Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How To Manage Your Social Media Clients (CYA)

So, I once had a social media client who liked to be "hands on" when it came to his network. I didn't have a problem with this, although he often made changes, created programs and posted items outside the plan without advising me.

It was his network, after all, so who was I to tell him he couldn't do that?

I'll tell you who I am: I was his social media manager and he should have been communicating everything he did with me before he did it, or at least immediately after.

This was not a case of me trying to usurp his network, or take control of his business. But as his social media manager I followed a very specific marketing plan which he agreed to. If he changed that plan, or any part of that plan, it altered other things as well and I needed to know about it if he expected me to remain effective.

I always handle these conversations very gently, of course. I do not want to offend my clients, or overstep my boundaries. However, I must impress upon them the importance of communication. My clients can change anything they like, but they need to communicate that with me. My clients are not ignorant. After all, they have built successful businesses which employ me. When I explain the importance of communicating with me about these changes most of my clients understand fully and promise to keep me in the loop.

The next week, if they do it again, we have a similar conversation.

I can live with the constant changes and I can roll with the punches when it comes to the problems these changes create for me. For my part I make certain I record every instance of these sorts of changes; I send emails about the changes, and keep copies of those emails for my own benefit. This way, if something takes longer, or a program fails to be implemented because of a change made without my knowledge, I am protected.

I enjoy working for individual clients. At times they are difficult and other times they are a joy. As long as I communicate what is going on; why they should communicate with me about what is going on, and what direction they want to go next, I am happy.

If I ever become unhappy, or too unhappy; or feel their involvement is jeopardizing my record of success, I can always walk away. I am not stuck punching a clock. I am a social media manager. Change is just a part of the job.

But, so is communication.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Beware: Criminals Use Social Media Too

This should hardly come as a surprise to anyone, but criminals and unscrupulous individuals are making good use of social media to promote their illicit activities.

The latest report from the International Narcotics Control Board states that illegally obtained pharmaceuticals are being marketed and sold through the use of social media.

Last summer, a fugitive in the United Kingdom regularly posted updates to his Facebook profile, taunting police, until they finally caught up with him. And right here in the United States criminals have been captured because they posted photos of themselves doing illegal things or bragged about their crimes online.

If social media is the greatest communication tool ever conceived by humanity, then it stands to reason everyone will be using it. Some will use it for good, some for not so good reasons. But everyone, in one way or another will eventually be using it.

So, should you be afraid to log on to your Google+ page? Should you avoid using Twitter? Should you (gasp!) shut down your Facebook page?

No, no and no.

The fact is, we are all surrounded by criminals in our every day brick and mortar lives. People get mugged, houses are burgled and funds swiped from what are thought to be secure bank accounts. We live in a world fraught with dangers. Why would anyone imagine that any new worlds we created (online, for instance) would be any different?

There are simple ways to protect yourself however. First, if you don't know the source, don't trust it. And if it comes from a source you know, but the message seems out of the ordinary, don't trust it. You can always send a questioning email to the source and ask whether or not the link you received from them was safe for you to open. If their account has been hacked, they'll let you know.

And don't buy pharmaceuticals from a Facebook ad, or any other way which does not involve a legitimate physician whom you meet face-to-face. Especially if you don't have a prescription for said medications.

No matter how unsafe some folks believe the Internet in general (and social media specifically) might be, you won't get mugged surfing web sites. You will need to give them your information freely to a criminal for them to take advantage of you. So just don't it, ever, and you won't have any problems.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Social Media And What You Eat

Interesting new study out today by The Hartman Group seems to show that social media not only influences what we wear, what we watch and what we listen to, but also what we put in our mouths.

Sites like Foodspotting and Foursquare put an emphasis on sharing where we go so our friends know about the best places to eat, drink and do stuff. All this influence is having its desired effect. People are increasingly turning to social media when they're hungry and don't know what to eat.

On sites like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, they share recipes, favorite places to eat and delicious dishes. This sharing transcends cuisines much as it transcends borders. It introduces users to new cooking methods, new ingredients and new spices, all of which appeals to anyone who is responsible for making the family meal all 365 days of the year (or so.)

Why settle for meatloaf when with a few clicks of your mouse you can get a recipe for something that uses the same ingredients in profoundly different ways? Why stay home when you can eat out at the great little place your Facebook friends have been talking about all week? Your friends have been posting pictures of that triple-decker chocolate cake, now it's your turn.

The infiltration of social media into every facet of human existence is on-going and a seemingly irresistible force of modern life. The best social media managers see the trends and take advantage of them to provide the highest level of interaction and response for their clients. Everyone else just watches what happens and jumps on board at the last minute.

What sort of social media manager are you?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Social Media Marketing For Women

When it comes to the battle of the sexes on the Social Web, women are not only beating men, they are doing it more effectively, and with more caution.

A new Pew research poll indicates that when it comes to masterly and control of privacy settings, women far outdistance the men. They are more likely to block "non-friends", restrict access to their existing feed and drop people who they do not recognize as being part of their inner circle.

Women are also more likely to self-censor what they post on their social networks while men are more likely to have feelings of regret about something they posted.

This hardly comes as a surprise to me given that women are also more likely to use social media in the first place. The more you use something the more likely you are to understand it and understand how to use it correctly. Whereas if you only occasionally use a tool you're more likely to wield it like a novice.

This is nothing new. It's very obvious in our day-to-day society and the sex more likely to use a specific tool excels at its use. This might be why we don't see as women working with chainsaws as we do men.

There is also something to be said for the more cautious nature of women as well. In my experience women have a better grasp of the further implications of what they are doing right now than most of the men I have met. For many men, it is instant gratification they seek while for many women they want to nurture and cultivate and grow and learn. Now, these are just generalities; every person is different, but there is something to be said for trends based on specifics.

If the Pew research poll is to be believed when it comes to meaningful interaction via the Social Web, marketers should be aiming squarely at the female demographic if for no other reason than because their existing networks are considered to be more trusted sources of information.

If fact, traditional marketers have been doing this, targeting women specifically, for years. As much as we all like to think social media marketing is something "new and different" it's really just doing the same things we have always done with a brand new set of tools.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Better Ways To Use Social Media To Promote Your Book

I read a press release today from which offered "3 Reasons Self-Publishing Authors Need Social Media."

The article made sense, especially when you consider there is no better way to reach an audience of more than a billion people than social media marketing, but it failed to mention the importance of having a quality book to sell and targeting the right audience.

It's not enough to say, "Let's start a Fan Page for the book!" and expect sales to climb. It's also not enough to start a Twitter account, buy several thousand Followers and start non-stop promotion of your book. Those thing simply will not help you move more books by themselves.

As the Social Web continues to expand, social media marketing becomes much more of an art than an exact science. There are very specific ways to make best use of a Facebook Page, and posting your book listing over and over again is not one of them. Also, since Facebook is really not much more than a billboard on the Internet Superhighway, it doesn't do much good just by itself.

If you really want to get the most from social media when it comes to promoting your book start by promoting just pieces of your book: quotes, or important points you make in the book. Target directly other social media sites which might have an audience interested in your book.

If you have a new vampire novel, try posting snippets of your book on Vampire Fan Pages, or pages for horror fans. You might also consider using specific hashtags on your Tweets (again, using content specific to your book or subject, not just a link to the sales page) in the hopes it will be picked up by the widest possible audience.

And blog. Blog about your book, blog about your topic and blog about things relating to your subject as often as possible. This gives you a stream of fresh content you can use to feed your social media sites, which in turn you can use to promote your book.

There are literally millions of ebooks on the market right now, with more coming every day. If you expect your book to rise above the crowd you need to push it there. Social media can help but only if you know how to use it correctly and only if you have a viable product to sell.

We all want to write a best seller, but if that were a guarantee none of us would have any need of marketing at all.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 Takes Social Media Offline

Tired of doing all your socializing in the virtual world? Then you might want to try

MyShindigs is all about connecting people with things to do. It is a social network devised around the idea that people want to interact in the real world every bit as much as they want to interact in the real world, but real world interaction is harder.

MyShindigs just launched their North American version but the company has already had success with versions designed specifically for Asia, Europe and South America. If you visit the web site you will be asked to enter a username and email address, then a log-in and password will be sent to you.

A quick visit to the site showed me that it's still early in the game to be searching for parties to attend in your area. There are a few groups, like the "people who believe in aliens" group and the "this is the fun group" but otherwise, not much for me to do locally.

However, the site does make it easy enough for me to start a group, plan and promote an event or organize a party. Assuming I can connect with enough people and direct them to the MyShindigs site, I could easily have a successful event.

No matter that interest is slow to go. The idea is sound and it's due. People are eager to connect, social media has shown this to be the case, but they don't always know how to do that. That's why we have the term "wallflower" which covers just about everyone I went to school with.

It will no doubt take some time before we see whether MyShindigs can rally support, encourage event planners to get on board and private individuals to start using their service to promote parties, concerts, poetry readings-whatever.

In the meantime, if you have an upcoming event to promote why not give MyShindigs a try? It certainly can't hurt and you never know, it just might add to your event success!

(p.s.--no, I am not an investor in MyShindigs nor do I get any benefit from it at all.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Social Media Meet Sean 'Diddy' Combs

In a move which is decidedly a mixed bag of multi-media, Sean 'Diddy' Combs announced today that he was starting a new "music and pop culture" cable network called Revolt which will focus on social media interaction.

Combs' new network is one of 10 new independently owned and operated channels which Comcast will create and offer as part of their basic service over the next eight years.

On his Twitter feed and Facebook page today Combs' said his new network will launch sometime next year. Combs also released a YouTube video today in which he talks about his new network and what it means to him to have a hand in what people will see on their televisions screens.

But this blog isn't about cable television or Sean 'Diddy' Combs, it's all about social media. And this announcement is no less important to the Social Web than it is to fans of Combs and people who watch Comcast.

This is due in no small part to Combs' promise that viewers will be able to interact with his new channel via their social media network, once more blurring the line between two divergent types of media. This is nothing new, however. A number of new shows, such as American Idol and The Voice, already have some degree of social media interaction. But what Combs is talking about is an entire network built around social media interaction--something we have not yet seen.

The fact that he is building a network from the ground up definitely gives Combs an advantage over network executives faced with integrating new media into a traditional infrastructure. This problem is the same one faced by companies and brands as they look for ways to maximize the return they see on their social media marketing efforts-only it is combining two mediums which are seen in some quarters as enemies, rather than benefiting each other in any way.

It remains to be seen if this new dynamic duo of media will make a difference when it comes to ratings, but it certainly can't hurt. In fact, by integrating social media into its infrastructure, Revolt has an opportunity to appeal to a generation which has grown up in the Digital Age.

And that can't possibly be a bad thing. Can it?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Job Seekers: Don't Be Too Afraid Of Social Media

I read a great story at The Baltimore Sun website this morning about the perils and benefits of social media for job seekers.

Yes, there are benefits.

I have written extensively about the importance of employing common sense when it comes to the ways in which you use social media. It's not complicated.
Posting drunk pics of yourself on Facebook: Bad. Tweeting about the award you won or recognition you received for a job well done: Good.

It continues to amaze me how some people fail to recognize the benefits of social media, and the ease of making it benefit them in a variety of ways. Especially if you are unemployed.

LinkedIn remains the key piece of any job search. More employers than ever before now regularly search the site for potential candidates and recruits. LinkedIn makes it easy to post your resume, work samples, links, accomplishments and anything else which comprises your work history.

But many employers also check Facebook, Twitter and even Google+ to learn a little more about possible employees. You might think you are being smart staying away from Facebook or blocking anyone from looking at your page, but in reality you are creating an air of suspicion when you should be throwing the doors wide open to anyone who wants to learn more about you.

Now, if you are an undercover police office, secret agent or criminal, perhaps you should have the maximum privacy settings or refrain from using social media at all. But for anyone else it doesn't make sense to eschew what is an excellent tool for finding a new job.

In fact, I found my current job at Rev Media Marketing through my use of Twitter and continue to receive new job offers from other social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. I am not actively looking for a new job--I enjoy what I do right now-but it is nice to know that I am creating a social media profile which is positive and attractive to employers, meaning I am at least not embarrassing myself online.

So, if you're looking for a job don't be afraid to use every facet of the Social Web to increase your chances of success. Just make certain you employ some common sense in the way you use it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

'Verified' Accounts Coming To Facebook

Twitter has had 'Verified' accounts for years, creating a system which helps users know that the person whose Twitter feed they are Following is the actual person they think they are. This credentialing system creates a feeling of security and legitimacy for the network and its users and has helped avoid an embarrassing situation where users are duped by imposters (for the most part).

Now Facebook is following in Twitter's footsteps. The company announced this week they will begin allowing some users to submit government issued identification to have their account 'Verified' much the same way Twitter does.

This is great for journalists, celebrities, singers and pop icons. It is also good news for their fans. Unfortunately, it is meaningless for the majority of us who use Facebook every day to communicate, share and interact with others.

My question is, why can't they offer verification for everyone? I would like to know that when I am sharing with someone who claims to be a scientist at NASA, they actually ARE who they claim to be. Just as, when people communicate with me, they can be assured I am who I claim to be.

It would seem like a simple enough thing to do, and I am not suggesting everyone be forced to hand over a passport every time they want to create a social media profile, but the option should at least exist. If someone wants to create a 'Verified' account they shouldn't need millions of fans to do so. In fact, people should be encouraged to Verify their accounts as a way of creating a more sincere network; a place where you can be sure the person you are talking, sharing or "Liking" is actually who they claim to be.

Until this option is available to everyone these networks will still be more less a hit-or-miss when it comes to sincerity, and that's just not good business, especially when it comes to a tool used to build relationships.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

'Ghost Rider 2' Capitalizes On Social Media Marketing

It's not often a movie studio invests money in a film sequel when the first installment failed to meet expectations. And it's even more rare that expectations for the sequel are higher than they were for the film which spawned it.

But that's the story behind 'Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance' the sequel to the 2007 film, 'Ghost Rider,' starring Nicolas Cage who is reprising the title role.

The first film cost about $110 million and went on to earn about $225 million worldwide. Not too shabby, not a bomb, but that number pales in comparison to the earnings for mega-hits like the 'Batman' and 'Spider-Man' franchises which earned more than that domestically.

Both Marvel (who owns the 'Ghost Rider' character) and Sony (who is producing the films) have said they expect the sequel to surpass the original in global sales, and since it cost about $35 million less to make, that means profits will be even higher.

So why are they so optimistic about the sequel? Well, a recent poll shows that a whopping 91 percent of men under the age of 25 are aware the sequel opens on Friday and have expressed interest in seeing it. The social media campaign promoting 'Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance' has focused primarily on this demographic; the trailer has been floating around the Social Web for weeks and the build-up, again aimed directly at the male demographic, has been a near tidal wave.

That's the power of social media marketing. Not only does it help you target your demographic, but it also helps you communicate your message directly to them. It allows marketers to effectively carpet bomb one specific sector of the public--just the people who they believe are most interested in their message.

'Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance' opens this weekend, so we won't have long to wait to see just how effective their social media marketing campaign has been, but so far, the signs point to a big win for the studio.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jeremy Lin And The Power Of Social Media

Sports fans are not known as tech-geeks; and vice versa. This isn't strictly true in all cases however, and the line between all subcultures is blurring more and more each day.

So, when a new sports star comes on the scene, like the rise of New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin, the conversation on social media begins to turn in their direction. In fact, given the immense positive impact social media had during Super Bowl LXVI, more sports franchises are recognizing its power to impact their bottom line, prompting them to make certain conversations about their specific product are abundant; answers and interactions are prompt.

No wonder then that Lin's rise to stardom has resulted in increased ticket sales and renewed interest in the Knicks franchise, which has suffered from a severe lack of interest for years.

It is worth mentioning that Lin himself has everything to do with this social media success story. If he wasn't such a strong player, performing above and beyond expectations in game after game, including some last second game saving shots, the conversations would not be as rampant--unless they were spending their time blaming him for not being everything he was hyped-up to be. (And I suppose there is still something to be said for the fact that any publicity is good publicity.)

Part of what makes this genre smashing sort of online recognition possible is the ease-of-use of social media. It's simple enough that you don't need to be a tech-geek to get it; figure it out, use it effectively to share your thoughts and engage in discussions with other fans; promote your favorite team and their triumphs. If it were something which was only accessible to people with a technological inclination it wouldn't be nearly as effective as an organic marketing tool.

Fortunately for many of us, it is easy to use, so conversations flourish. Therefore it is incumbent upon us, as marketers and promoters, to find the best way to guide those conversations and make good use of the online activity in a way that benefits us (and our clients) the most.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Poynter Searching For 'Early Warning' Social Media Tool

The Poynter Institute is dedicated to helping journalists do a better job of dining, sourcing and reporting the news. So it makes sense that they were among the first to recognize the importance of social media as a news gathering resource, and now are looking at ways of making that process easier.

A post this morning by Steve Myers talks abut the need for a new social media 'search' tool that would provide journalists with a way to find the first social media reports of a news event (say, a single Tweet by some random person who happened to witness what was going on) then track that blurb back to the original source so they attribute it and possibly conduct an interview with the person who posted it.

Myers cites a project by Rutgers University and Microsoft on a new tool called the 'Seriously Rapid Source Review'. The tool would help journalists identify a specific relevant Tweet, filter out all the ReTweets and superfluous information and direct them to the specific source of the original post.

This would be a great tool for journalists and anyone who uses social media to communicate important messages, either for public service or for profit.

Unfortunately, so far, the mega social media sites have done little to provide an adequate solution for the problem of "search". There are various tools that can conduct searches on some social media sites but they are mostly hit-or-miss and do little filter results. There have been promises made by independent companies that they can provide a solution, but these too are more failure than success.

Social media is rapidly becoming the most oft-used communication tool on the planet. This was true once of ordinary telephone service yet no one considered creating an adequate search ability for telephone conversations, primarily due to privacy concerns. And even if some departments of the U.S. government did have such a tool it was not made available to the general public.

Social media is different, however, because this information is publicly traded; it is open to anyone with an Internet connection and there is no expectation of privacy. So a search tool would be well within existing privacy laws, yet still we do not have one.

Part of the problems has to do with the fact each of these networks is its own private entity, and usually views the other social media networks as their direct competitor. They are unlikely to want to create a one-size-fits-all solution because that would mean sharing their information with everyone. For an independent company to make a serious search engine work they need the social media companies to by into the idea, or, try to sift through the public data one piece at a time, creating algorithms to juggle all the different sites and the abundance of information.

Eventually such a tool will be created. Perhaps at first just to assist one particular sector of our society, like journalists, but eventually will be made available to everyone. because we all want to know what's being said, when and by whom, we just don't have a decent way of doing it.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Social Media 'Gurus' Are Not

So, you need a social media guru, huh? Good luck finding one.

You'll have a much easier time finding a social media professional; someone who is making a living managing social media accounts and producing effective solutions for their clients. The idea that anyone, especially this early in the game when it comes to social media marketing, could have acquired vast knowledge of social media is a misnomer.

This is not just my opinion, it's obvious to anyone who does a little investigating into the nature of social media. Specifically, the fact that the social media landscape is constantly changing and hardly a well-defined set of tools. The recent rise of Pinterest is a great example of this. You might think a "social media guru" would have seen this coming, predicted its rise and been right there saying, "look, I knew this was gonna be big." But no one has. It took everyone by surprise and although we can all see their growth we are still struggling to understand just how to use it correctly.

I have read dozens of social media marketing books, attended countless webinars designed to explain the real "secrets" of social media marketing, and experienced the first hand frustration of discovering that there are no secrets.

There are some common sense steps to take; some obvious tools you should be using and some obvious ways you should use them. (Shameless plug: I talk about these in my book.) And it's true that a professional social media manager can help you effective build and leverage a social media network to achieve whatever it is you might be trying to do. But to believe that a single person has all the answers; has mastered the fluid nature and poorly defined landscape of social media is to leave yourself open to unscrupulous marketers looking to make a fast buck off people who are trying to find their way.

Do yourself a favor, don't fall for the hype. If you need effective social media management, monitoring or marketing, find someone who has a successful business doing that. If they really know what they are doing they'll be making a good living doing it. Otherwise, they're likely just trying to make money from people who don't know any better.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The ABC's Of Social Media Management

When I first started in social media management, the term "social media management" hadn't even been coined yet. I'll bet the same is true for many of you who visit this blog.

But there are plenty of people who are still just starting out in social media and are feeling more than a little overwhelmed by all the decisions they have to make and all the tools they have to work with.

After spending the past few years successfully managing social media for newspapers, web sites, business professionals, technologists, doctors and even other social media marketers, I have a pretty good grasp of what makes a successful social media marketing campaign and how to manage one.

I have attended a plethora of social media marketing webinars, listened to near endless discussion about the most effective way to manage your social media network, grow your social media network and leverage your social media network in order to achieve the greatest rewards, but most of it was geared toward getting me (or anyone) to shell out a few more dollars to be let in on the "real secret."

Well I'm here to tell you: there is no secret. Just some common sense principles about how to behave, what to expect and what to deliver via social media. And you don't need an MBA or anyone's "secrets" to figure it out.

You might, however, want to buy my book, "The ABC's of Social Media Management", but at $2.99 it's a lot less than you'd pay for someone else's social media "secret recipe."

In "The ABC's of Social Media Management" I work my way through the alphabet giving you sound advice for effectively managing social media in order to deliver the results you are looking for. But I don't waste time trying to tell you what sites work best or how best to use Facebook. Instead I focus on the basics of online communication; what you should expect, what you should deliver for the people in your network and how to manage it all effectively without losing your mind.

The great thing about my book is that it will work just as well for you next year as it does today because it focuses on skills rather than tools. Skills don't change, but the tools we use for social media are changing all the time. Master the skills to make the most of your social media network and you can apply them to whatever tool comes along next.

But don't take my word for it, read the book. Better yet, get your clients, employers, employees or anyone you know who has a social media network to manage to read it.

Then tell me what you think.

Friday, February 10, 2012

UK Social Media Marketing Continues To Grow

Not so long ago I wrote a post about how businesses in the United Kingdom seemed to be fully embracing the benefits of social media marketing.

A new research poll out this week shows that when it comes to social media marketing businesses in the UK are still surging forward. polled more than 1,200 UK-based companies in their Small Business Survey 2012 and found that more than 90% of these companies currently use social media to market their products to customers. Last year at this time the number was closer to 60%, still strong, but obviously not strong enough for businesses there.

With more than 90% of businesses embracing social media it might seem the market is saturated, however, because of the nature of social media (in that it is constantly evolving, changing, upgrading and developing) there is always room for more.

For instance, as of their latest poll, more than 70% of these businesses said they use Facebook, and 60% use Twitter. This makes sense given that these two sites alone now reach more than one billion people of decidedly different demographics.

However, as we have seen from the recent growth of Pinterest, we're only just getting started when it comes to social media. Sure, Facebook dominates today, but who will dominate tomorrow?

My belief is this: It's not the social media tools you use that matters, but the understanding you gain about relationship marketing that really makes a difference. By embracing social media marketing businesses in the UK are gaining the upper hand on businesses around the globe because they are mastering a trend--a trend toward more personal engagement with customers, better communication and faster response times.

In this way, if the tools they need to use change next year--Facebook folds, or Twitter collapses--they stand the best chance of adapting to the new tools faster than their counterparts who have eschewed social media altogether, or just don't "get it."

If I were a social media marketer looking for clients I would be looking across the Atlantic and going where they understand the value of the skills I possess.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Why You Should Be Using Pinterest (But Don't Rush)

Surely you've heard of Pinterest already. Even if you haven't clicked through the headlines you know that Pinterest is the current darling of the Social Web; everyone is talking about how cool it is and how it's a breath of fresh air in the overwrought social media universe.

Pinterest is all of that and much, much more.

First, the basics: Pinterest is a social media site which allows users to create virtual pin-boards (think, cork board) where they can stick cool stuff they find on the Internet. The things they pin can be photos, videos, links to articles; whatever is interesting to them. It is very much like a typical bookmarking site only much more visual. The things which are pinned can be "Liked", Tweeted and Commented on, meaning there is a lot of interaction and sharing. In fact, sharing is the backbone of the site.

Second: Pinterest is still an "invitation only" site, which means you need to be invited if you want to participate. They are fairly loose about handing out invitations, however, so if you really want one you can get one. Just ask. Given its rising popularity it seems likely Pinterest will throw its doors wide open soon enough, making it possible for anyone to come along, set-up shop, and start pinning their favorite stuff. If you're a small business, let's say a bakery, you could open an account and start pinning up photos of your daily baked goods, best looking cakes, cookies or whatever. This scenario transfers to whatever it is you do and whatever you want to share.

Third: Pinterest interest is only going to last so long. That's right, I said it. Pinterest is pretty cool right now, but it's essentially very much the same as micro-blogging sites like Tumblr which allow people to post short snippets of all sorts of things and share them with others. The fact that you can share across multiple platforms does give Pinterest an edge, but only a slight one.

It certainly wouldn't hurt for you to start using Pinterest now so you can become accustomed to its inner workings later, but don't start thinking you're already behind the eight-ball. There is plenty of time for you to figure their service out before it goes fully public. And in my opinion, it's unique qualities are only going to last so long in the shark infested waters of social media.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Social Media Beats Television For Teens

Once upon a time it seemed nothing would pry young eyes away from their television screens.

Television executives surely long for those good ol' days, especially as more recent surveys show that teens are spending more time online, posting comments, communicating and sharing with their friends via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube than they do in front of their TV.

A new research poll conducted in the UK by Click Consult reports that 65 percent of people between the ages of 16-24 say they spend more time online than they do watching television. The numbers are not quite as high with other age groups but the trend is the same: more people prefer being entertained online than by television.

This should hardly come as a surprise to anyone who has been monitoring the trends, or anyone who is alive and participating in the world around them today. Those 900 million Facebook fans don't live on another planet-they live right here on Earth and they represent your family, friends, neighbors and of course, teenagers.

The reasons for this trend are fairly obvious to me. Although cable television introduced a plethora of new channels and new shows, the content itself has hardly changed. The same shows are constantly being re-worked, re-cast and re-shown as if they represent something new, while the act of watching television itself has not changed at all: we sit, we watch, we yell at the screen.

Shows like American Idol did introduce an element of viewer participation, but it was a far cry from true interaction. Also, despite the rise of online video consumption television show producers have done little to capitalize on it. This accounts for the lack of original network produced programming available via sites like YouTube or Vimeo.

Networks have also failed to capitalize on the trend toward digital entertainment via their own web sites. Shows are only offered in limited release; no added bonus material, no reason for watchers to tune in there other than just to catch up on episodes they missed, assuming the episodes are even available.

What is happening with television is very similar to what happened with the print news industry: they failed to recognize a trend and allowed competitors who once never existed to surpass them, filling the void they had left. Print news complained that revenue streams simply weren't there (online) so they ignored the entire system.

Now it's obvious to everyone that was a Big Mistake.

If television executives are savvy they will recognize time is working against them. They should take heed of the lessons learned by the print news industry and get busy finding a way to make the web work for them. Innovation immediately comes to mind, but even making more shows available online would be a step in the right direction.

And for heaven's sake, stop ignoring social media!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Making Money With Social Media Is Not Impossible

It is not impossible to make money from your social media efforts, however, it is difficult.

I read an interesting article today at Business Insider which presented the viewpoints of people at Klout, Ticketmaster and Radian6, on how best to make money from social media.

You will no doubt be surprised to hear that no one presented a step-by-step guide to making money from your social media interaction. (Surprise!) They did present some interesting viewpoints on the best way to use social media for engaging with users. What you do with them once they are engaged has more to do with your business plan than it does with your social media efforts.

See, that's the point I am forever trying to make. Social media is not an end result. You simply cannot expect that your 50,000 Twitter Followers and 100,000 Facebook Fans will equate to increased revenue. It simply means you have someone's attention.

Think of it this way: Your favorite band takes the stage. The coliseum is packed with 40,000 screaming fans, of which you are one. You already have all their albums; you love their music, that's why you're a fan. Now ask yourself, what can they do, on that stage, right before your eyes, that would get you to shell out a few extra bucks for something of theirs you don't already own?

Play a new song? Show off a cool new t-shirt design? Promote their next album?

Each of those things represents a new revenue stream for the band; a new way for them to make money from the attention they already have garnered. In the same way social media marketing represents the tools the band used to bring the people into the stadium in the first place.

So, if the band sells more albums, t-shirts or brick-a-brack as a result of the concert they can attribute those new sales to social media and in this way say "We made money with social media."

Now ask yourself: What are your revenue streams; what is your pitch and how can social media bring you an audience to hear your pitch? In this way social media will make you money.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Social Media Addicts Drive Innovation

How addictive is social media? According to a soon-to-be released study from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, it is more addictive than alcohol or tobacco.

The school conducted an interesting experiment in Germany wherein it asked participants to describe their recent urges at regular intervals and gauge them based on how strong the urge was.

Guess what? Social media interaction was at the top of their list of strong urges.

Fortunately, social media has not yet been proven to cause cancer or any other debilitating illnesses. In fact, short of the after-effects of a "drunk Tweet" or posting embarrassing photos of yourself on Facebook, this addiction doesn't represent too great a risk to your well-being.

It does, however, seem to show that although social media has already altered our lives in profound and far reaching ways, it's really only just begun to have a true impact on the global community. This study only involved about 200 people. Nowhere near enough people to give a true indication of social media's impact on our lives. In fact, I'll bet you know some people right now who have never used social media and still consider it a waste of time, so there is definitely room for growth.

And what shape will this growth take? What will happen to social media when a generation comes of age who has never known a world without it? How much more will it be integrated into our lives? When businesses and brands forgo all other means of interaction to focus solely on social media for customer relations? When everything we do and say goes through our social media networks the world will have changed yet again.

It might become the way people get hired, do their work, learn, communicate and get involved in anything and everything. Perhaps in the future everyone will look first to social media before they do anything. Thinking of making a film? Test the water on social media first. Writing a song? See what fans want to hear. Television show? Use social media to find out who viewers want to star in your next vehicle.

Even the process of funding your next project might be better accomplished using social media.

Social media then will become not an addiction, but a tool we use every day to be more productive, more efficient and more involved in everything that impacts our lives. And as long as there are no long-term ill health effects, what's the harm in that?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Make Your Ad Dollars Go Farther With Social Media

When you shell out thousands or even millions of dollars for a television commercial or print advertisement you expect to have a serious return on your investment. Social media makes this a much easier than task than ever before.

Time was when some people would actually tune in to the Super Bowl to see the television commercials, especially if the game didn't feature one of their favorite teams. These commercials would debut which much fanfare; usually longer, funnier versions of what would eventually enter regular circulation. If you wanted to see the entire commercial you needed to catch it during the Super Bowl.

This year, however, many companies have opted to release their Super Bowl commercials days in advance of the game, using YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to help give their message a viral quality.

This makes perfect business sense, especially when you consider the commercial is already finished and just waiting to be released. Why not use your social network to get the most from your investment?

Many companies struggle to find ways of promoting their brand via social media, without realizing they can re-purpose existing advertising to fit their network.

Does releasing a Super Bowl commercial diminish the value of a 30-second spot aired during the game? In my opinion, no. If anything, it creates a sense of expectation, with more people interested in watching the commercial they have been hearing about all week from their Facebook friends.

The average cost of a 30-second commercial aired during the Super Bowl is $3.5 million In order to recoup their investment companies need to think creatively and use every promotional outlet in their arsenal. This is not only common sense, it's good business.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Facebook IPO Benefits More Than Facebook

Following the Facebook filing of an initial public offering of stock, several other social media companies saw their stock bounce.

Primarily the biggest winner was Zynga, after Facebook said in its filing papers to the Security and Exchange Commission that they derive about 12% of their revenue from their partnership with Zynga and that losing that partnership would significantly hurt their platform.

But it wasn't just Facebook tie-in companies that saw renewed interest from investors, however. LinkedIn saw a bounce this morning; Groupon and Pandora also saw slight increases.

Let's face it, everyone has been waiting to see if and when Facebook went public. The biggest reason was due to the fact we all want to know exactly how much money they are making, and more importantly, how they are making it. By revealing this information Facebook can provide solid evidence of a path to profitability for other social networks. It also assures investors that social media companies CAN make a profit by detailing exactly how this is done.

Up until now the revenue factor for most social media companies has been all smoke and mirrors with no clear route or plan available for scrutiny. Everyone has been doing things slightly different so investors were left mostly in the dark. This is not good when you are trying to raise money.

Investors want to know exactly how the sausage is made, what's in it and where that stuff comes from. They need to know these things so they can make an educated estimate of the likelihood of your continued success. They aren't investing in your company for fun or because they HOPE you will make money. They want to research what you are doing and be able to judge whether or not there is a reasonable expectation of success.

The fact is, at this point, what's good for Facebook is good for the entire social media industry. How long this remains a fact, however, is still anyone's guess.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

NLRB Continues To Define Social Media Protections

Employers are scrambling to understand the ways in which social media can be used to promote their businesses, and at the same time the ways in which these social media tools can be used by their employees to disparage their bosses, the companies they work for and even their past or current clients.

The National labor Relations Board has made a number of rulings on the matter, sometimes embracing the use of social media by employees, declaring that when an employee makes a negative comment about their company or their boss on social media it is a protected form of speech. In other cases the NLRB has supported the employers right to discharge employees who make similar remarks, because of the context in which the remark was made.

It seems in most cases the NLRB supports the workers right to participated in concerted activities with other employees in the work place and then continue that conversation online, either through the use of social media or some other web-based application.

The lesson to be learned by employers and employees is that the rules are no different online than they are in the brick and mortar workplace. Violations of strictly worded company policies can get you fired; efforts to engage in employee conversations online cannot. But in neither of these instances is it advisable to engage in questionable behavior by either party.

What I mean by this is simple: For employers who try to regulate the ways their employees express themselves, you run the risk of looking like you have something to hide. If a case goes before the NLRB or attracts similar media attention your company, even if it wins, will come away looking bad. This is not a winning scenario.

For employees, just because you have an outlet in which to speak your mind does not mean you should, especially if it puts your reputation (much less your job) at risk. If your case goes before the NLRB and you win, you'll still come away looking like a risk for any future employers. Your boss, the company you work for, needs to know they can trust you. Speaking your mind is perfectly acceptable, but understand there may be repercussions for doing so.

In all of these cases, the offense is a good defense. Be certain your company has a very clearly written social media policy and that every employee is aware of the implications of violating that policy.

Remember, surprises don't do anyone any good at all, but then again, neither do efforts to stifle protected speech.