Friday, September 16, 2011

It Might Be too Late to Learn Social Media

When I started my company, Building Blocks Social Media, one of the populations of people I wanted to serve were the folks who still needed basic social media training, and that is why I picked that as my URL for my website. As I am approaching my one year anniversary, I am finally getting to the point where I can be honest with myself and realize that the population of people who need to learn social media may have missed the boat, and I may not be able to help them.

In the beginning, social media was free and it was social. The early adopters saw value in it and enjoyed using it as a communication tool. It used to be purely conversation! Then, the marketers realized the power that held for businesses and they started learning how to use it for business. These people were comfortable having the same online presence, whether they were on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. The personality types of these folks is much more transparent. They used the last five years to learn how to use the platforms. Much of this time was spent with trial and error, but they were all learning together so it was o.k. I spoke with Mike McAllen and Jon Trask about this issue in the meetings and events industry recently and our conversation will be posted on the Meetings Podcast site shortly. 

Recently, I have been feeling a change in the wind. It is as if social media has become a profession. You have a lot of people like me trying to develop a business model around all different facets of social media. There are self-proclaimed social media experts, specialists, gurus, certifications. How do you know who to trust? One of my recommendations is don't trust someone who calls themselves an expert. The platforms are changing every day so it is nearly impossible to keep up with the best practices and important developments. Instead, look for someone who is trying their best to keep up and continually learn what the important changes are for the business uses of social media platforms.

Or, maybe you still think that hiring an intern to manage your social media and online presence is good enough because if they are young, they should know how to use all of these tools. Facebook's company page product is much more difficult to do correctly than the personal profile. Many Generation Y'rs don't use Twitter and, again, don't understand the conversation value it can provide to a brand. You need someone who knows you well enough to speak for you with your most important client or prospect. You are clearly that person, but you are too busy and important to "bother" with social media.

It is never too late to learn a new skill, but it isn't something you can learn part-time by trial and error anymore. You need a coach who can spend the required time to setup or clean up your online presence and then train you how to use it in the most efficient way. As I continue to narrow the focus of my business, I have learned that I don't specialize in any industry outside of the meetings/hospitality industry. This is the language that I speak, the language of conference organizer. Therefore, I am marketing myself to these people specifically. I am not qualified to speak for your organization on a day-to-day basis. However, when it comes time for your annual conference, I can help you with the strategy, monitoring and moderation of any of the social media platforms your attendees are using.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Social Media Policies at Your Organization

In the beginning, we heard about employees being fired for negative social media posts against their employers. Now, I am reading about lawsuits where the decision is being made in favor of those employees.

There are two clearly different issues around people using social media to negatively represent the organizations they work for: one is an employee who believes that on social media, he or she is not a representative of the organization and what they talk about with their friends is none of your business! The other is an employee who is knowingly using social media platforms to represent the organization. Where do you draw the line? If at any time, you have said the name of the organization you work for, you cross the line from private citizen to public employee. Or, I would argue, that if anyone who sees that post knows where you work and sees your commentary on that organization, you are representing that organization.

Facebook gets a lot of bad rap about this, but the same problems could easily appear on any other network as well. Most Gen Xers and Baby Boomers still see Facebook as the network for only their close friends and family. They know that there are privacy mechanisms in place that protect what they share with certain groups or lists. Or, at least, they think they know this. I have also heard funny stories of criminals talking about crimes they committed on Facebook. Anything that you think is private could be held against you in a court of law. This is the reason I gave up on privacy settings awhile ago. My profile is set so that friends of friends can see most of what I post. This means that I have chosen to post fewer updates and links that are of personal interest to me (i.e. political, religious, etc.). The types of subjects that you don't talk about with acquaintances are the types of subjects that you should not be posting on the internet, unless you want the whole world to know how you feel about a certain topic. There are occasions when you may still do that. There are certain people who share these types of subjects intentionally. Where people are missing the boat is they trust that the privacy settings on their social networks will protect them from sharing things with people whom they don't mean to share with.

Here's some food for thought. If an organization treated its employees well, had a social media policy in place that encouraged them to share good news about their work, and the employees felt like their jobs were part of who they are, we would not have any of these issues. Entrepreneurs and other people who are passionate about what they do make it very evident on their social media profiles. They want you to know where they work because they are proud to do what they do!

Our society has gone very far down this path of transparency and authenticity on the internet. You have an online presence, whether you like it or not. You can choose to positively participate and make sure that what people find is what you want them to find, or you can hide behind your privacy settings (for now).

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Why You Should Consider Google+

I finally made the time to start playing around with Google+ and since many of my friends have asked me what I think, here is a preliminary review. The way I am analyzing it is motivated by the question: will it become bigger than Facebook?

Right now, Facebook is the largest social networking platform. However, many gen x'rs and baby boomers are still using Facebook only for personal connections and not professional networking. I had read that Google+ Circles would make it much easier for users to post content to only certain groups of people. Guess what? It does. I still maintain that you should only post things on the internet that you want the whole world to see, but I am also a much more open person than many people I talk to.

Here's the drawback. To get started, you have to add each individual person to one of your circles. I am not sure that the average Facebook user is going to spend time adding each of their contacts to circles. It takes a bit (o.k., a lot) of time. Google+ will suggest people you e-mail (from your gmail account) and people who are active on Google+ (who you probably don't know). You can import other e-mail accounts as well, but it will take time to re-create a large social network that you might have on another platform.

Google+ is like Facebook, Twitter and Skype all put together. You can follow people you don't know like you do on Twitter and they may or may not follow you back. You will see their public updates. It is a great communication tool for the circles of people in your life. I have started putting some of my circles together based on the hashtags on Twitter that I follow.

You can send group messages and updates to particular circles and you don't have to make them public. However, the feature I like the most is Google+ Hangouts. You can have a video conference call with up to 10 people. (On Skype, you have to upgrade to see more than one other person on video.) It includes a "push to talk" button so you aren't talking over other people. You can pull up a YouTube video and everyone on the call can watch it if they choose.

Because it is a Google product, you can expect more streamlined sharing from products other than YouTube. (Blogger, Picasa, automatic back-up of photos from your Android phone, etc.) That was the reason I chose Blogger for my blog over WordPress. It looked like Google was trying to take over the internet, so I thought I would jump on board!

Leave your comments here with your questions or tips as you start to explore Google+. If you need an invitation, click HERE.