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Social Media Breakfast: Content Rules with C.C. Chapman

By Alexandra Reid

C.C. Chapman, co-author (along with MarketingProfs’ Ann Handley) of Content Rules, kicked off his book tour at Social Media Breakfast in Ottawa this morning. Though just a tad bleary eyed at 7:30am, I was very excited to meet the man who creates the content that I read and listen to quite regularly online, and to receive a copy of his new book, which hit shelves in the US just over a week ago and has not yet formally arrived in Canada.

Chapman, also the founder of Digital Dads and host of the podcast Managing the Grey, proclaims that he is the “most open and friendly guy in the world,” and I believe him. He was bouncing with enthusiasm throughout the entire presentation and humbly gave us members of the audience an open invitation to interrupt him at any time to ask our questions. I took a lot of great lessons from his presentation, and I’m happy to share them with you here. Chapman made a point to say that we don’t have to follow these rules religiously, but that we should just consider them while we create our content. He says this is why he opted against his publisher’s recommendation that he put an exclamation mark after “Content Rules,” as readers would likely construe this work as a prescriptive set of rules to follow when, in fact, that title is meant to convey that content is king and there’s a best practices approach to developing awesome content. Here are some pointers:

1. Embrace that you are a publisher

All of the tools that you need to create great content are available at your fingertips, so use them. Remember that content is so much more than just writing, blogging and video. You can publish pictures on Flickr, record podcasts and direct people to other newsworthy material in your industry, for example.

2. Insight inspires originality

You have a story to tell and no one knows it better than you. Also, if you start creating content without a story, no one will care. Teaching others how to tell good stories in various ways is difficult because there are no right answers and context and perception shift continually. Use experiences from your own life to channel your own voice.

3. Build momentum

During the content creation process, keep in mind both the elements of a story and the tools that encourage people to share and keep coming back for more. For example, if you are writing about an event, be sure to link to similar events or other things happening in and around your community. Get other people excited about what you have to say by getting excited about it yourself. Asking yourself why it matters to you is a great place to start.

4. Speak human or just be yourself

This is the simplest yet easiest rule to forget, says Chapman. Buzzwords, while sometimes significant, actually distract audiences from the real message of your content. The key is to be honest and direct. If your brand or business is in crisis mode, you’ve got to talk to people on a human level to build the trust back.

5. Re-imagine, don’t recycle

Creating unique and interesting content takes time and planning. Chapman advises us to start a content strategy on something small coming up, such as an event or product launch. Measure it closely to see if you are getting the results you are looking for. If what you are doing works, build on it. Ask yourself why you are doing something and how you are going to measure success. There is no silver bullet approach that will make you successful.

6. Share or solve, don’t shill

Don’t pimp your products and services. Help people instead. Create content that solves a problem that people can get excited about. This builds up trust and encourages people to remember you when they need help in the future.

7. Show, don’t just tell

This is a core storytelling technique that upholds the age-old saying that “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” People are much more likely to believe you if you prove it to them. Don’t just tell people that everyone loves your product or service; show them somebody who is genuinely happy because you helped them solve a problem.

8. Do something unexpected

Figure out what would surprise your audience, and do it. Whether you’re being fun or just plain silly, you can really capture your audience if you know what tickles their funny bones, captures their hearts or gets their minds cranking. If you do this well, you prove to your audience that you know what makes them tick.

9. Stoke the campfire

You have to keep fueling the content fire for your audience or they will go elsewhere when it gets dark. Think long term here. While building a bonfire may work temporarily (think viral videos), people won’t hang around once the fire runs out and it will be a lot harder to convince them to come back.

10. Create wings and roots

Do not depend on rented land like social media platforms because they could all go away tomorrow. Make sure you own your own property. To be safe, put your blog on your website and then set up your outposts on social media sites. Just look at the recent case of Tumblr‘s outage to see how everything can go haywire.

11. Play to your strengths

Figure out what you’re good at and what you’re passionate about. Don’t just feed the beast. Building online communities around your content is a long-term commitment, and things could go very wrong if you run out of good content.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share them here.

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Be prepared to be wildly successful

By Alexandra Reid

Michelle Kostya, RIM’s go-to person for social media support, offered this fresh advice during her speech last night at Third Tuesday in Ottawa. With the introduction of smart phones, RIM has evolved passed its traditional siloed approach to customer service and marketing to be able to listen to and support today’s social media savvy consumers. To successfully engage with millions of RIM enthusiasts and critics in the fast-paced and potentially dangerous world of social media, RIM had to set out clear objectives, guidelines, processes and defined roles as it integrated and organized these two departments. By making RIM accessible and transparent, Kostya and her team have set themselves up for long-lasting social media success. Here are a few pointers from Kostya:

1) Start with a strategy and pilot project

RIM did not bite off more than it could chew at the outset of its social media activities. Instead, Kostya and her team began by laying out a thorough strategy that defined their objectives, rules for engagement, processes and roles. Objectives included reducing call volumes by empowering customers to find the answers where and when they wanted while also building brand loyalty and better users. To allow social media processes to flow between marketing and sales, they charted the workflow and review processes between departments and established specific roles within each department. To ensure rules for engagement were consistently followed, they recruited a social media customer-service team whose members were selected based on communications skills, social media interests and technical support abilities and then trained according to RIM’s social media guidelines.

Kostya and her team did not roll out all their social media activities at once; instead, they introduced their strategy bits at a time, beginning in 2008 with their support community on Facebook. They waited a full year before launching RIM’s first blog, Inside BlackBerry, and its Twitter handles @BlackBerry and @BlackBerryHelp. In 2010, they expanded RIM’s blog reach by including a help blog and boosted their Twitter presence by offering communications in Spanish.

Kostya and her team measured this entire process. Each week, they produced reports outlining what they were doing right and wrong, what they learned and how they planned to do better the following week. As a result of their well-planned efforts, RIM has received increasingly positive feedback from its communities, which today include millions of fans, friends and followers across dozens of social media platforms.

2) Build the buzz

It’s all about expanding the BlackBerry love, says Kostya. To get people talking about BlackBerry on social media, Kostya and her team held several social media events. For example, they set up a booth at BlogWorld where they offered free giveaways and a battery-exchange for people whose BlackBerries had run out of juice. The result of this event was about 400 Twitter mentions about the brand.

To build excitement about their new products, Kostya and her team carried out social media pre-launches, parties and events. For example, for the launch of the new BB6, Kostya and her team set up a #BB6 hashtag on Twitter to get people talking about the new device. They also interviewed the product manager for a blog post on BB insider. Once people had bought the device, they offered tips and tricks on all accounts including Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

3) Delight your community

Kostya says consistent communication with their community has been integral to their social media success. To delight their community, they bring all feedback directly to the right people within the company who respond in a timely manner. They also speak to their community and give them reasons to stay by offering them information and products and by teaching them ways in which they can help support their own communities. Kostya says they also like to surprise people by reaching out to them first when they have questions or issues, offering them gifts and bringing their biggest online fans together to meet in person.

What do you think of Kostya’s advice? Did you attend the event and come up with any additional insights?

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Building an online community is like building a gingerbread village

By Alexandra Reid

Some people have called me the Grinch because I wait until December before I start getting all Christmassy. I don’t buy a tree, string lights, buy presents, play Christmas music, eat pumpkin pie or drink eggnog until the 12th month dawns. I’m sorry if I sound like a downer, but Christmas decorations look depressing when they droop outside in November rain and hearing songs like, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” and, “Have a holly jolly Christmas,” playing in shopping malls as early as September drives me crazy. (It’s a short drive, I know). I’m not saying that I don’t like Christmas. In fact, I love Christmas. I just think that everything has its time and place and getting fanatic about our biggest holiday before its time has come dilutes its marvel and meaning. It’s curious how the one-day Christian holiday and the gathering of friends and family became an excuse to produce lame Christmas albums and go on three-month-long shopping marathons.

However, my Grinchy heart grew three sizes yesterday as December 1 chimed in the time to be festive and trumpet my Christmas spirit. I’m an arts and crafts nut with an assiduous sweet tooth so my beau suggested we build a gingerbread village as a merry display for our dining room table. We ate candy and built, licked icing glue from our fingers and designed for hours, until we created the vision you see alongside.

Naturally, the creative process of building this gingerbread village got my  mind churning. I thought to myself time and time again, “Wow, building this gingerbread village is so similar to building an online community!” Here’s why:

Patience and practice equal perfection

As I said, this gingerbread village took us hours to create. We considered what candy would be used for the rooftops, skating rink, pathway and ground; where they would go and in what combination. Each piece had to be held in place for a number of minutes to dry.

Building an online community through social media takes a lot more time than just a few minutes. It can take months and even years. You have to put a lot of thought and consideration into each person with whom you connect, how you will engage them and how you will strengthen your relationship to them. This process is ongoing, and so requires a great deal of patience. Connections can grow slowly when you are new to social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn, but if you put in the time and social effort, you will grow a good community. The key is to never give up.

Real is always better

We used dark and white chocolate almond bark from a local chocolatier to build the pathway and rock gardens. All the candy was selected to be as fresh as possible. Sadly, we didn’t have the resources at hand to bake our own gingerbread, but it’s something I hope to do next year, because real is always better.

It is important to remember this while you build your communities. Discover your own voice and be loyal to it to show others that you are a real human being. People are naturally attracted to others who are genuinely interested in the conversation so be personable and express real life experiences and opinions that bring value to the subject matter.

The best bring together a mixed bag of colourful and fun flavours

We used 14 different kinds of candy to bring this gingerbread village to life, including liquorish, gummies, multicoloured and multiflavoured chewy and rock candies, crystallized white, red and green sugar, and dark and white chocolate. Yum!

When socializing in online networks, always keep an open mind and open invitation to people with various perspectives, opinions and backgrounds in order to grow a dynamic community. Diverse voices drive great conversations as they can offer perspectives others may never have considered otherwise. As in any social situation, you are bound to cross paths with a bad apple. While criticism is vital for personal and professional growth, harsh language and personal attacks should never be tolerated. Keep your community clean and fun by packing it with constructive people.

They are both gifts to be shared

I’d likely end up very ill or in hospital if I tried to eat this whole gingerbread village alone, so I plan to share it with company later in the month.

In social media, you will be most successful if you share intelligence, advice and experiences with others in a reciprocal manner. Talking solely about yourself is not social. Instead, ask others their opinions on certain issues to drive discussions. Acknowledge others when they have accomplished something and share information about happenings in your marketplace or in your community. You will have a much easier time growing your community when others see that you are sharing the space.

Those are my observations. Do you have any other ideas, or perhaps gingerbread tales of your own?

Grinch photo from: The Invisible Seductress

A snake-oil marketer’s advice on how to use Twitter for business

By Alexandra Reid

There are many people out there “doing Twitter” for business which is encouraging other people to “do Twitter” for business too. As Twitter is still relatively new, a lot of these people don’t have the slightest clue of what they should really do to grow a community that is engaged around their brands. To get some help, they turn to a snake oil marketer who sells them a “secret formula for Twitter success.” The package includes an automation system equipped with full spamming capabilities, auto-follow and sure-fire steps for shameless self-promotion. They are instructed to blast hyperbolic, unsolicited promotional material, use @Reply and Direct Messages to spam their following and otherwise demonstrate to the Twittersphere that they are, beyond any doubt, anti-social robots.

Want to get people to click the “unfollow” button fast? Want a short-term, low-interest Twitter following? How about a very bad reputation with little chance of recovery? Follow these simple unsteps from the snake oil marketer.

1. Be an anti-social robot spammer

Nothing screams, “I’m anti-social” like an automated Direct Message. If you’re really keen on putting off your followers, construct an automated Direct Message like, “have a Rockstar Day, drink Rockstar,” or “check out my Facebook marketing page.” These are both real messages sent to me by followers that resulted in instant unfollows with no chance of refollowing. For an extra layer of spam jam, you could also send untargeted DM’s of links to your products and services.

2. Show people how much you don’t care

If you really want to limit your chances of socializing, chose an avatar that says, “I’m a weirdo.” If you’re using a picture of your face, make sure it looks tired, crooked and uninterested. Having the eyes half closed or the mouth frozen in mid-sentence can go a long way in ranking you at the top of the anti-social list. If you’re using a business logo, stretch it till it’s fuzzy and then crop it poorly to make it seem like you don’t know what you’re doing, and therefore by default, what you’re talking about. Also, always use the default Twitter background. Using services such as Themeleon are a waste of time.

Build up a really bad reputation for your brand by Retweeting the same poorly-crafted automated messages on a time schedule. If you’re Tweeting a sponsored link, be sure to not tell anybody as to increase the chances of them clicking on it and bouncing back from the site. After all, nothing says, “I’m a thought-leader who cares about your business” more than sharing generic information and leading your followers to spammy or unsecure sites.

3. Tout your own horn like you’re a one-person marching band

Talking solely about yourself is repulsive in any social situation, so what better way is there to turn off your Twitter following than to shamelessly talk about yourself? Talking to people about their interests doesn’t sell your products and services, right? Neither do pointing out or promoting interesting advancements and achievements of other businesses and individuals in your marketplace or community. So why bother? Your marketing dollars should be spent wisely on packing your Twitterstream with automated messages about your own business’s achievements. Every nice Tweet written about you should also be Retweeted so it shows up in your Twitterstream so you can trick your followers into thinking you’re popular.

When you talk about yourself, don’t ask questions or offer advice. Only talk about your products and services. If you absolutely must share something personal, make sure you take up space in the Twitterstream with something boring like the weather in your city, what you had for breakfast or a generic greeting like “good morning Twitterverse!” Personable messages take time and engaging your following is never worth the ROI. If you come across some good information from another source, Retweet it without giving credit. The person will never know you stole their material anyways.

4. Ignore people if they reach out to you

If someone reaches out to your business on Twitter about a problem with your products or services, you should ignore them and pretend it never happened. If you further the discussion on Twitter, others will know that you acknowledge that your business is having problems. If you ignore it, people will stop talking about it completely. If the regular person who answered Twitter messages is away sick or on holiday, it offers you justification to ignore it until he or she gets back. If you are forced to respond, it is wise to spend a few days choosing the exact words to craft the perfect answer to the problem. Say something like, “we are looking into it,” or “call our toll-free business number for service,” or “visit our website for answers.” Never say you are sorry because you will admit fault. Never offer a discount or a refund because you will lose money.

Of course, as I said at the beginning of the post, this is advice from the snake oil marketer, not inmedia. Here, we advise our clients to do the exact opposite, to reach out to their followers, build communities and engage them daily with interesting information from their marketplace, other Twitter users (with credit), and only occasionally from their own businesses. However, businesses are really following the snake oil marketer’s advice! I see it every day and am repulsed by it, which is why I felt it necessary to write this post. I’ll write up another about what business should really do if they want to be successful on Twitter at a later date.

Photo: Conversation Marketing

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A million new users in nine days: Get your business on LinkedIn right now!

By Alexandra Reid

My colleague Linda turned me onto an excellent PR blog called the Bulldog Reporter’s Daily Dog where I now spend a considerable amount of time reading up on news, tips and opinions about our industry. Yesterday, while scrolling through the feed, I stumbled upon some astonishing news that LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner shared with the publication about his networking company. According to Weiner, LinkedIn “now has 85 million users – and the latest one million signed up within the last nine days.”

Holy Shnikes Batman! LinkedIn is growing…and fast!

Every second, LinkedIn adds a new user with about half of all new accounts being created outside North America. If you haven’t yet created a company profile for your business on LinkedIn, you’d better do it right now, or your competitors will beat you to the potential customers in your marketplace.

Setting up a company profile is relatively simple, and your business will reap multiple rewards ranging from improved customer relations to better SEO ranking and heightened brand awareness. The trick is putting in the time to do it right. The best way to promote your company on LinkedIn is by using all the tools available and regularly participating in active discussion forums on the platform.

Here at inmedia, we’ve now helped a few clients get properly set up on LinkedIn. Here’s a quick summary of our best-practices approach to doing so.

1. Be professional

Because LinkedIn is excellent for SEO, it is likely that your company profile will receive noticeably increased web traffic within the forum, through search engines and through your company website, if you chose to link to your company profile through a LinkedIn widget. For these reasons, it is imperative that your profile looks professional. We counsel our clients to keep the following factors in mind:

Company overview: Spend time brainstorming and writing your company overview to appeal to your intended LinkedIn audience. Your “about us” section from your website can be used as a good starting point but because LinkedIn is a social site, you should also consider using this space to explain your company from a different vantage point, namely the customer’s. While consistency and basic facts are important, you should hone in on why the person reading your profile should care about your products and services. Be personal and inviting as well as professional in your language use. Also note that there is a 200 minimum and 2,000 maximum character limit.

Company logo: Include one next to your company overview to help people recognize and remember your business. I’ve personally seen a number logos on company profiles that appear stretched and off-colour. You should use a picture-editing program to refine your logo before publishing it on your profile.

2. Research competitive specialties

Many LinkedIn users search for information by keyword. To improve your business’s results, your company profile should include well-researched and competitive specialties that reflect your business’s offerings. For example, if your business is in the manufacturing sector, include specialties that are specific to the type of manufacturing your business does, instead of simply listing “manufacturing,” a generic term that will put your business up against every other manufacturing business on LinkedIn. You should also note that although LinkedIn offers 20 spaces for specialties, there is a 256-character limit for the total number of specialties listed. Researching and developing such a list is a time-consuming undertaking that our clients have been happy to have us do for them.

3. Use LinkedIn aggregated data

LinkedIn can pull data about your business from all around the site, including key statistics, job listings and links to the profiles of all current and former employees, new hires and recent promotions. LinkedIn also analyzes businesses and the connections employees have on the network. For example, it will automatically calculate your business’s median age, top schools that most of your business’s employees attended, and other businesses to which it is well connected.

It is a good idea to include all aggregated information provided by LinkedIn on your company profile to encourage people to connect with you to ask about job opportunities, your business and industry information, among other inquiries. As your reputation grows on LinkedIn, more individuals will be inclined to engage with your business in Groups and Answers, discussed later in this post.

4. Make use of the new Products & Services feature

Earlier this month, LinkedIn unveiled the new Products & Services feature for company profiles to give members “rich, credible insights into how any given product (or service) is perceived by their fellow professionals.” Through this feature, professionals can make recommendations about your business’s products and services, which are showcased on your company profile. Each time a LinkedIn member endorses your products or services, their recommendation becomes visible to all of their connections and could spread virally. These recommendations can help promote your business and build its credibility.

6. Include the “Mentioned in the News” section

Mentions of your business in the news should be shared on the company profile to keep people informed of advancements and achievements. Sharing these stories of success will promote your business’s reputation as an industry leader and encourage people to connect with you for discussion and business opportunities. It is best to keep these headlines current and from third-party sources and ensure that there are no repeats.

7. Follow other companies

There is ample opportunity for your business to follow and be followed by partners, suppliers and customers on LinkedIn. Connecting with companies through following and being followed is beneficial to your business because it helps build rapport between industry members and shows others that you value community building.

8. Participate in Groups and Answers

Answers are active conversations on the platform about a particular issue. A question is posed and then users can respond and participate in the discussion. Asking and answering questions are good ways for you to attract professionals to your company profile, establish a thought-leadership position for your business and also keep a finger on the pulse of the industry.

Groups are also active conversations on the platform about particular issues. Professionals can ask questions, make statements or post content to drive discussions. Starting and participating in discussions are great ways to attract professionals to your company profile, engage with your marketplace and build an active network on the platform.

There are multiple reasons why getting your business on LinkedIn is important, now more than ever. What are your best practices for B2B companies interesting in getting onto LinkedIn?

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