social media

SEO is a “Window,” not a Destination

As ever in social media, there is an ongoing argument – this one about the importance, or non-importance, of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in your social media efforts.  Those on the “pro” side stating that without SEO you will never receive traffic to your Web site, and those on the “con” side countering that SEO does not allow you to be truly engaging in your communications and that it’s just “gaming Google” and selling products like ScribeSEO. I tend to look for a middle ground.  SEO can play a part in your social media planning, but without additional communications streams, be it blog posts or other engaging modes, SEO is worthless.  Gearing every post with special SEO rules and ignoring the fact that your readers are mostly regular people who are checking your site out. And SEO does help when you are working in tags, such as YouTube, or even tagging blog posts.

My take on this is simple, yet as complex as you wish to make it.

SEO gives your reader a glimpse through the window of your house.

Reader engagement (including social networking engagement) invitingly opens the door for them,

Compelling and storytelling content keeps them returning for more.

All need to be in balance, all need to be approached in different ways – depending on your needs. Providing your social media communications a level of harmony that people find irresistible.

Featured, social media, Strategy

Playing the Numbers Game

It’s easy to be lured into playing the numbers game in social media, or any kind of communications activity – basing your success on how many Facebook fans you have or how many people follow you on Twitter. These numbers tend to be arbitrary. Many times an organization will see a level of success with how they run their social media program and use those numbers to validate a need to not examine, tweak, or improve an organization’s program – often to their detriment.

This kind of strategy is a double-edged sword, because invariably other companies in your industry have larger follower numbers and those numbers can easily be used to detract from your accomplishments.

One of the best ways to avoid falling into this trap is to properly prepare your social media strategy, complete with an audit of your organization’s needs and how you are meeting those goals and objectives.

But you have to have a plan first. What do you want your social media campaign to accomplish? Very few organizations have the leisure to engage in social media without having a clear and measurable goal with a return on your investment in social media. It requires that your organization start off by asking some questions.

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Featured, social media

Everything I know about social media I learned in Powerlifting

I want to share a secret with you – many years, and about 65 pounds ago, I had been a devotee of something with a much greater pull than even social media and its allure.

That’s right, I had been a quasi-athlete (not a great one, but just one), well I was a rugby player – define that as you will. As part of being an athlete, I really got into powerlifting, it was a better way to get into shape – not as monotonous as running or cycling. (I wasn’t great at powerlifting either, just ask my workout partners 😉 )

I had flirted with the idea of being a strength coach, because I enjoyed working out and studying exercise physiology, but as my instructor used to say, he couldn’t advise that we complete four years of college in order to earn $25,000 a year as a strength coach.  So I ended up in PR, where a four-year degree earned me just a little more per year. 😉

And recently, while two torn up knees and a bum ankle are keeping me off of the rugby pitch, I’ve been getting back into powerlifting more and more.  So as I’ve jumped back into powerlifting I’ve noticed a lot of parallels between this sport and social media. I quickly grabbed the laptop and started jotting down as many notes as I could keep trapped in my mind. I’ve included a list of this baker’s dozen below.

  1. Practice, practice, practice!
    1. It’s not only how you get to Carnegie Hall, or hit that new record bench press, it’s how you hone your social media chops – and learn what works for you (whether it’s video, audio, blogging, etc.)
  2. Form is important.
    1. As everyone who hits the weights knows, you have to perform each exercise correctly. If you don’t learn how to do each exercise correctly then you run the risk of injuring yourself later.
    2. In social media, you have to look at this as focusing on the narrative you want to tell, the stories about your organization that are important.
  3. You won’t hit every lift, it’s OK.
    1. Whether you are working out or at a powerlifting meet, you’re not going to perform every lift perfectly, sometimes you will fail to get the weight back up – it was called “bottoming out” when I lifted – and that’s OK.
    2. In social media, every post isn’t going to be perfect, or totally make sense to your target audience, or tell the story you want it to tell. No worries, you’ll get it next time. And maybe you can learn something from what you might consider a “failing post” that you can use in a few weeks.
  4. Build your posts to an “event”
    1. In strength training, there’s a philosophy called “periodization” – where you prepare a workout schedule that fluctuates from light workouts to hard workouts and back to medium – which turns into the new “light workout.” As you progress along this program, you will gain more strength, step by step. Usually you plan your workouts back from a scheduled event (the start of a sports season or a powerlifting meet).
    2. Why not do the same thing for social media? Plan on having a meetup/tweetup, or another social event or giveaway several months down the line and start creating a schedule of posts, videos, etc that you want to use to build up to this event.
  5. Start easy at first – don’t overstress yourself.
    1. Until you feel comfortable with your “social media workout,” don’t push yourself to do too much – too quickly. In powerlifting and social media it can lead to burnout and abandonment of your new plan. Remember, follow your schedule, and don’t frontload it with too much work until you are prepared for it.
  6. Mix up your “workout”
    1. Doing the same kind of workout, or creating the same kind of content, over and over starts to get stale.
    2. In strength training, this leads to boredom and your workout gains start to stall.
    3. In social media, this can lead to boring posts, losing readership, and eventually you might give up on creating new content.
    4. Just mix things up, don’t always do the same kinds of posts, or create the same content in your social media plan – some days do a podcast, or a quick video, or take a little time off (see below)
  7. More is not always better
    1. In strength training, as in social media, your first inclination might be to jump in with both feet and overdo everything.
    2. If you need to take a little time off, do it. While social media, and powerlifting, are very cool and a lot of fun, it can start to wear on you. But don’t take too much time off, or you might not return again – it’s the difference between a quick break and quitting for good. In strength training it means you’re going to get out of shape again, in social media it means giving up on your content, when you might be on the cusp of a breakthrough piece.
    3. If you’re at a company, see if you can find a couple of people to stand in for you for a while to continue building your audience.
  8. Don’t neglect your “core training”
    1. In strength training, you have to develop your foundation, your core muscles (the abdominals, lower back, upper back, shoulder girdle and legs) in order to get stronger.
    2. In business and social media communications training, you have to look at your organization’s core competencies and ask “what are our communications goals?”
    3. How are you going to achieve those goals? How will your narratives, the stories you share about your organization, help you reach your goals?
  9. Speaking of goals, set realistic goals.
    1. If you’re starting out in powerlifting, you’re probably not going to hit a 400 pound bench press overnight, or for quite a while. But you can add 20-30 pounds in a few months.
    2. If you’re creating social media content, blogging and videocasting, you’re not going to reach Bob LutzGeoff Livingston and Chris Brogan reader numbers overnight – and that’s OK. Keep your measurements realistic, if you impact a handful of people that’s still wonderful, in fact they might even get back to you and let you know about that impact.
  10. Everyone is unique – in strength training and content creation.
    1. Not everyone will feel comfortable sitting in front of a video camera, or audio podcasting. They might be better at connecting with people via social networking tools (which are different from social media).
    2. Go with what works for you – and include this in your social media “periodization plan”
  11. Have the right equipment for your needs.
    1. And know how to use it. In strength training, doing deadlifts wearing sandals might leave you injured – trust me I know.
    2. In social media, you need to have the proper equipment – it doesn’t have to be too expensive, but instead of getting a flip camera (which seems to be the rage among communicators) look at something that allows you to get decent audio (a much overlooked piece of the YouTube puzzle) as well as audio.
    3. Use this equipment in your practice sessions, knowing how to use your equipment ahead of time makes your life much easier, whether it’s in powerlifting or social media.
  12. Get a trainer
    1. When you start working out, it pays to invest a little bit of money in working with a personal trainer. They help start you down the path to a healthier life, or a stronger body. They give you the tools to move on, only needing to check in with them periodically when you need something new to add to your workout.
    2. It’s the same thing in social media. If you are new to this, you can start off by reading a few books and trying to get some “book learnin’” and try to piece this together. This isn’t a bad idea, but you can avoid some of the “bad form” you might learn from reading various tomes if you hire a social media communicator to help train you, to show you what might or might not work for you and then let you loose on the InterWebs to see how this works. Then you can bring them back from time to time to teach you something new or change your routine a little bit.
  13. Finally, and more importantly, at the end of the day you have to do this yourself.
    1. No one can work out for you. You can’t have someone from outside your body lift the weights for you. You have to sit down at the bench and start pressing the weights on your own.
    2. When you are creating content for your social media outlet, you can hire someone to come into your company and write for you, or you can have an employee do it on behalf of the company, but leaving this in the hands of an agency instead of learning how to do it yourself can be dangerous – because it leaves your communications goals vulnerable to an outside organization that only has your best interests at heart as long as the checks don’t bounce.
    3. You need to take the lessons learned from all of the above points, and what your social media trainer has taught you and either do it yourself or bring someone in to your organization who can “lift the weight” for your organization.
CEO Chat, Featured

CEO Chat – Corporate Mindfulness, and not Letting the Past Rule You

Don’t repeat the past, the past is there to guide the present into the future. Too many organizations are mired in “how things used to be run” and how to reexamine bringing the past back into the present. The past is in the past for a reason, to be learned from to help you achieve a tomorrow that is better than today, not for you to bring it back from the dead.

The past is in the past for a reason.  Leave it there and learn from it. We try to focus on the past for so much because we want to, for lack of a better term, “hoard” time.

Too many of us want to “turn back the clock” and go to the “good old days.” In personal lives we want to regain our lost youth, and in business we want to return to a day when there was “more” to go around (jobs, wealth, financial security, etc).

While in our society we enjoy poking fun at people who are called “hoarders,” considering ourselves to be above them – but it does not dawn on us that too often in the business world we end up “hoarding” many other things: money, power, desire, contacts, etc. Much like the person who has too much physical clutter in their homes, businesses run the risk of running into too much corporate clutter which warps our mental state as much as any physical junk pile.

Being mindful of not just your corporate needs, but the impact your corporate decisions will have on your community,  can help alleviate some of this, if you are aware of when this clutter begins to show up in your mind.  It’s hard because in order to avoid this “corporate hoarding” you might have to act in ways that are good for the “spirit” but not always the best for the shareholders’ pocketbook (in the short-term, I believe when you look at the long-term it will be better for your organization/city/neighbors/etc)

Featured, Game Changers, Swag

This Week’s Game Changers?

In the last couple of weeks, creative experts, and the people who love us, have witnessed  a subtle, or not so subtle, changing of the content creation field landscape with the new Black Magic Cinema camera and Adobe’s newly announced Creative Cloud access.

BlackMagic showed off their new Cinema camera to acclaim at the recent NAB show in Las Vegas, putting the RED camera and Canon c300 cameras on notice. Shooting at 2.5K (not quite the RED camera’s 4K quality), with adapters allowing you to place Canon, Zeiss, Nikon and other quality lenses onto the camera, and recording directly to SSD – for under $3000. Yeah, a wonderful quality camera, complete with software, that can run off of a Macbook in a pinch (the rechargeable battery still lands you about 90 minutes of recording time) for that little of a price tag.

Couple that with Adobe’s Creative Cloud. Most people know about Adobe’s professional content editing software, whether it’s Photoshop or Premiere Pro. But the price tag was always a bit steep for many (upwards of $1300 for the Production Premium Suite).

But now, Adobe’s made it possible for you to access all of their high-quality software for $50 a month. It also keeps your software updated, as well as gives you access to upload your work projects online and download them to another computer. As they point out in the video intro on the Creative Cloud page, you can work on an image on your iPad, upload it to the cloud and download it to another program on another computer.

These two products have lowered the already-low barrier to entry into creating your own content. If you’re a documentary videographer, or a low/no-budget director, you can shoot better than 1080p video, and edit it for a fraction of the price of a complete video suite from Apple. What’s not to love about that?  All you have to do is add your own creativity!

Management Consulting, public relations, social media, Strategy

The Two Most Powerful Words in Strategic Communications?

(Other than “Payment Received” 😉 )

Many, many moons ago, when I was svelter around the waist and with less gray in my beard, I wanted to be an EMT. (emergency medical technician… you know, a dude in an ambulance) My interest developed after taking a first responder class in college, and I wanted to carry on my studies, possibly even working my way through school as an EMT.

(Thankfully, I passed the class but didn’t go on with becoming an EMT. It was fascinating and fun, but not for me.)

One of the first, and most important lessons I learned as an EMT were that the two most important words to an EMT were “It Depends.”

As my instructors drilled into my brain repeatedly throughout class, it was difficult understanding with certainty what was happening to a patient, because symptoms for a problem (i.e. a stroke) could manifest one way in one person, and a slightly different way in another person. Just enough to leave you wondering for sure what the problem was.

(There you go, you’ve just spared yourself 6 months of EMT classwork. You’re welcome. 😉 )

So what does this have to do with business, communications and social media?

I’m glad you asked.

Businesses, like people, are multifaceted. Large or small, Fortune 100 or Mom-and-Pop shops, they are all different entities mostly looking for the same goal – profit. Some consultants want to tell you that all businesses should act like the small, family-owned business, listening attentively to each customer. While that works for the small business, it’s harder to change the culture ingrained into larger companies into acting like a small business.

That doesn’t mean that larger businesses shouldn’t engage in social media. Hell, many large companies have great social programs. It does mean that each company has a different way to achieve social media nirvana, locating what works for them. It means that cookie cutter social media programs won’t necessarily work. You don’t just add water, mix and cook at 400 degrees for a successful program or strategy.

Each company, large or small, single people (athletes and celebrities?) or Japanese Zaibatsu conglomerates, needs to sit down and assess their communications and interaction goals, work on a pre-program audit – looking at their needs, the audiences they want to reach, how best to interact with those audiences. Developing lists of Twitter handles to engage with that make sense (why would a college need to interact with a 30-something professional, non-alumni with no kids? Is there a reason? There might be. What would it be? NOTE: I work at a university, and this is just an example that popped in my head and is not indicative of anything in that university’s strategy)

In short, you need to do your research. Do your homework! Conduct your communications, social media and other audits, ask questions. Make sure any social media company you work with knows how to do this, ask for definable and measurable goals.

Will the same social media strategy that works so well for Dell work for you? Remember…

“It Depends”

Uncategorized

The NFL Combine – Why Athletes Need Media Training

This weekend the city of Indianapolis once again found itself host to the annual extravaganza of athletic prowess and skill, a chance for some to move one step closer to their dreams, and others to move two steps away from it. That’s right; it was time for the 2012 NFL Combine.

I had followed some of the Combine news on my favorite sports site, Bleacher Report. Something that stood out to me, that I had never noticed before, were reports on how the top two NFL prospects (Andrew Luck and Robert Griffith III) reacted to questions from the media and that got me thinking.

One of the things that potential NFL players rarely seem to understand is the importance of interview preparation, before they ever sit down with their potential coaches, or they go in front of the podium to address the press. The hoped-for end result of each interview is the same – the desire to leave a positive impression in the minds of those they are talking with. With stories of NFL players causing problems repeatedly popping up in the headlines, teams (and let’s face it, the league) are craving those “high character” players – the ones who go out and play, maintain their composure in stressful times, and who are relaxed when they are dealing with reporters.

Successful athletes tend to be hounded by the media, after games and especially when there are changes of some kind on the team (new coach, star player is traded away, new ownership group, etc). Reporters look for people they have relatively easy access to, and those who they know will be willing to talk with them. In this 24-7 digital media age reporters don’t have time to wait around for athletes who might be interested in talking to them to make up their mind. They need someone “RIGHT NOW!”

That’s where pre-interview preparation comes into play.

When you decide you want more time in front of the camera, you need to contact your agent (or your community’s local Public Relations Society of America chapter) to start investigating who would be a good fit to prepare you, or your clients, for time in front of the blaring media lens. There are a lot of great media experts out there, but you need to find a professional who won’t put up with being “one of the boys,” and who will be willing to be firm with the athletes they work with. As a professional athlete, and a professional “brand” (for lack of a better word) which many athletes are in this day and age of free agency, it is important to not feel too comfortable with your PR professional. It’s their job to focus on the long-term success of your reputation, how you are seen by the majority of fans and front office leaders.

An Aside: Recently GQ featured a story with Terrell Owens, talking about the trials and tribulations he has recently had to deal with – from his “friends” taking his money like he was an ATM, to the children he has fathered with multiple women, to his rebuilt knee, and finally to the lack of interest he received by NFL teams across the country. Coaches and GMs discussed his “bad attitude” or some kind of “character problems” and dismissed his attempt to return to the NFL outright.

There is no way that Owens couldn’t play an important role on the majority of NFL teams in 2011 and 2012, as a secondary receiver, and a mentor to younger wide receivers. But because he, or more importantly, his agent and publicists, didn’t address the concerns his actions were raising towards his long-term reputation when they happened, he is in the situation he is now, playing minor league football in Texas to make enough money to pay his bills.

Spending some time with a media trainer can help players maintain their composure under a different kind of stressful situation. It may be easy for a star NFL quarterback to avoid a blitzing linebacker, but 60 seconds into an interview with a reporter is a type of stress they may not be ready for. It’s the job of a good public relations professional to have their client ready for these interviews. Plus being a ready interview subject, especially a professional and composed interviewee when your team loses, is a good way to get the one thing that most athletes want – extra TV time on ESPN or Fox Sports.

A quick note: Speaking of those locker room interviews…

One thing that people notice immediately is when an athlete is on “cruise control” in their interviews.  You’ve all seen it, the overly used cliches (“We gave it our all”, “They really brought their ‘A-game’ today”, “I want to thank God for this win”, etc.), the thousand-yard stare that tells us they would rather be showering than talking to a reporter. Reporters don’t look for these interviews, they plead with the gods of journalism to not have these kinds of interviews, but all too often they end up quoting someone saying “we gave it our all.”

Do you or your client want additional TV time? Do you want to start attracting the media attention that might lead to endorsements, or after-career gigs? Then start putting some time in with your PR professional, or ask your agent to hire a PR pro (we’re called “pros” for a reason) to work with you on how to answer the media’s questions. PR professionals are used to putting executives, athletes, government officials and others through what’s called “media training,” which helps you get more comfortable in front of reporters.

Take some time every few days and try to think of quick, non-cliche answers to potential game winning and game losing questions. Sit down with a PR pro and ask how they can be used to help you work with the media to cultivate your image. After a game, take a few minutes to compose yourself, keep them on note cards or someplace in your locker, look at them before you try talking to the media, then remember what you’ve been taught by your PR professional and go out there and have a kick ass interview!

Is it hard? Yes it will be at first. But if you can memorize a three-inch thick playbook, pick up a late blitzing weakside linebacker, read the quarterback’s eyes and still get into coverage for the interception, cross the middle for a first-down pass before getting knocked on your ass, or beat a triple-team block to sack the QB in the end zone then by God you can master talking with the media.

After all, this isn’t the impression any athlete wants to leave with coaches or the media:

public relations, Technology

A Quick CES Note

A quick note to PR pros and publicists out there. If you work with a very high profile client, and your client is announcing a new product at a trade show – don’t schedule the hour-long autograph session before the event announcement, unless you want a lot of pissed-off reporters at the end of the event.  I was at CES for a couple of days this week, and a friend and co-worker of mine got stuck in the cluster around a Justin Bieber “technology” announcement, and all I can say is the Biebs’ PR team really needs to learn some actual PR and basic event planing principles.

public relations

The Death Of “Death Of …” Posts

Just a quick post to get this off of my chest.

Public Relations... not dead

Advertising… not dead

RSS Technology… not dead

Newspapers… not dead, just evolving (the smart ones are)

OK, these things are not dead. Let’s all get over the fact that despite everyone’s best bet, they aren’t dead.

What might qualify as “dead”

  • Friendster
  • MySpace
  • Kirk Cameron as some kind of religious leader

Before we all jump on the easy linkbait stories about the death of RSS, or Public Relations, or JR Ewing, or whatever, let’s all take a step back and think about what ever is being touted as dead and if it’s really useless to business needs, instead of our needs.

That’s what should be an overarching theme in social media, business and public relations for 2011. Is there going to be a shift back from the “social media” expert to an incorporation of social media into your communications plan?

Game Changers, Tech

Switch This! Adobe looks for Final Cut’s Castaways

It turns out that Apple isn’t the only company who knows how to run a switcher campaign.

In the continuing aftermath of “Final-Gate,” Adobe is offering a 50% off deal for people looking to switch to their Premiere Pro CS 5.5 software or the entire Creative Suite 5.5 Production Premium package (with After Effects, Photoshop, Audition and other programs), hoping to land some of those Final Cut 7 users who are upset with the newly released version of Final Cut Pro X.  Adobe keeps stating that their video editing products can work with Final Cut Pro files, and are showcasing Premiere users who have already switched from Final Cut. It’ll be interesting to see if Adobe reports an increase in Premiere Pro or Production Premium in six months time.

For those interested in getting that 50% deal, go to Adobe’s Website and enter the Promo Code “SWITCH” when you order your products.