Is offline and online behavior really that different?

I am very excited about two different speaking engagements I have coming up: one in Miami to a group of bank compliance officers sponsored by World Compliance, Inc. on Wednesday, February 18 and another at St. Mark’s School in Southborough, MA on March 2. During both talks, I will try and shed some light on what all this social media stuff means but, clearly, they are geared to two very different audiences. One is a group of compliance officers from banks all over the world and the other is group of high school students at a Boston-area prep school who are getting ready to head to college and into the real world. (Full disclosure- I graduated from St. Mark’s in the 80s.)

It got me thinking, though, that in some ways the message will be exactly the same: online behavior. While many people attempt to segregate their online personas from their offline ones, it’s a losing battle. Life is life and everything is interconnected. This is even more true on the web, isn’t it? You are in control of how your appear online, but only to a certain degree. For example, you might not want to post pictures of your kids online. But you cannot really stop another parent from posting pictures from last weekend’s birthday party on their Facebook page, and tagging your kids. I’m not one of those who sees evil lurking around every corner. On the contrary- I have made many powerful connections and learned of many opportunities because of my presence online. But I would like to offer up a couple of suggestions to avoiding problems down the road because, as has been noted elsewhere, there is no “delete” button on the internet.

  1. Be nice. Words have power, so choose them carefully. The written word can be more easily misunderstood than the spoken one. Sarcasm and irony don’t often translate well. Especially in the truncated and often context-free world of Facebook updates and Twitter “tweets.”
  2. You never know where something you say might turn up. Gossip can spread fast through your offline social circle, but it can spread in the blink of an eye online. And maybe even to people you barely know. Always put your best foot forward- just like your mother tried to teach you. (Wearing clean underwear is less important online. To my knowledge, no one has ever been hit by a bus while blogging but, hey, it COULD happen, I guess.)
  3. You don’t know who might be following you via Twitter, your blog or other outward facing communications tool you might be employing. I choose to see this as a good thing, as I said, since I know I have received lots of great opportunities and made good connnections. But here’s an example of things going wrong. James Andrews, an executive at Ketchum New York posted the following tweet on his way to a client meeting with FedEx: “True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say ‘I would die if I had to live here'” Read what happened next.

The point I HOPE I’m making is that there is very little difference between the things you do and say offline versus online, so the same rules of the road ought to apply. The Washington, D.C. advice about “never put something in an e-mail that you would not want to see on the front page of the Post” is still true as we move beyond e-mail. Save yourself the embarrassment- speak the way you would like to be spoken to.

Have you ever had anything misinterpreted on the web? Have you ever said or posted something you wish you could take back? I hope this doesn’t come off as too negative or scary. It’s just something I’ve noticed a lot lately and I wanted to address it. Let me know what you think in the comments section.

The message is the message

For companies and organizations considering adopting new media or social media strategies, there is one piece of advice I would offer above all else: have something to say!

With all the talk in the media, and on this blog, about the Administration’s use of new media to both get elected and communicate with the public now that they’re in office, very often the news peg seems to be how well Obama team used social media and new media  to communicate their message to a large and previously underserved group. This morning on NPR, I heard a story that several GOP congresspeople were now using Twitter to talk to their constituents because, as the correspondent put it, they had “got beat [sic]” at the new media game.

What gets left out of this discussion is that perhaps the Obama MESSAGE was what resonated with people, and the whole social media thing was just a hook to communicate it better and mobilize people to act. Blogs, Twitter, YouTube, message boards- they’re all great. But they ain’t worth a damn if you don’t have anything of value or interest to communicate.

This is not a repudiation of the GOP platform. The point I am trying to make is you have to avoid the temptation to pick up every shiny new object and, instead, focus more on what it is you’re trying to communicate. There is no “delete” button on the internet, so you better make sure you are giving the folks “news they can use.” Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and all the TOOLS might all be gone in 5 years, replaced by something we cannot identify today. But the strategies and methods are here to stay.

Not sure if there are any Jim Rome fans who read this blog, but he is a TV and radio host who always warns his callers to “have a take- don’t suck!”

The medium is not the message. The message is the message.

Trouble figuring out your social media strategy?

So you’ve been hearing how social media can help with your overall communications and marketing plan and you want to get started. Maybe you’ve even got the boss to buy in and you’re beginning to see the opportunity to move the plan forward.

But it can be confusing knowing how to get started. You may even have technology issues. Or internal disagreements on messaging or who is going to manage the community. You think you got it bad?

At least you’re not the President of the United States!

The nimble and effective online netroots campaign that helped launch the Obama-Biden ticket into the White House is still feeling its way during the first days of the Administration. But the point of this post is not to point out the problems that they may be encountering as they try and turn what was a powerful campaign movement into an equally effective governing movement. But, rather, to illustrate that while the Obama team is operating on a scale larger than what you’re probably facing, the lessons are instructive to the rest of us, whether we run small, medium or large organizations or businesses.

Organizing for America is the Adminsitration’s attempt to redirect all that Facebook-Twitter-YouTube iTunes mojo into an opinion shaping entity. (No website yet for Organizing for America. I TOLD you this stuff can be hard!)

Just like in the “real world,” figuring out an effective social media strategy inevitably implies what some like to call “failing fast.” Not everything you will try will work right away, or work at all. But flexibility is critical. David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager said in an e-mail to around 13 million members of  “Obama for America” (notice how “Organizing for America” and “Obama for America” yield the same acronym? Clever, huh?) “This has obviously never been undertaken before, so it’s going to be a little trial and error.”

The weekly radio address is now also a weekly video address, and has been since Election Day. The YouTube channel, as of this writing, reports over 800,000 views in two days, with almost as many flame throwing and offensive comments. (The videos are also on iTunes, and probably lots of other places, too) Still, I wonder how many of you, even the most hardened politcal junkies, ever actually heard the weekly Presidential radio address since they began with FDR as “Fireside Chats?” (As a video guy, I have to mention the the quality of the videos have improved signifcantly from the President-Elect versions to now. Amazing what a couple of lights, a decent background and an HD camera can do for your image.)

The principal takeaways are these:

1- Starting, or in this case maintaining, an effective social media strategy is hard work and requires committment, dedication, attention to detail and continuity.

2- Be ready to shift on the fly if the law of unintended consequences kicks in. Just because something is not going how you planned, does not NECESSARILY mean it’s going badly. Your “perfect” strategy may be revealed as “imperfect” the second you launch it. Study the lessons and adjust.

Pay attention to the difficulties someone else is having, and use them to your advantage. But do SOMETHING. The success of your business may be at stake.

Marketing in 2009

In our ongoing effort to share resources that focus directly on social media, we wanted to direct your attention to this free eBook offered on the terrific Conversation Agent blog by Valeria Maltoni.

Twelve social media professionals talk about what they see as the key imperatives and trends for 2009, and it’s well worth downloading and referring back to all year long.

It’s free, yet it offers invaluable insight and advice.

What are you waiting for?

Did I mention it was free?

How to get started with your social media marketing strategy

We want to use the podcast as a complement to what we post here on the blog, as it allows us to dig down a little deeper, offer more advanced tips and practical information and it can be an alternative to those of you who prefer passive learning by listening.

In this episode, we wanted to direct your attention to a few great blogs, a couple of indispensable books and a brilliant website that, taken together or separately, will give great insight into the “hows” of implementing a social media marketing strategy.

Referenced resources:

Blogs- Jason Falls’ Social Media Explorer

Chris Brogan’s blog

Amber Naslund at Altitude Branding

Books- Groundswell and The New Rules of Marketing & PR

Website- Common Craft

Please go get the podcast in iTunes, or you can listen right here on the blog.

Download How to get started MP3

And please make sure to post your comments here on the blog. Was this useful for you? Too much information? Not enough?

Online video is an unstoppable force

Since we are video producers, we are partial to this kind of news:

comScore announced that US internet users watched 12.7 billion online videos in November 2008, up 34% from November 2007. That translates to 77% of users watching nearly 4 hours of video per month EACH with the average video duration being around 3 minutes. THAT’S OVER 90 VIDEOS PER MONTH FOR EVERY MAN WOMAN AND CHILD ON THE INTERNET, or
four videos a day. It boggles the mind.

Another recent survey says that 66% of marketers plan to implement online video into their 2009 plans. Uh…YEAH. You think?

Using social media to market your business or organization is more than setting up a Facebook page, as 59 of the top 100 US retailers have done, including BestBuy, Kohl’s and Wal-Mart. You need to connect with people and there is still nothing more powerful than the moving picture, whether it’s coming from your TV or, increasingly, your computer screen.

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: videos get shared, commented on and passed around endlessly. When was the last time you forwarded a banner ad to a friend?

How much video do you watch online? Has it changed your TV viewing habits at all?

Social Media Marketing and women of a certain age

There are a lot of misconceptions about social networking and social media, chief among them being that it is a domain reserved for 13-year olds endlessly texting each other while updating their Facebook status.

While this is demonstrably false, it’s not enough for me to say things like “demonstrably false” from my high horse. So consider this: eMarketer reported on a survey that showed 40% of 40-something women had a social networking profile. And the way to reach them was not by taking out ads on social networking sites, because they actively avoided them. Instead, engagement and more sophisticated marketing would be the key in reaching this influential group, as 70% of women with kids ages 13-17 had talked about products on social networks, connected with others, researched products, got their news or monitored their kids’ activities. In other words, THEY USE THE INTERNET!

Interestingly, women aged 45-54 make up a larger group of internet users than men of the same age.

Does this data surprise you? Do you fall into this demographic? If you are a marketer, what have you done to reach out to this key demo? Leave a comment and share your knowledge.

A new kind of Social Media Consultancy

As we head into 2009 on rather wobbly economic legs, I wanted to do my part to try and ease the anxiety that so many of us are feeling.

2008 proved to be a good year for our consulting practice here at Clearcast. My suspicion is that in this time of businesses contracting and looking for savings where they can find them, coupled with the ever increasing interest in social networking tools for business, 2009 will be busy, too. The pundits would have you believe that all business has completely ground to a halt, but we all know that is simply not so. Slow, yes. Stopped, of course not.

I will endeavor to make this blog more useful to those of you working in businesses or organizations that are trying to figure out how best to navigate the social web and extend their digital influence. We will continue to offer tips and useful information, as well as analyses of industry trends, and maybe even the occasional link to a cool program or funny video, just as we have always done.

I realized that a lot of you derived great value from our podcast, based on the number of downloads we received last year. I plan to make that an integral part of our overall offering, beginning with a new episode next week. If you’re new around here, head over to the “Podcast” channel over there on the right, or, better yet, subscribe for free in iTunes so you never miss an episode.

For your part, I would only ask that you participate in the comments section and help to shape the blog into something that is as laser focused and useful as possible. Post comments, send e-mail, follow me on Twitter, friend me up on Facebook- whatever way you find most comfortable to interact with me. (All the relevant links are also over there on the right…)

Social networking is an additive element to your overall marketing plan. It is not the be all and end all. But it IS vitally important to understand the tools and their implementations, so let us help you.

Here’s to defying all the predictions for 2009. It can be a great year for all of us.

Echoing some thoughts on the social media echo chamber

The blogs written by Jason Falls and Chris Brogan are ones that I quite enjoy, and are well worth checking out. (Jason is the Director of Social Media for a Lousiville-based brand building firm called Doe-Anderson and Chris works for Cross Tech Media in Boston, advising companies on how to use social media to build relationships and deliver value.) It’s probably not a coincidence, but they each recently posted about similar topics: How marketers and PR people can best advocate for the incorporation of social media tools into a client’s overall communications strategy.

The gist of what they were both saying was the time has come for all of us in social media consulting  to stop talking to each other, and better communicate to the “outside world” why this stuff matters. I made a similar observation back in October 2007 after returning from the New Media Expo, a trade show which focuses more heavily on podcasting. I think the three of us agree that there needs to be much less emphasis on cool tools and the next shiny thing and more emphasis on what the net benefits are to the client.This lesson sometimes gets lost.

I believe it is equally important to communicate that a social media strategy does not REPLACE what companies are already doing (unless, of course, they aren’t doing anything at all) but augments and adds nuance to what they’re doing.

I think all of us consultants have had the same experience while attempting to initiate the uninitiated. Some clients don’t understand, some are skeptical and some are even downright hostile to the notion for various reasons.  But there are no silver bullets and it is becoming increasingly important to help clients realize that one size never did, and never will, fit all.

Here’s a suggestion: instead of jumping in and listing all the things a well-executed social media strategy can do, try grabbing their attention with a couple of stats, anecdotes or success stories. I tend to use ones that are more video related, such as a recent study that showed that YouTube accounts for 10% of all North American internet traffic. (Not video search, ALL INTERNET TRAFFIC.) Or another study that suggested that 93% of all Americans believe that companies should have a social media presence. What I am getting at is, you need to help people understand why they should care, show them that social media is more mainstream than they realize and that it’s not just 12-year old girls on MySpace and Facebook.

The tools don’t matter. Results matter. Engagement matters. And I bet their company’s growth and prosperity matters to them.


What Social Media does for businesses

Social media continues to make inroads into everyday business practices. Yet I still find myself spending a lot of time explaining the value and benefit of a social media program (notice I did not say “campaign”). I know that many of you Social Media professionals out there face the same problem. Chris Brogan’s recent post entitled “What Social Media Does Best” does a great job of enumerating the many ways companies large and small, for profit and non-profit, can benefit from a well-crafted plan. You can check the post for yourself, but here are a few items on the list that I thought deserved highlighting:


  1. Social networks can amass like-minded people around shared interests with little external force, no organizational center, and a group sense of what is important and what comes next.
  2. Social news sites show the popularity of certain information, at least within certain demographics.
  3. Social networks make for great ways to understand the mindset of the online consumer, should that be of value to you.
  4. Online versions of your materials and media, especially in formats that let you share, mean that you’re equipping others to run with your message, should that be important (like if you’re a marketer).
  5. Online versions of your materials and media are searchable, and help Google help you find new visitors / customers / employees.
  6. Conversations spread around, adding metadata and further potential business value.

As the first commenter elegantly laid out, social media fundamentally changes the way that people discover information, communicate and connect.