Summer is Social

In the effort to maximise my social impact and effectiveness, I will be focusing on my off-line social networks and developing curriculum during the Summer. I will be interviewing a lot of interesting people on the impact of social media and social networks and their lives and their businesses/work. I hope to compile a few highlights for a weekly blog entry and will return to more frequent entries at the end of August. So please check back and read through previous entries for morsels of social optimisation for impact.

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Storytelling for Impact and Resonance

We are writing our own stories everyday, whether we take pen to paper, fingers to keyboard or tell it to a friend/ colleague. These are the stories that are woven into those of others. From individual letters to condensed newsletters, we evolved to the email and online newsletters. Creating websites and blogs and connecting through online communities spreads our stories to further corners of the globe. But, have the stories gotten lost? Do we remember to share how they impact our lives or others, rather than just the latest sales pitch or annual reports, what we ate for breakfast or what we are reading.

In pulling together the cases for my book, I am more determined than ever to tell the story from the impact perspective. How does social media effect our lives and our businesses. I am one individual with many roles which affect how I am impacted by any story. I, the shareholder, the executive, the speaker, the teacher, the developer, the social entrepreneur, the writer, the mother, the wife, the sister want to write a book that I would enjoy reading, that will resonate. I interview the people behind the case studies and hear the experiences and misadventures with social media and social networks. These speak to me with far greater resonance than the case studies. After all, “social” is about people. So, I am changing my strategy in collecting content. I will interview and collect stories of impact. These stories need to be shared. They are real. They impact our lives, our communities, our businesses and our futures.

Has social media or your involvement in social networking had an impact on you, your business and/or your community. Please tell me your story. Let me interview you to share it with others.

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Social Media Not Just Marketing & Socializing

Finding the holy grail of engagement in social media, we have to be ready to take it on whole heartedly. This means not just throwing a web page or fan page up or even creating a social platform for participants. It means interacting and “engaging” for the maximum effect. Think in terms of stakeholders/people/social. It means listening and speaking.

Why do we participate in LinkedIn and keep our profiles fresh? To represent ourselves accurately in the case of a referral or a request. Why do we participate in a group? Because it is of interest and stimulating. Otherwise we become “lurkers” in our interactions online. We log many hours but never leave a trace, besides a number in the Analytics (which might just as well register the time while I leave my computer on a webpage while I go to lunch).

Let’s look at several different forms and impact of engagement. First, PLAN!
What is the purpose? Is it engaging my consumers? Communicating with my shareholders? Selling something? Recruiting? Connecting remote teams? Define resources/time I have/wish to commit to it. In this case, let’s say, I create a blog and start by talking about my work and things that impact my business and what I think is interesting about it. Hmm, the analytics show low traffic. Promote it with tags relating to the posts on other related social media sites. Ok, good start, still not much though. Remember that someone needs to be interested. So write to your audience. Your strategy includes understanding who you are communicating with. Context delivers quality and increases interest.

The beauty of social media is that it is based on “user generated content” (UGC), that means there is a person behind it. Speak to the person and show that you are one too, in other words, respond. What you are building is TRUST and RELATIONSHIPS. This is not limited to the world of marketing, but to the sphere of people. People are your peers, shareholders, employees, clients, customers, members, designers and developers, testers, and more. They will be talking regardless. Become part of the conversation.

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Entrepreneurs on twitter

This is a response to a tweet from Furqan Nazeeri (@altgate) listing 67 entrepreneurs on twitter. I am afraid I am not very good at limiting myself in 140 characters, so I decided to write him an email and share it with my readers. I responded to his post as there were no women on his list. Naturally he responded asking for suggestions. In an effort to respond, I realised, yet again, that their presence is greatly lacking. I referred @ariannahuff, @maggiefox, @charleneli, @adrianne and @connectedwomen based on their quality of interactions.

Two things stood out to me. I am curious if others have seen these trends as well. Note: these are observations, not judgements, and very generalised. The first is that women entrepreneurs often focus on coaching and soft skills, leading to small businesses that don’t dare to think big. If they are on twitter they use it as a social update tool only or references to their own services only (which doesn’t encourage others to follow them). If this is the type of interaction, I can see why they might consider it a time drain without much ROI. I guess there is a lot of work to be done.

The other trend I observe here is that twitter is still perceived very much an American toy to the rest of the world. I looked through my list of who I follow (keep in mind I only follow based on context of social media optimisation and social entrepreneurship) and the vast majority were US west coast based. Some of the women entrepreneurs that I thought would be an obvious hit in terms of twitter, didn’t have a presence at all (ie. Julie Meyer of Ariadne Capital and Stina Honkamaa of Google Sweden, link in Swedish) or they only had a social one.

Entrepreneurs need to capture, listen and interact with their audience. If done effectively, participating on twitter with a strategy as part of overall strategy, will have a positive ROI. Twitter etiquette by Julie Niesen is a good place to start. The playing field is level, let’s keep it that way. Thanks Furqan for sparking the question. I will continue my quest to support and share the stories of those who are succeeding as well as to encourage best practice for those who’ve just begun. Please feel free to send me ideas.

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Jason Goldberg on R&D and Social Media×314/swf
This is a powerful example of how we should be developing our strategies to incorporate social media in all stages in the future. Social media is not just for marketing and brand building.

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Jason Goldberg on RandD and Social Media

Jason Goldberg speaks on “Ship It” concept.

This is a powerful example of how we should be developing our strategies to incorporate social media in all stages in the future. Social media is not just for marketing and brand building. Unfortunately this will not embed in my wordpress blog due to the host of the video. But I highly recommend taking a moment to follow the link and watch this piece.

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Social Optimisation

People are what make things social. Our interactions with people are online, off-line, in the office, board room, and classroom, with our clients, shareholders, customers, friends and family. So, let us not mix up the terms “social media optimisation” and “social optimisation.” Social media optimisation is about maximising the positive impact while minimising the effort when using social media channels for communications with people on-line. Social optimising includes the off-line relationships that are often (but not always) the foundation of these relationships and gaining the maximum mutual benefit from them. Where we are present for face to face interactions, or who we have shared history with can determine a great deal. The end result when we optimise is quality, improvement through learning and dialog, depth in mutual understanding and creation of sustainable relationships. The additional benefit is the we create more time to enjoy our successful relationships and ourselves: balance. Time is the ultimate return on investment (ROI) of social optimisation. Time is money, don’t waste it, enjoy it.

Whether you apply these terms to a corporate strategy or to your individual approach, the end results are the same. Optimising requires understanding what you want to achieve, your strategy, applying the best tools to communicate with your people (where are they already), creating a dialog, listening to the response, and maintaining your relationships. Social optimisation requires application of the three basic rules (REAL, RELATIVE and RESPECT) to create sustainable quality relationships that will benefit you whether you are social for recruiting, branding, R&D, team building, selling or just keeping in touch with friends. In the end the “social” comes down to the person at the other end.

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Social Media is Good Business

After a series of rather heated discussions on this topic, I felt it was time to put the words down on paper (or at least my version of paper, save a tree). It is mistake to think that social media is just about marketing and the social media optimization is only about building more traffic. Without even realizing it, many companies both big and small are using social media in all areas of their business practices with a very positive effect. Why do they not realize it? Because, social media and networks in general are being used by “users” who work for them as tools that optimize their work. Either way, it is still quality of the interactions that result in optimisation not quantity.

For example, most human resources departments commence by doing the simple Google search to learn more about a potential employee before they interview. This will lead them to other social media interactions like a blog or profile listing on LinkedIn and Facebook and on other sites. This practice has become standard in the first stage of reinforcing that which stands on their application, or weeding out individuals who will not fit with the company culture.

Imagine this chain for recruitment using twitter as a starting point: twitter search for subject matter expert on “socialmedia” –> See several posts by same person and follow link to their profile –> On their profile more interesting entries so check out the website listed in profile –> Leads to blog with more interesting/relevant content –> Look at the profile on the blog for full name –> Check LinkedIn for profile –> See some of their presentation posted on SlideShare –> just the kind of candidate we are looking for –> Send them and inMail requesting a Skype talk –> Speak to get the real connection via voice and see if they are available (or if not have a referral to someone else) –> Follow them on twitter to see if they react publicly to the call. This of course could go many ways. But each one of these steps to could apply to any field and costs nothing other than the person’s time to follow through completely.

Product / Service development is another area in which the implementation of social media strategy can shorten the innovation cycle with direct consumer feedback. Whether B2B or B2C the end consumer is the one who needs to be satisfied. So, why not engage them in the process. Customer surveys have been done online for years. Now they can be integrated into conversations that are a true dialog. We can speed up development cycles by understanding our consumers’ needs based on conversations rather than assumptions.

Try this example for using social media for product development à a company is looking to create new flavors –> Create a Facebook Fan page for product –> Hold a contest for most popular innovative flavor using their product as a base –> Promote it on Facebook, homepage, twitter, blog and anywhere else they know their consumers are with a tag –> Let contestants submit YouTube videos, audio, images or text narrating their recipe and post to Fan page –> Create link to daily best of on twitter –> Allow other users to rate flavors based on new recipes using base product –> Invite best flavors to share and compete via video conference –> Invite active fans to join the video conference by voting –> The Fans choose the flavor (the engineers develop it to scale, and then offer the fans a chance to test it) –> See if they got it right, thank those active fans who took time to help by giving them free product and ask for feedback (repeat until get it right) –> These fans in turn will spread the word through their channels (twitter, Facebook, etc.) –> Let those great videos and other content become part of a virtual recipe station and fun viral compilation video build your brand afterwards. –> Keep ear to the ground on reactions via all social media channels –> Reward their efforts, creator of winning recipe gets free product. The sites I am using for examples here are simply that, examples. (Oh yes, and by the way you will build your brand in the process as a by-product)

These are just two examples of business areas. Imagine the impact if they coordinated these efforts and incorporated them into their enterprise or business strategy. Now, THAT is social media optimization. I am not recommending that your R&D or your HR departments become social media experts. What I am recommending is that they learn to listen and watch. Social media in its basic forms are simple to use. More and more tools are being created to optimize how we interact with social media so that it becomes less of distraction and more effective. It is these tools that should be focused on. Planning is critical. How can you best apply a social media strategy to increase effectiveness in your organization? That is social media optimization.

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