Social Media best practices


My Twitter Ah-Ha Moment

What did it take for you to “get” Twitter?

I was certainly in that vast number of people who resisted it.  The first tweet I ever received was “It’s 4 a.m.” … confirming that Twitter was indeed the stupidest thing I’d ever seen.

But then I had my ah-ha moment. I was bored at the computer one night and saw a trending topic for #NewFluName.  Mildly curious, I clicked to see what was happening.

Remember when the pork industry was having a fit about the swine flu?  It thought the name was hurting meat sales and asked the public to call it something else.  So hundreds of people on Twitter from around the world were coming up with HILARIOUS new names. Like …

  • The Aporkalypse
  • Porky’s Revenge
  • This little piggy went to the bathroom
  • Hog Flashes
  • Porkenstein
  • The Other White Flu
  • Mad Sow Disease
  • Hamageddon
  • … and my favorite, “Hamthrax”

Yes, it broke the monotony of my evening. But something more important happened. I realized that I was witnessing a real-time, global brain-storming session.  And it dawned on me that at no other time in the history of mankind could that kind of conversation take place.  It was an awesome moment, an inspiring moment.  I was finally starting to “get” Twitter.

Over the next several weeks I witnessed Twitter serve as a powerful news source during the revolutionary activity in Iran.  I made my first meaningful business connections.  And I began to realize that Twitter was probably the most interesting and compelling educational tool I had ever seen.

But when you come right down to it, I owe it all to Hamthrax.

I think everybody probably needs to have that ah-ha moment to get them over the top.  What was yours?  Did it happen in a flash or did it sneak up on you?

How do you push yourself out of your social media cage?

Where I live in East Tennessee black bears are a real fact of life.  Actually, that’s one of the reasons I’ve remained here. In 45 minutes, I can be hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where bears (and fresh air) are plentiful.

I heard this story about a bear cub that was rescued after her mother had been hit by a car. The cub was put in a temporary 12 x 12 cage by a wildlife rescue habitat until they could decide what to do with her. Day after day the cub just paced back and forth — from one end of the cage to the other — pining for her mother.

As the bear grew, they finally had a chance to transfer her to a more spacious structure. But the strangest thing happened.  No matter where the little bear was placed in the cage, she would still go exactly 12 feet and turn around, 12 feet and turn around.

Sometimes I feel like that cub.  I’m conditioned to the size of my “cage.”  Although my business environment is expanding day by day, I still pace those 12 steps, back and forth.

I’ll give you an example. Have you ever really tried to follow the technology news on Mashable?  I give these folks a lot of credit. They’ve built an excellent, comprehensive and entertaining news stream. Only problem is — it’s just too much. You could sit and read Mashable all day long.  So I stick my toe in, get discouraged, and return to my little cage.

Another example is the excellent Base One B2B purchasing study I wrote about last week.  It mentioned that purchasing professionals now spend about 30 minutes a week on industry-related social networks. It would probably be a good idea for me to branch out and explore some of those networks but after I read such a report, I generally turn to the next news item or blog post to discover what else I’m missing out on!

One of those news items might be the great changes being made to Tweetdeck. I’m a Seesmic kind of guy and can’t even bring myself to check out another platform because of the time it would take.

I know part of this is a matter of human bandwidth. We can only psychologically commit to so many technological platforms. But I’m afraid I’m limiting myself and perhaps falling behind on that all-important business and life skill of adaptability. How do you cope with this?

How do you sift and sort and figure out where to spend your time exploring innovations?

How do you maintain technological relevance, even in your narrow professional space?

How do you unleash your “bear?”

Illustration: www.bear.org

Why comment on a blog? Do it for the money.

Well, I’ve written two recent posts on why people DON’T comment on blogs — one about re-defining engagement, and one with feedback on why people just don’t like to participate.

So today I thought I would write a post on why you NEED to comment.  But I’m not going to go into boring blogger mode by listing “Five Reasons You Should Leave Blog Comments blah blah blah.”  Instead I want to show you how leaving comments can result in serious business and financial benefits for YOU.  And I’m not kidding.

You see, this is not about just writing a little note at the end of one of my articles.  This is about showing up and joining a powerful business network.

So I’m going to put my money where my blog is.  Let me demonstrate just a few ways how the people who engage on {grow} have benefited …

  • Gregg Morris was one of the first regular members of this community. We have become dear friends and he has become one of my paid technical consultants for my customers.
  • Steve Dodd is another amazing guy I’m sure you’ve seen around here. He helped me land one of my best customers and we continue to help each other on joint commercial opportunities.
  • Michelle Chmielewski did a company video for me and received a new HD camera from me for her work. Michelle and I have subsequently worked on many ideas together and I’m sure we always will.
  • I’ve provided new customer leads to Trey Pennington, Christina Kerley, Lisa Foote and many others.
  • Michele Linn has been a paid writer for me on one of my biggest customer projects.
  • I helped Nathan Dube push his company promotion into viral territory and the case study I wrote up on him is being used by Jason Falls in a seminar this week.
  • Billy Mitchell has become a great friend and I’m helping him develop a very important webinar for his company.
  • I’ve pitched in to help charitable causes that were important to Billy, Danny Brown, Kacy Maxwell and others.
  • I’m helping John Bottom with a social media experiment he’s conducting at an upcoming conference.
  • I’ve helped edit a new book coming out soon by Rebel Brown and we help each other on all kinds of problems.
  • I’ve provided free advice through phone calls and emails to DOZENS of people from {grow} and from time to time I’ve also called on my new blog friends to help me too.

I’m sorry if I missed you and your story … I could literally fill three blog posts with examples of the wonderful people on {grow} and how we help each other.

But you see this is just the beginning.  Because when you participate in {grow}, you’re not just connecting to me, you’re giving yourself a chance to connect to EVERYBODY.  I am seeing tons of new business connections among people who first met each other right here. And how did they do that?  They COMMENTED.  They ENGAGED.  And together we’ve formed a cool little help network of friends.

So why not get on board?  We need you here!  And don’t use “I have nothing to say” as an excuse.  Of course you have something to say, even if it’s “I appreciated Steve’s comment,” or “Something like that happened to me too,” or “Mark, you need to shut up now.”

Remember, you’re not just commenting on a blog, you’re joining this community of dynamic business professionals … and you never know what might happen!

So now tell me again, what’s the benefit of invisibility?

The silent majority: Why people don’t comment on your blog

“Why don’t I get comments on my blog?”

This is one of the most common blog-related questions I receive.  My recent post on re-thinking community engagement — especially on B2B blogs — received a lot of attention.  In addition to a vibrant comment section, I received emails, DM’s and phone calls with more ideas from the majority of folks who are meaningfully connected with companies and blogs, but don’t engage in a traditional sense.   I wanted to pass on some new  ideas on why comments may not be the best measure of “engagement,” especially for B2B companies, courtesy of the {grow} community:

Comparisons to traditional consumer behavior

Brian O’Kane and I had a lengthy Skype call on a range of topics, including the fact that most people just don’t feel comfortable commenting … on anything.

“Conventional businesses have no way of knowing how many engaged customers they have,” he said. “Think about traditional brands.  A very tiny percentage of people would actually write in to express their loyalty or displeasure with a brand yet they know they have thousands or millions of loyal consumers.  We somehow expect a higher degree of personal interaction with social media .  Because you blog or make a comment, you may expect people to comment too. But consumer behavior is still the same — most people are just happy to read and enjoy and be engaged that way. For me, I would be less concerned about the intensity of the level of engagement and more focused on the long-term business objectives.”

Engagement outside of the blog

In my post last week, I mentioned GE as a gold standard of corporate blogging but they rarely attract a reader comment.  GE’s Community Manager Megan Parker provided her take on why:

“For GE reports, we have an active and interested audience, and they tend to show us their enthusiasm or concern, as the case may be, when one of our stories really strikes a chord. We don’t have an expectation that people will comment daily or even routinely, but we do make the option to comment available every day. We’re currently fielding a survey about GEreports.com to understand what we’re doing well and not so well now that GER is about 18 months old (barely a toddler).

“We also do not look at GE Reports as just one site but more as a news and information “system” with key extensions on Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, email and RSS.  So the commenting, interacting, downloading and sharing extends beyond the orbit of GER.com and out into this constellation of sites from GE.”

Emotional connection without sharing

Josh Kashorek told me he has been reading {grow} for about a year but had never commented.  “I still feel engaged with {grow} while I’m merely a listener, ” he said. “I think it boils down to a combination of authenticity, and time. I know that sounds a bit cliche but I don’t think having an authentic voice is so much about standing out as it is about allowing readers build their own connections. The more you show me who you really are the more ways I can find that we are similar and the more similarities I find the more engaged I become. For example, we both have a strong focus on business/capitalism. This gets me more engaged because many in the social media space are still talking only about puppies and unicorns.”

Technology and policy hurdles

Jeremy Victor called me to say the post had him thinking and offered a very practical reason why comments are few and far between on B2B blogs: “Studies show that more than half of company employees aren’t even allowed to access the social web from their computers at work and  even if they can, they may not be allowed, or enabled, to comment.” So you need to consider your core audience — do they even have the ability to make a comment?

I would also add that competitive considerations may prevent many people from commenting on a company’s public blog site.

The empty restaurant

Brian compared one psychological aspect of commenting to walking into an empty restaurant.  Some would be more inclined to only take a seat if other people are there. Commenting in an empty comment section might be similar. You don’t want to be the only one putting your neck out.  It’s easier to add a comment when somebody else has been there.

… and the crowded restaurant

“Another reason I don’t comment is if I see too many comments, ” Brian said.  “I saw one of your blogs had 53 comments.  I figured if I commented, nobody will ever see it.”

These interactions, and your generous comments on the post last week, have helped change the way I look at engagement, especially on corporate blogs.  Like many of you, I’ve been guilty of falling into the “it’s all about the conversation” myth without stepping back and looking at practical business realities, traditional consumer behaviors, and other ways people can feel connected to a blog without the tangible presence of engagement.

What do you think?  Does this change your view of the social media “conversation?”

Illustration: Ciudadano Poeta
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