you cannot wait for time to pass. You see, the Internet NEVER forgets.

Moderate the Conversation

One of the greatest things about Social Media is the conversations you can have. If there is a subject or topic that you are passionate about, chances are you can find someone in the Social Media sphere that is equally passionate. Watching the stream, I can easily find a dozen different conversations happening that I can dive into and share my opinion.

How can this work for business? If you are representing a brand or a company, jumping into a conversation can be a dangerous. Say the wrong thing and you can open up a can of worms that you may not be able to close. You must moderate the conversation.

Be Relevant

When I am talking with business owners about their Social Media, I always suggest changing up their content. Never stick with talking about just your brand or your product. Throw in some humour, some local content, etc.  When starting a conversation that you want other to engage in, however, it should be relevant to your brand, business or industry. Why? Because conversations are fluid and can often take on a mind of their own, and you want to be sure that, regardless of where it goes, the topic is always relevant to your business or brand.

For instance, a car dealer starting a conversation about “what’s your favourite place to drive” can easily divert into conversations about tourism or communities and completely leave out the part that the car dealer wanted to be talking about: driving. However, starting a conversation about the pros and cons of digital technology in vehicles today can open up a wide conversation and never actually leave the intended topic of vehicles and technology.

Lead and Moderate the Conversation

The goal of creating and moderating a conversation, especially in your company Facebook account, is to have the conversation where your company name/brand is visible but the content is created and shared by those from outside the company. It is like inviting people into your showroom to have a conversation and they in turn invite others to the showroom to participate as well. You move the conversation forward with questions and comments of your own but, at the same time, allow the conversation to remain fluid and go where it will. By entering into it, now and then, those participating know that you are watching and listening and, most important, they know they are being heard.

Reference Your Followers

More than anything else, consumers like to know that that they have been heard and that you, as a business owner, are taking what they say to heart. If you see a post with a suggestion or idea that has real value, engage that person in a conversation, perhaps even using their ideas, thoughts or suggestions as a topic of conversation. This type engagement gives a positive vibe for your brand with the consumer, helping build relationships and potential advocates of your product or service.

Don’t Be So Serious

The best stuff on Social Media is always the stuff that makes you laugh or feel good. A brand or company does not always have to be serious or directed in the online conversation. A little silly, now and then, puts a more “in reach” feel for the consumer. In watching the conversations around your brand or industry, find the humourous side and engage that as well. Companies, such as WestJet, have built fun into their overall customer experience and that has translated well for them in Social Media too.

Some tips for moderating a conversation:

  1. Pick a topic that is current around your brand or industry, and not out-of-the-blue
  2. Avoid the controversial topics, as they never go well. If the company or brand wants to take a stand on a certain subject, ensure that your stand is well thought out and supportable.
  3. When using humour, keep it light. Avoid hot topics or dark humour. Stick to things that will be funny to all, not some.
  4. Avoid the fight. If a conversation goes south on you, for any reason, bow out gracefully. Never, NEVER, get into it with a consumer online. If there is one place with the phrase “the customer is always right” works (even when they are not) it is in Social Media.