Monday, January 16, 2012

Jump Through the SEO Hoops: How Google has Made Engagement in G+ Mandatory

There have been a lot of words used to describe Google's social media foray, Google+, but most of them are words that Google+ would not want on its resume -- until now. Google has thrown its proverbial weight behind Google+. Google's integration of Google+ conversations into the top of searches poses an interesting dilemma to those that care about search engine optimization.  Take a look at this image:


Marty Stuart, while maybe not a pop powerhouse,  is a recognizable brand/star. But, look what happens now when you search for his name. 


There are 1.83 million results found by Google. A simple post I had made a while back with a photograph of him from a live performance is now the third result with a big thumbnail image. It's two of his own websites then my post. 


There have to be tons of more qualified entries on the web than my picture of the day. But, there I am, up top. 


So, therein lies the question. What if someone badmouths your brand on Google+ and you're not there? It could be your participation on Google+ that is right up top. You could be using your own messaging within a social media outlet and getting top billing on your own terms. Or, you could leave that fate into the hands of others. It's not something I'd advise risking. 


I've been fond of reinforcing lately that domains are a nice calling card addition to your existing outreach. But, if somebody knows your domain, they're either already familiar with your brand -- or they've been subject to your messaging along with your domain. The people you need to worry about are the people that aren't familiar with you--the people using search. This is where your converts are. So, if you're losing a top spot by not engaging in Google+, it's a risky proposition.


But, why would Google do this? People and brands weren't engaging in Google+ as they did with Facebook and Twitter. While the early adopters like Chris Brogan, Robert Scoble and such publicly engaged in Google+, the rest of the crowd were still pulling their parents and grandparents reluctantly into Facebook. 


So, wisely, Google is forcing the hands of brands and those with an interest in driving web traffic to join Google+. These people that are out there promoting their brand or site now know they need to engage to control their results. Google is creating its crowd at gunpoint hoping this will have an exponential effect. 


Google+ has a great photography community, early adopters community and some other niches. This is Google's effort to draw (force) that next level of adoption. I'll be interested to see how it plays out. 


In fact, I've created Google+ brand pages for a couple of the brands that I am affiliated with. Time will tell if people using the search engine giant see this as a qualified find for their searches -- or if they blow over it like most do with advertised/sponsored results. But, in the mean time, you may want to take a close look at how your brand is being communicated within Google+ public results. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

Twitter Is a Social Conversation: Use Descriptive Responses

It seems that it should go without saying that Tweeting is a social conversation, not interpersonal. Yet, how often do you find yourself clicking "in response to," to discover what an interesting response was all about?


Tweeting is a social conversation between you, those you follow, AND those that follow you.  Conversation via Twitter is not just an A and B conversation.  Even while you may be speaking with only one of your followers, you are speaking IN FRONT of the rest of your followers who may not be following the individual with whom you are speaking.


Therefore, when follower A says, "I can't wait until the Sewickley Farmer's Market opens," your response should be "@user, actually the Sewickley Farmer's Market is already open. Every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m."


If you only say "It's already open. Every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m," anybody that is not following the other user is missing out on half of the conversation. You could be sharing valuable information that could be of use to ALL of your followers, rather than a cryptic response that is meaningless.


Translation: use descriptive responses, not:
@USER today. I'll post it later.
@USER It's already open. Every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m
@USER That's rather interesting. I wonder if the fur is real?
@USER Good question. I'm not aware of its schedule, though. I heard it only was in TOWN NAME until 11 a.m. After deadline, I'll check.
@USER We like it, too!
@USER girls lacrosse
All of these responses could be something interesting to the people that follow you, but essentially, they end up being useless Twitter chatter that could cause your followers to begin scanning past your messages. Or, at the very least, if it is something that would be of interest to your followers, you've missed an opportunity to help others that might have the same question--or caused them to click back and try to follow the course of a conversation.


Think about how you feel when you are in the middle of a conversation and somebody takes interest in a portion of that conversation. Inevitably, that person ends up having to ask "what were you talking about," or repeating a part of the conversation. Either way, you've created an unnecessary situation by using coded or incomplete responses while talking in front of the rest of your followers.


If all the information is not fit for public consumption, use the DM. That's what it is there for.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

In Facebook, Your Fan Page is the Garment, Not the Model

As often happens with my blogs, this entry is built out of a discussion I recently had. My  friend asked some questions related to his brands' Facebook Fan Pages.

His brands all have successful engagement on Twitter. But he's finding it more challenging to engage and attract followers on the Facebook brand fan pages. He's wondering how to let his brands stand out from frivolous fan pages and application-based chatter.

My nutshell response to him was that you can't treat Facebook Fan Pages the same way you treat Twitter.

He is definitely not alone in having this issue or expressing this frustration. So, this blog entry is built out of our discussion and my written response to him on my personal philosophy on Facebook Fan Pages. I'd love to hear your philosophy on building a successful fan engagement on Facebook and how it's different from my own that follows:

Twitter is where you wear your followers like your badge of honor. Facebook is where your fans wear you as their badge of honor. This is definitely not implying that quantity of followers is a measurement of success, but rather it is meant to frame your approach at interaction.

When people wear things, they are defining themselves to others. Whether they are wearing a team jersey, a sports brand or a silly pin, Similarly, when Facebook users "fan" a brand or a page, they are making a conscious choice about how they want your brand to help define them.

In some cases, a fan page can be a silly pin--like the I love those farting noises fan pages. In other cases, they've "fanned" your brand to make a statement about themselves or their interests. But, either way, your fans have invited you into their inner circle.

Does that mean that your brand is as worthless as the “I love those farting noises” page? No. Much like silly pins vs. political pins vs. logo t-shirts, people wear your brand for a specific reason.

In many instances, they want your brand where they and their friends are. The people that have chosen your brand want your information feeding into the same part of their lives where they look at pictures of their friends’ children and pets.

In essence, if Twitter is shouting your message in a busy mall, in Facebook, they’ve invited you into their living room to add to the family conversation.

Sure, there are people with thousands of followers and subscribed to thousands of frivolous fan pages. But, ask yourself, are those the people you are trying to reach with your message? Do you think those hoarders are acting on or embracing any of the brands they were.

It’s like a single tattoo of a special name vs. trying to find that name among a full body of tattoos. You need to focus on the people that wear your brand proudly.

On the other side of the coin, when users have invited you into their “homes,” they’d like to think that they are equally special to you–and not lost in the noise of fans. They call it SOCIAL networking for a reason. If both parties are shouting in a mall with fingers in their ears, it’s not social.

If your brand is being social with the people that chose you, they will be your advocates and help your brand grow online. The nice thing about Facebook and fan pages is that a fan page can't go out and just randomly stack loads of fans. Fan pages are permission communication. Your fans have invited you to share in their life stream. If they feel value in the fan relationship, they will make other people envy that relationship and invite them (or make them wish they were fans of your brand).

You need to reward the people that chose your brand and make them feel special. Does that mean I’m saying you should bribe your subscribers and give things away? Not at all. As said above, this is SOCIAL networking. A little bit of interaction goes a long way. Even if it is a hello or a “shout out.” People like to know that there is a mutual appreciation.

You want to go a long way with somebody that chose to wear your brand? Let them look like the expert. Give them the tools they need to look like discoverers. Afterall, that’s why they have life streams–they’re looking to share.

Give them something to share. Let them be on the ground floor of something. If they feel like they’re the first, they’re the expert, they’re in the “inner circle” they’ll want to brag about that status. And, ultimately, it’s their endorsement that will attract others–not you telling everybody else that they should follow you.

Pushing your latest press release or syndicating your Tweets is not a reward. It is a sure way to have your fan feed hidden. Rather, you should reciprocate and invite your fans into your living room. Engage them in discussions about what they like and do not like about your brand. Help them to take ownership of your brand.

Let your fans be your brand owner. Treat them as you would a guest in your home--not a journalist at a news conference. Discuss current events related to your brand. Not everything has to be an ad for your brand. Make their fandom as much about them as it is about you. Give them the tools to proudly show their loyalty to your brand.

Make a "fan of the week" profile on your website, in your newsletter. Let them discuss what your brand means to them. Then give them the link to share with their friends. The important thing is to be a fan of your fans and understand who is the tail and who is the dog.

 In short, in Facebookland, you’re not the model, you’re the garment–do your best to make sure you look good on them.

Friday, January 22, 2010

You Put Your Twitter in My Facebook

Have you noticed a divide forming between Twitter discussion and Facebook discussion--more importantly microblogging vs. mid-form blogging?


As an example, people on Facebook are apt to not respond to 140-character posts (via Twitter) because they know that people are simply syndicating themselves and not engaging in the medium.


This isn't a new debate, there used to be a large push-back from people on Pownce (which Fb is going lengths to catch up to) when posts were 140-characters or less. There seems to be an implied echelon between Tweets and other longer-form medium (Facebook/Friendfeed).


I think I caught Geoff Livingston making a reference to keeping Tweets on Twitter. Yet a lot of resources seem to go into syndicating yourself across multiple "social" media. Most recently, Seesmic made a grab of ping.fm. For a long time, I used Ping to have a "presence" in several communities where I was not engaged. I simply could not be in all those places. For a while, it felt like a land-grab. You had to be everywhere. You had tools to make sure people weren't using your identities in these far-off communities. 


But, social media has matured. The frenzy is slowing and real communication is taking place. I trimmed away all of my extraneous social network presences and I now focus on the communities where the people are that I want to listen to and win influence with.


This is not to say that I do not use tools to monitor conversations across multiple communities to make sure that there are not discussions where I need to engage to protect a brand. I am simply saying that I do not syndicate my message into communities where I am not actively engaged.


So, where I once felt the need to be omnipresent and pipe my messages into every last Social Media outlet, I now tend to agree with keeping your conversations within communities where you are engaged. Syndicating yourself without engaging gives off a vibe of self-promotional egomaniac. Self-promotion is another topic to be tackled another day, but the egotist part is the vibe you want to steer clear of.


I'm here to learn and network to get the most out of Social Media. I've consolidated my presences to outlets where I feel the best interactions are. So, for what it's worth, I support not putting your chocolate in my peanut butter...


Edited for format error

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Little Time Away From Twitter

In a neurotic, self-aggrandizing experiment, I quietly took a week away from my PERSONAL Twitter account to see if anybody noticed.To the best of my knowledge, nobody did. HMMPH!

No, this wasn't (completely) to see if anybody was hanging on the edge of the keyboard pining for my next post. It was more to quantify why exactly I'm using Twitter for a personal account.

Originally, I opened my personal Twitter account simply to feed into my personal home page (another form of self-aggrandizing to be examined at a later date). It was just a simple update that was added to my webpage (woodysworldtv.com). From there, I started hob-knobbing with some of the who's who of social media, including Geoff Livingston, Lizz Strauss, Paul Chaney, Robert Scoble, Brian Solis.

Networking with that crowd was a great learning experience. They were great source of what's happening and what's coming in social media (and still are). But, by interacting with that crew, I was losing the personal contacts that I was simply updating about my life (and lunch). Then the "tweetup" aspect came about where you start interacting with people locally. Pittsburgh has quite an active Twitter scene. But, with each evolution, my Twitter account drug along more baggage.

Basically, my personal Twitter account became a catch-all for social media activity that fell beyond the scope of my Twitter professional brand accounts. As my personal Twitter personal account continued to evolve (or devolve), it became part chat, part learning, part networking, and part fishing for comments and followers--leading up to a lot of noise and time with little-to-no purpose.

Once you hit that level of crowd (1000+ followers), how much SOCIAL interaction is it? If you're chatting with one, it's noise to 999 others. If you're posting on public relations, it's noise to the "chatters." If you're chatting, it's noise to the social media crowd.

And, if you're playing by the rules, being social and following those people in return, how much noise do you have to sort through to find useful information to you? With the help of tools like TweetDeck, I was able to compartmentalize "groups" into categories, but the root problem remained.

If you are trying to do to much with a single account, you run the risk of loosing or boring people across the board that lie beyond the scope of a given topic.

What's the answer? Do you split your account into several accounts to represent every aspect of your personality or interest? My single-purpose, on-scope professional Twitter accounts are quite successful. But, wow, I've seen people that split their social identities between professional and personal interests. Ultimately one (or more) of those accounts end up being neglected or ignored. Not to mention, that's a whole heck of a lot of effort for what return?

I've networked. I've made contacts. But, I now interact with most of those people on Facebook or Friendfeed (in the case of social media types)--away from the noise. So, do you keep going? Do you keep shouting out in the crowded malls and streets simply fishing for a RT or response? Or, do you focus on your core, stick to your guns, quit pandering to a crowd hoping for an audience?

The short story is that I was putting a heck of a lot of time into having an untargeted, catch-all, personal presence. Stepping away, is it worth the investment of time? I'm not sure. I'm an information junkie. I love all the information that pours in. And, the reporter in me loves to share information. But, when the account is scatterd all over the place like my mind, is it serving any value? Are you reaching anybody? Is there any value? I'm not sure there is. But, the experiment continues...

What I've Learned About Social Media (Imported from Personal Blog)

I was asked recently to pull together some thoughts on what I've learned while working with Social Media. It was meant to serve as a "how do you engage," and "what are some of the pitfalls." This is very basic social media 101. However, I figured I would share it as either a refresher course or an introduction for anybody that's interested. Feel free to comment or add to it. Here you go...
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What I’ve learned about social media:
For years, I’ve been experimenting with social networking and other web outreach media. If I’ve taken away one catch-all lesson, it’s that if there is a group of people together and communicating, there is a marketer wondering how they can best inject their message into that conversation.

Whether it’s sponsoring a 5k race, advertising at a ball game, commercials on TV, ads on a website or now injecting their message into web 2.0 media, marketers are always looking for an entry. Social “media” is no different.

For years, people have been networking through social sites like Classmates, MySpace, LinkedIn and Facebook. Never has it been so easy to mass-update your friends yet still “keep it personal.”

With the newfound ease of managing large groups of friends, it has become easier to also grow your network to even more new friends that share common interests or objectives. The common thread of these networks is the desire to share or observe. As the phenomenon of social networking grew, so too did the sites and tools trying to tap into this rage. Specialized sites developed trying to tap into some of the most popular aspects of social networking such as opinion sharing, photo sharing, video sharing, audio sharing and even status sharing.

Some of these sites continue to try to do it all, like Facebook and MySpace, while other sites look to tap into a specific niche, such as:
  • Blogging: WordPress, Blogger and LiveJournal
  • Photo Sharing: Flickr, Picassa, Webshots
  • Video Sharing: YouTube, Vimeo, Viddler
  • Information Sharing: Wikipedia, wikis
  • Status (microblogging): Twitter, Plurk, identi.ca
It was only natural that communicators/marketers wanted to tap into these veins and begin sharing as well. But there was a lesson to be learned in this new arena. When people are sharing their personal thoughts and having personal conversations, the traditional “party line core talking points” seemed wildly out of place. Thus, social media is born—a way to share and communicate to the masses as they share their lives without looking like a blatant spammer. Not to mention, it seems to give communicators a good excuse to play on the Internet.

So, what is Social Media? There are a lot of experts that will try to tell you that they know what it is, but in reality, it’s a moving target. The approach that was cool yesterday has become cliché today. Yet, at the same time, some of the base fundamentals and traditions of communications/marketing still hold as well.

The “viral video” was once the Hallmark of a successful social media campaign. The viral video was something quirky that amused people and compelled them to pass it along to those that they felt would be amused as well, only to find later it was a hook into a commercial or subtle ad for a product.

Today, a successful social media campaign can involve getting favorable microblog mentions, people to share your bookmarks, people writing favorably about your messaging, people using your images or video or any combination thereof.

Droves of companies now pay top dollar to manage their social “image and brand.” This social management is much more than just what you’re going to say, it’s also watching what people say.

As numerous companies have found, you are never more than a misquote away from a flash-mob social backlash. As hard as companies can work to spread positive messages and spending countless hours to get one positive thing said about their product, a simple misstep can lead to a social media firestorm.

The common element among the vast populations of social networks is that they want to be a part of something bigger, they want to be the ones that share, they want to feel like they are on the ground floor of all things new.

So, how do you engage in social media? I’ve seen one-person campaigns generate as much success as big-dollar agency campaigns. Your ultimate success can be impacted by a key influencer being on or offline. Your success can be impacted by another unexpected trending topic. But, most of all, your success comes down to core communications skills like knowing your tools, media and audience.

Before engaging in social media, it’s important to know your goal. A fast path to social irrelevance is adding a bunch of followers and going out there and floundering around with no message and posting direct links to your site. The key element of social media is SOCIAL. As I referenced above, people are sharing aspects of their lives. They don’t want you bursting into their conversation and shouting to visit your website.

Rather, a sound strategy is to start out small. You need to identify people that are talking about topics that relate to your key strategy. You can join discussion groups, you can participate in conversations, you can search out blogs of relevance, but most of all, it is important to establish yourself as an individual that is engaging in conversations.

Granted, there are people that will follow your messages without being engaged, but most likely those people are predisposed to your message or brand (see Ashton Kutcher, CNN, etc..). In those instances, you’re not really gaining ground, you are just giving people that were predisposed to your message another avenue to tap into your messaging. If that is your definition of success, then the bar is low.

If you’re looking to make inroads to new audiences, the strategy becomes more involved. Where do you start? How do you find people that might have an interest in what you have to say?

Finding an inroad comes back to mastery of tools. There are a number of social media tools that will help you identify where to start. The current critical mass and prom queen is Twitter. Twitter is the quintessential microblogging site where users broadcast 140-character updates to their followers. From corporations, celebrities and musicians on down to the solo individual, people are listening and sharing more than ever through Twitter.

How do you engage these masses? A good starting point is to search current conversations. Popular tools to search Twitter conversations are search.twitter.com, TweetDeck and Seesmic. These tools let you enter key words that are related to your objective and engage the people that are active in that area. TweetDeck is a powerful tool that you can use to have multiple searches active at all times, allowing you to proactively engage conversations as they are happening. By engaging these individuals, you are gaining their attention and possibly the attention of their followers that presumably share their interest.

As I indicated above, an underlying desire of many people engaged in social media is to be in on something bigger. Users of social media are looking to share. So, your objective as a social media practitioner is to give them something to share. You, as an individual have a much larger reach if your followers are sharing your information to their networks, and so on. You only need to be the initial source, not the singular source. Give your followers ownership of your information. Letting your followers own the information gives them brand loyalty and taps into their objectives for engaging in social media.

Another strong strategy is searching the blogs. Many of the most popular search engines are able to search blogs. But, an even stronger tool is making use of news alerts. Both Yahoo! and Google have news alert services that will email you comprehensive searches of news stories and blogs mentioning the key words that you’ve identified. News stories are a great conversation starter among your newfound audience and the blog searches are a great way to find people that are writing in long form about your chosen topics.

You can also use tags to find people that you are looking to engage. Tagging is a powerful tool for drawing people to images and videos and other content. It is also powerful for you to find people who are engaging in your areas of interest. Image searches and video searches are often-neglected aspects of social media outreach.

So, you’ve found your audience, congratulations. Now what? What is your call to action? Do you want them to buy something? Do you want them to find even more information? One common strategy is to drive traffic to a website.

Driving traffic to your website:
It’s assumed that you have more to say than you can inject into a social media arena in a single tweet or ad. So, let’s assume one of your goals is to drive traffic to your site where you are able to more verbosely support your core messages and objectives. What strategies work?

The audience that you’ve identified is already having conversations related to your topic. So, a simple first strategy is to provide a link for additional information on the points you are making when you engage in a conversation.

An even more sound strategy is to provide tools within your website to let those people share your information in their chosen medium. There are numerous tools that will let users push your information into blogs, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, StumbleUpon and many other social media outlets. Their endorsement or ownership of your information is much more effective than you tooting your own horn.

Engage blogs that are discussing your topic. Bloggers are a great resource with a built in readers and networks. They are also great areas for you to provide comments and feedback, as well as links back to where they can find more information on their topic of interest.

Bring the conversation to you. Another under-utilized tool is controlling the conversation. Have the forum on your own website. Provide analysis of your information and let your visitors provide feedback that can be seen on the site. Users love to see their name on sites and will drive people to the site to see their contributions. Likewise, build sections on your site where you can quickly post images or information relevant to a topic, archives of key conversations, provide lists of people who have interests in the topic or link to great blogs on the topic.

Another powerful way to control the conversation is to create a group—not necessarily about just your brand, but more broadly on your topic. That way you are the conversation starter. You are the owner of the conversation. You are the home team where the conversation is taking place.

How do you control the conversation that reaches beyond your website?

On the chance that the conversation is happening without you, or the conversation is getting away from you, you need to engage. Countless social media wildfires have been extinguished by simply letting people know that you are listening. When bad things are being said related to your brand or topic, follow the participants in the conversations. You do not necessarily have to correct them or say they are wrong, but let them know you are listening and that you are engaged in the conversation. Most people will change their tone when the conversation becomes two-way.

How do you create new conversation?
The easy and obvious way is to post a question to your audience. Let them tell you about your topic and you can clarify key points. But the objective here is that you are getting your audience to have a conversation about your topic in front of their networks.

But, what about reaching beyond the conversation starter? How do you reach into traditional media metrics?

You cannot forget the “media” portion of social media. An increasing number of traditional journalists are monitoring and engaging in social media as a part of their reporting. Additionally, an increasing number of citizens are engaging in citizen reporting. Social media is a transitional area between traditional journalism and new media.

To help ease this transition, tools like the social media release are becoming increasingly popular among social media communicators. The social media release combines aspects of traditional press releases, but also incorporates new aspects of social media, including relevant microblogs, blogs, sound, images, video, bookmarks and other related streams. The social media release provides resource for web content, print content, audio content and video content. It gives new media and traditional media journalists resources and comfort alike.

The easier you make it for the writer to make the story, the better your results will be—plain and simple. An increasing number of companies engaging in social media are creating social media “newsrooms.” These newsrooms house all the resources that new and traditional journalists need to write the story. One powerful tool that is emerging is PitchEngine, which builds and indexes the newsroom for you. Not only do resources like PitchEngine create a central, searchable repository for social journalism resources, it also feeds the information to more traditional search engines so that your resources are highly visible among the most common search media.

So, now you have your tools to find people, your audience, your objectives, your media, and your messages, why aren’t you engaged? A common fear is that you’ll mess up. You will mess up. It happens in traditional journalism, it happens in public relations, it happens in social media.

Fortunately, the Internet is a dynamic medium and you can clean up or come clean about your errors. But, even beyond the biggies—insulting your audience, misinformation, and technical faux pas, there are other common mistakes that you can make with social media, including:
  • Insisting on being the source: One of the biggest mistakes in social media is that the people engaging in social media want to be the source. You do not have to be the source to engage in a social media campaign. You simply need to provide people with the information and resources that they need to have a conversation on your behalf.
  • Forgetting social media is SOCIAL: Not everything has to be on message. Again, this is social media. People are sharing. Social media is a conversation. Participate in the conversation. If everything you post is on topic, you are not really engaging in the social aspect of social media.
  • You won’t always win: You can’t control the New York Times and you can’t control a blogger. People will say what they want. People have their own agendas. All you can do is provide your information accurately.
  • Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill: If a person with 5 followers badmouths your topic, don’t give them more attention than they deserve. Your simple acknowledgement of them draws attention to their message and most likely doubles their followers.
So, now you know enough to be dangerous. Get out there and engage social media. This is by no means a comprehensive guide. In fact, it’s the tip of the iceberg. But, social media is fluid and there are things that you will learn as you go along. This is just enough to get you engaged and begin learning from your own experience.

Feel free to contact me with any questions. After all, this is social media and feedback is part of the process! If you have any interest, let me know, maybe I'll take it to another level and write some more.