Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Giving Up the Reins [Hiring a Social Media Content Specialist]

Social media has revolutionized marketing. Everyone [or most] can agree with this. 
Marketing, that used to be a one-way conversation to potential customers [print ads, billboards, commercials] has turned into a loud family dinner with all the in-laws. There are so many conversations going on at once now, so many outlets to monitor, and constant technology changes. 
It’s big, it’s scary, it’s loud, it’s time-consuming, and worst of all: marketers no longer have the dominate control. 

On the bright side, social media is, well, social. The companies that do it well have a very specific voice to their content, and quick response times. They have built their social media as an extension of the company, building trust in their brand and an avenue to new revenue. 

But like all success, there is quite a time-commitment. Content must be continuously generated. Social media outlets must be monitored. Responses must be timely. Strategies must be revised. 

And, at some point, help may need to be hired or out-sourced. 

But if you do social media, and do it well, you have created an online personification of your company's brand. How do you turn this over to a contractor who doesn't know your specific business? Who might not have your voice? 

It’s a tough choice, but when the time comes, you’ll realize help is necessary. 

Like sending a child to school for the first time and trusting in the teacher, you have to trust your social media content specialist to take the reins. 

Trusting who you hire is the #1 rule to success. It’s not a job for an intern, nor simply the “cheapest help locally”. Trust your gut that you are hiring someone whom has a similar voice, and outlook on social media. If a prospective hire doesn't garner your trust, keep looking. 

Walk before you run. When my company hired a content specialist, I still provided the content for the first month or so. She simply scheduled the posts, and learned our style. To this day, we have a shared Google doc where she supplies content, channels and posting time frames, and I still approve the content before it goes live. We have had the same social media content writer for a year now, and 98% of our content I approved outright. However, there probably always will be that 2% of the time that there is a nuance to our industry she wasn’t familiar with, that needs to be corrected before it is posted. Don’t expect your freelance contractor to know the industry or your company as well as you do. It is still your job to help guide them. 

Spend time training and outline your goals. I spent hours with my content specialist initially, explaining our audiences, our culture, suggesting resources to glean content from, and giving feedback on voice. It took almost as much time as it previously took me to write the content, but in training my content specialist to our company voice and goals, she learned to take the training wheels off without falling much quicker. 

Implement internal sources for follow-up. Our social media specialists retweets, responds and likes other posts for us. However, social media is often the first-line for service and sales. That is outside the realm what a contractor should answer. Have internal sources implemented to respond quickly when needed with internal knowledge. 

Constantly review and tweak, together. Social media is an evolving field, and as such needs constant revision. We meet at least monthly to discuss strategy, to test new strategies, and to review successes. Our social media specialist is usually more on top of trends and new strategies than I am. She’s the expert, and I expect her to embrace her expertise. 

Hiring an outsider is a scary prospect. But with some oversight, guidance, and trust, hiring a content specialist to help improve your social media strategy might just be the best move you make.

Photo Credit: mkhmarketing on flickr

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Baby Steps [Incrementally Increasing Your Online Influence]

There are no magic pills to building your brand, audience and trust on social media. Anyone who offers a magic pill is an overpriced charlatan. Like click-backs of 5 years ago, you may increase traffic, but it’s the wrong kind of traffic. 

Beyond your business, it is also important to improve your personal brand, and online influence. If your personal brand shows off your expertise in your industry, it not only helps your influence and reputation, but that of your company as well. Your company gains trust by employing influencers and experts in the industry. 

But how do you build personal influence online? 

In 3 short months last year, I took a serious look at my online influence, and strategically decided to increase it. Call it a slightly-less-than-scientific experiment, with quantitative results. 

Below is what I did to drastically increase my influence: 
  1. Decide what is personal and what is professional. I did a review of all of my accounts online. I added accounts, and cognitively mapped out my personas. I allow overlap, but keep each account focused. For me, I keep Instagram and Facebook personal, while using my LinkedIn and Twitter accounts professionally. 
  2. Have a personality on your professional accounts. It gives you a leg up on the bots. No one can claim that I’m boring. Nerdy, yes. Boring, no. Although I kept my professional accounts focused on industry knowledge, you can still hear my snark and sarcasm. If you follow me, you learn a little about what it is like to work with me, and that is my goal. 
  3. Post. Post often, post consistent, post relevant. During my 3 month tenure, I posted 2 self-published articles on LinkedIn a week. Twitter, I posted on a minimum of twice a day. This article on how to time out your posts was useful and insightful. The best advice? Create enough content for a month in advance. ...I never got there. I simply got too impatient when I created content, but I worked on a 2 week rolling calendar for the 3 months and made it through most of it. A month of content is a great goal! 
  4. Actually stand behind what you post and whom you follow. There is tons of static noise and fluff out there. Often, people post 10 times a day just to sound good, and follow every person they can. It’s tempting to do. And easy with new content generating portions of apps like Klout, Hootsuite and Buffer. But I was trying to build influence and reputation. The only way to do that was to stand behind every interaction. I read every article I posted; I checked out the relevance of every profile before I followed. 
  5. Use lists/apps to sort. The noise on social media is profound. Using Twitter lists religiously, I could cut down on the noise. Every person I follow gets privately categorized. Then, if I’m looking for local content, I go to my “local” list. Leadership? Yeah, I have a list for that too. 
  6. Be generous. The people I follow on Twitter, I follow because they have something relevant to say. I retweet the gems. Same goes for LinkedIn articles. The best I read I reshare with attribute. First, this helped with the volume of content; I didn’t have to create it all myself. But more importantly, I built an army of peers with positivity. 
  7. Thank, tag, and give attribute to people. The best tweet I got during the experiment: @WendiMooreAgncy tweeted, “#mustfollow: @ltoriginals”. Seriously, that tweet made my day! Thank people for comments and resharing. Give attribute where necessary. People appreciate the thanks, and remember the snubs. [Someone posted one of my articles without giving attribute that same week. It made me sad that she didn’t understand the power of promoting others.] 
  8. Explain your pain, and ask for advice in your realm of influence. It’s okay to be mortal. In fact, I think it makes you more likable. There is a catch-22 to this, however. Everyone wants to be an expert, and everyone has an opinion. You’ll get responses quite often with less experience and differing opinions. But, you can also garner some gems. 8. Don’t follow everyone, and don’t make it too loud for yourself. Enough said. 
  9. Understand it takes time. A lot of time. My content social media writer [for my day job] and I compete on Klout, but she was shocked when I got more followers on Twitter during this experiment. I read every mention, I view every follower, I post #FF [Follow Fridays], I retweeted articles, and I gave a lot thanks. It was time consuming beyond content generation, but it worked. Where is the surprise there? 

My time commitment during this three month “experiment” was more. Since then, I have toned down the time commitment to my personal social media, and found my balance. But if I am serious about helping others improve their social media, I need to always improve my own. I will admit I’m still learning other uses of Twitter; I have a whopping 37 followers on Instagram; and I don’t have a personal YouTube channel [nor do I plan on it anytime soon]. But in 3 months of concentrated strategy, I gained hundreds of real and influential followers on Twitter. My contacts and followers on LinkedIn have more than doubled. A concentrated strategy to honestly increase my influence worked. 

Is this the formula for you? Maybe, maybe not. But find your formula. Understand the basic nature of people and social media: 
  • Your own name is the most important word in your language box, so when you call on others, you are giving them the gift of using their name. 
  • Praise people. 
  • And beyond that, provide relevant content; content others can reshare.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Our Selfie-ish Society [Cultural Shifts in Media]

Google started as a research project in 1996. It “officially” became synonymous with “online search” in 2006, a decade later as it joined the Merriam Webster dictionary. 

However, “selfie” has had a much quicker uprising. Although “self-portraits” have been around for hundreds of years, the actual term “selfie” started trending in 2012, according to Time Magazine. By 2014, a mere 2 years later, it was added to the Merriam Webster dictionary

Have we become a society that needs validation from the tribe to accept something as true? Do we need tribe validation to prove self-worth? Is that why a word based upon first-person views became a cultural norm so much quicker than a third-party term?