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Double Down on Your Social Network of Choice

As the popularity of social networking increases, so does the desire to want to be a part of every emerging social networking trend. People want to be “early adopters” of these new networks whether they know why or not; after all its human nature to want to feel like we’re part of a group, we’re social beings.  Maybe being first to these new networks carries some weight, some bragging rights, a feeling of exclusivity, a new icon to post on your blog, and more often than not an inability to remain effective in engaging with the people you’ve worked so hard to build relationships with in the first place.

This holds true unless you’ve built all of your social networks to look alike, which I see people do all too often. The same people, the same conversations, it’s unfortunately the new norm. Take a second to reflect on this for a minute. Is your Facebook network the same as your Twitter network? Is your Twitter network the same as your Google + network? Is your Google + network the same as say your Pinterest network? You get my point.

I suppose it isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s not doing much to connect you to new people and open your eyes to new experiences and learnings – which is the intent of most social networks. In today’s fast paced world of work, family, and other personal commitments let’s face it; we just don’t have the time to be effective in every social media platform that comes around.

Individuals are not only ones flying like moths to a flame when the newest social networks pop up. I’ve seen big brands also make these leaps just to be first just for no other reason than just that. Be first. How are these new networks fitting into their overall content strategy? Will these networks help them better connect with their target consumers? Are they forgetting about the consumers they’ve already built relationships with within their other social communities?  As I think about it more, this approach of constant social channel expansion could be detrimental to the communities big brands have worked so hard to foster online.

From a brand standpoint, it makes sense to double down on your social network(s) of choice. It’s critical for you to focus efforts on the social channels where your target consumers are. Think about planning content for this channel or in some cases channels, which resonates with these consumers, engages them, inspires them to take action, and builds further interest and connection with the brand.  When the timing is right and thought has been given to how to best incorporate a new social channel into your content mix, then and only then, think about adding a new channel to your businesses social properties. While being first to a new social channel seems cool and cutting edge, it turns un-cool really quick if you’re unable to serve up meaningful content to the consumers that connect with you in this new space, causing them to become disinterested in your brand and possibly loosing them as a customer.

I’m interested to get your take on this too. How do you feel about the ability to remain engaged with the networks you have built as you activate more and more social channels?  How do you manage your content mix to ensure the various social channels you participate in work for you or your brand?  I’m looking forward to the discussion.

Advocacy’s Effect on a Brand

Recently I have been doing a significant amount of research on consumer advocacy.  Through my late night Google search binges, I stumbled upon this insightful video on advocacy featuring Associate Arts Professor at NIU, Clay Shirky. His video really resonated with me on the sheer power advocates have as influencers over how others perceive brands.

Shirky teaches a class on the Theory and Practice of Social Media, which to my amazement is also now an actual subject available to students at many major Universities.  I’m wishing something as applicable as this was available for students even just a few years ago.  However that was well before the social media boom and before companies actually adopted the use of social technologies to improve how they connected with customers, created internal efficiencies, and increased profitability.  To be honest, this is something that I feel should even be brought into the educational system at an even earlier point, as having a skill set relatable to a social business is an invaluable asset to those joining the workforce in today’s connected world.

Within Shirky’s video he highlights the differences present between implicit and explicit consumer advocacy, along with the relationship between the two.  There is a clear halo effect that exists as more people implement a brand as part of their lifestyle (explicit), which then yields higher social proof that people are in fact actually using that product or service (implicit).  This connection between implicit and explicit advocacy will only continue to rise as people’s use of new and existing social networks continue on the upward trend.  The sheer size of people’s individual networks and overall reach also continues to exponentially grow.  In today’s connected world just one individual can have significant influence on the purchasing decisions of thousands based on how socially connected they are, something brands in years past never had to overcome.

After thinking about Shirky’s message in the video, it also re-affirmed a theme many social business thought leaders bring up; that brands are no longer in control.  At one point not to long ago, brands had the ability to control the message within the market place.  Yet in the current environment, where everyone has a voice by way of various social media channels, brands can only really influence that message.  Organizations that realize this by dialing up their social engagement, becoming more transparent, and leveraging their advocates will find themselves in a stronger position.  In parallel, brands that uncover how to truly empower their greatest consumer advocates will find an advantage.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on advocacy.  Is there a particular brand you advocate for and why?  How frequently does someone in your social circle influence one of your  purchasing decisions?

A Look Back and Looking Forward

Last year brought many new experiences my way, several of which consumed my attention and threw me off the content creation course (writing).  I can think of two things that have significantly impacted my life for the better even though my goal of being a more proactive writer became distant.  For starters, I’ve been really enjoying being a father. You’d be surprised just how much time it takes, but every minute of it worth it.  This year my wife and I celebrated our daughters first birthday; and have witnessed so many more of her milestones.  All this as she grows into her larger than life personality, what a ride it’s been thus far.  We’re also excited to welcome a second Renno baby into the world this June. Excited for what the addition to the family will bring but now the parents team and kids team will be at equal strength. Only time will tell who has practiced more.

Second I had the opportunity to take on new roles within my career journey this year.  This summer I took on a role in Chicago, kick starting the organization’s first official social media department and helping to develop and implement several social business ideas across the enterprise.  I wanted to pause a moment and recognize all of you that helped me to achieve this opportunity.  There are far to are too many to call out individually; but confident in the fact that the tremendous support shown by the Milwaukee Twitter community and significant increase in local brand recognition they helped me to achieve, aided in paving the way.  Later in the year as our organization’s social efforts grew, so did the need for additional headcount.  It was during this period of departmental growth, I was afforded the opportunity to lead the social media team and program for the business.  I am grateful for this new team and tremendously excited for the skill sets they bring to the table, as together we’ll be able to accomplish so much more.

As we move into the New Year I feel more grounded, more thoughtful, and more open minded to new ideas than ever before.  I am continuously learning both personally and professionally from those around me and through the relationships I have made with all of you.  For this I am forever grateful.  Twenty Twelve brings about another change, made possible by a good friend of mine Phil Gerbyshak.  His thought leadership and digital experience has helped me to expand the way I think about the social / digital space, as well as helped to breathe new life into my own little corner of the web.  Thank you for taking the time, sharing your knowledge, and above all being a good friend.

This year I am looking forward to sharing new thoughts and ideas with all of you.  I am looking forward to asking more questions, seeking different opinions and challenging the status quo.  I look forward to learning more and perhaps even teaching at times.  I look forward to making the time to connect with more people and build new relationships. I look forward to giving more time to my growing family.  Along the way, I look forward to sharing my reflections with you.

*Photo Credit*

Quality Over Quantity When Building Community

Lately I’ve been both thinking  a lot about community.  There’s an awful lot of buzz out there on what the most important aspect of community truly is. Some believe it’s the sheer number of followers, likes, friends, etc.  Many push out copy and content that is irrelevant to the community they are serving, just for the sake of regurgitating something to the masses; upping their tweet count and Facebook posts, and hoping to increase their search rankings. Although the thought of having the “most” is intriguing, I am not so sure that it’s the best way to go about things.

Let’s take a step back here, and think about an example I’m sure we can all relate to.  High school; where popularity was king.  Many of us spent four years fighting to have the most friends, feel included, and to make sure people knew who we were.  Quantity over quality was the teenage mindset.  Looking back in time, it all seems a bit foolish.  After all, how many of us now are still friends with everyone that we went to high school with?  The friends we focused so much time and energy to impress and accumulate aren’t relevant anymore, or in some cases are now all just Facebook connections we rarely if ever talk to.  The fact is the few people who really matter are still in your life.  It’s that group of a select few (the quality relationships).that stood the test of time and you are proud to still have connections with.

The same can be said for how we look at the communities sprouting up all over the internet through various social platforms.  Why is it the same?  It’s because at the core of it all we are still dealing with people.  That has not changed. Although, the way we communicate with each other is continuously evolving. Ten, even five years ago who would have thought we could be friends with and communicate with a brand like we do now via social networks.  Relationships with both friends and brands alike are not immune to falling apart if the quality isn’t there.  The number of likes, followers, and friends doesn’t matter so much; or rather it’s not the only thing that matters.  What does matter is the richness of the relationship that you have with each of them.

People are attracted to the idea of a social network, group, community, because they bring people together.  But with all relationships (both with individuals and brands) it’s the quality of the relationships that we have that keep us coming back for more.  The communities that will be successful long term will be those focused on providing a sense of richness, value, and purpose for their members. Those communities/ brands that are wondering why business results are stagnant, customer complaints are high or people have just lost interest are still just focused on the quantity of it all.

*Photo Credit http://bostinnovation.com

The Tuesday Twitter Challenge

If you really think about it, why did you join a social network?  Chances are it’s that you had a desire to connect with friends, family, colleagues, or even meet new people that could bring value to your life.  I too joined the various social media tools for this very reason, but have noticed a shift in the way they have been used as of late that is cause for concern, specifically Twitter.  In my opinion Twitter was created as an easy way to share content, receive information, and establish a valuable online community of connections; but what good is that network if we don’t continue to maintain it, engage with it, and expand it.

It is all to easy to get caught up in the clique mentality, which I can assure you defeats the purpose of what these tools are all about.

It is this slight shift in my observations that has motivated me to send out a challenge to all of you.  A challenge to do things differently and encourage others to do likewise.  A challenge to promote inclusion and network growth so that all feel welcome and valued, in an effort to maintain a healthy online ecosystem that looks out for its new or less visible members just like it does its “gurus”, “experts”, and “ninjas”.

Tuesday Twitter Challenge

  • Connect with two new people and two new businesses on twitter within your city – expand your network, let new people and ideas in. Work hard to encourage chat and discussion with others outside of your usual circles today.
  • Reach out via twitter to a retailer or restaurant that you’ve had a positive experience at. Tell them what you liked! Nothing would mean more to them that to hear this feedback from you. Think about the other impacts this could have to their business. Chances are that one or many of your followers will be more inclined to visit their establishment. This is “word of mouth” advertising at its finest (the best form of advertising a business could receive) and we have the power to help!
  • Introduce two contacts in your network to one another that have not met yet.  In the introduction, advise each of them why you feel they would benefit from this connection. They may have never found each other with out your efforts to bring them together.
  • Let’s track this thing! It would be interesting to see what kind of impact we can have locally, and Hashtag all of the tweets that spawn from the Tuesday Twitter Challenge.  Tag each tweet with #TUTC so we can measure its reach for fun.

The challenge is simple really, it was never meant to be difficult.  Simply use Twitter the way it was indented for such as sharing content, receiving information, and developing valuable new connections. Step outside of your comfort zone, commit to trying something new, even if it’s just for today.  Take the Tuesday Twitter Challenge.

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