Saturday, January 24, 2009

One Company's Consideration of Social Media Policies

Questions about how far companies should take formalization of social media policies have been discussed in marketing and social networking circles lately. Often, the answer returned is, “It depends on the company.”

To add context to the conversation, let’s consider a hypothetical example from a made-up company:

CoolCo is a mid-sized consumer electronics company. In addition to its marketing strategy, which includes customer communities and social media, several CoolCo employees maintain their own blogs and have a significant presence on social networking sites, where they identify themselves as CoolCo employees.

While CoolCo’s managers recognize the upside to leveraging these communities for brand pervasiveness, they also have a number of concerns about potential adverse impact of these media, from the employee who communicates information in a manner that is off-message to inappropriate or inaccurate comments.

CoolCo’s decision: to embrace social media and formalize an education program for its employees around the legalities and etiquette around use of public domain as well as corporate messaging and product training.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Weathering the Storm: Skill Up During a Recession Without Going Broke

Look on any popular career site and you’ll likely find at least one article advising you to update your skills, thereby increasing your marketability, during tough economic times.

Many of these articles go on to recommend new academic degrees and/or certificate programs. This makes a lot of sense if the job or skill you are looking to obtain requires this or if you are looking to make a career change.

But what about those who wish to enhance what they can offer their current positions, or to make themselves more marketable within their chosen professions, and cannot afford the time away from their day jobs or the added expense of taking classes?

Opportunities to expand your horizons abound in many ways. Here are just a few:

  • Use networking tools at your disposal to seek tips and advice. These include Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn, among others. In addition to joining conversations with individuals in your field, you can also engage with forums, groups and associations on these sites.
  • Participate in your company's internal training program. Many offer online courses as an alternative. If your company doesn't offer formal education/training, don't let that stop you from learning. Reach out to someone at work who has the knowledge you desire. Afterward, pay it forward by training someone else.
  • Arrange a skill swap with friends/colleagues.
  • Research resources available through industry associations.
  • Peruse lecture notes, instructional videos, etc. online from colleges/universities that offer these materials for free, such as MIT OpenCourseware
  • Good old fashioned search is also very relevant. A lot can be gleaned from product reviews, blog posts, company literature, online news, etc.
  • Read about your topic, and then find someone (at work, online, in your network)--or better yet, a group of people--with whom you can discuss what you've read. Concepts gel much better this way, and you're likely to pick up new ideas by virtue of the conversation and collaboration.

Above all, approach the task with full intentions of enjoying the process. Remember what we learned in school as youngsters--learning can be fun.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned in a Social Media Community

As many of us go through the common New Year’s ritual of reflection on the past year and goal-setting for the next, I have been contemplating some of the standout lessons I’ve learned in 2008 by participating in online communities and social networks. There are too many to list in a blog post. What stood out for you?

Credits: The reason you will not see links sourcing particular blogs is that these notes stem from recollections over online conversations, tweets, discussions at industry events (and related blog posts and tweets), online discussions and debates, Q&A forums, videos, etc. Many of the ideas developed and grew in several locations. Therefore, my source citation is everyone with whom I have conversed, collaborated, and corresponded over the last year--in other words, my social network. You.

There is no such thing as a social media “expert”. The social media mix is dynamic and differs for every business and person. The fact that I cannot pinpoint any single source to cite for this post makes this point. Isn’t this the spirit of community?

When it comes to community, interaction is key. This means human interaction. Not bots and auto DMs. And not incessant promotion.

Social networks are all about being social and networking (go figure). The quickest way to become unfollowed and unfriended is to join a network solely to advertise. People will engage in your business within context of the community discussion and will be interested in what you have to say if you say something that interests them.

Yes, social media ROI can be measured. But consider what you mean by “return” and by “investment.” Don’t look for an immediate influx of leads the day you launch an online community or join Twitter. And don’t expect to run a social media program like you would a traditional marketing program that can begin and end within a month or quarter.

Inbound marketing is powerful. It does not have to be expensive. One size does not fit all.

Content is still king. One of my b-school professors used to caution students about the difference between a contribution and a comment. This holds true for content as well. There is a lot of content out there. Make sure yours is awesome.

It is not a game of numbers. The best bloggers blog because they are passionate about what they write, even when no comments are posted to their blog. People who get the most out of Twitter do so because they stay engaged with conversations, and focus on who they are following, without concern for how many followers or friends they have.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. So thank you to all the members of my many communities for a great year of collaboration and sharing. Happy 2009!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Proud to be a Tweep

“Twitter is for wicked big losers.” Someone actually posted this exact statement as a comment on my Facebook page today.

Pretty silly, right? But it did make me think…should I try to educate this person about Twitter? Should I start listing the stats on people and businesses who have taken to Twitter? Not necessary.

The many merits of Twitter can be found on countless websites and blog posts. We are all free to use it or not. I choose to use it because it provides a contact vehicle into a group of people who have, in a short time, already made a tremendous impact on my personal and professional experience.

Ironically, my next blog post was planned as a list of key takeaways from 2008 gained from my social networks.

OK. I have a pretty thick skin and have dealt with much worse than being called a wicked big loser. And I cannot help but picture kids on a playground sticking their tongues out and singing, “Twitter is for wicked big losers.”…to which I suppose my line should be something like, “sticks and stones will break my bones….”

Kidding aside, this vast generalization got me thinking about how I would break it down further.

Here goes. I am a friend; a sister; a spouse; a daughter; a colleague; a blogger; a manager; an employee; a marketer; a neighbor; a music-lover; a technologist; an aunt; a mentor. I enjoy reading, presenting, singing, and seeing new places. I work a lot, so it’s a good thing I love marketing. I like red wine. I like meeting new people. I like cars. My preferred means of communicating is through storytelling. I care what my friends think. I have two dogs. And yep, I’m a Tweep!

As I drafted this mini-bio, it came to me--the very simple reason I use Twitter or any other social networking tool. We all have stories, backgrounds, and interests that feed into the community and impact our perspectives. Through interactive community involvement, we all get to experience the best of these from each other. And from that we grow.

Sounds like a wicked big winning proposition to me.