Allen Voivod

Old School Social Networking

Old School Social Networking – Rolodex by James Roach on Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

New businesses are being started by the thousands, every day. And each and every one of those businesses starts with a social media presence at zero.

Nowhere to go but up, right?

Except sometimes it is SLOOOOOOOOOOOOW going, getting your social ramped up. And…that’s okay. Numbers for the sake of numbers? Sure, there’s something to be said for the credibility that a bigger number gets you. But a smaller, engaged community giving you great word of mouth, and spreading the news about you, is going to be much more valuable in the long run.

And speaking of smaller, engaged communities, here’s the truth. These days, NO ONE starts a social media presence at zero.

Why?

Because most of us already have networks. Most of us already have them easily at our fingertips, via LinkedIn and Facebook. Or, if you’re old school, in your Outlook contacts. Or if you’re REALLY old school, in the Rolodex.

Mari Smith and Mchael StelznerI’ve probably assembled this memory from three or four different encounters, but I remember being in Mari Smith‘s living room a couple years ago, listening to Michael Stelzner talk about the founding of Social Media Examiner. They currently have more than 220,000 subscribers, it’s the #1 or #2 social media focused blog in the world, and it also started from zero.

But Michael had a network. He used it to get the word out about his new venture. And not only that, he tapped a smaller set of people to be his “Firestarters” – experts with their own circles of influence, who agreed to guest blog and widely share with their own networks in the early days of Social Media Examiner.

And he’s no different than you or me. He doesn’t have some rare genetic quality, inexplicable magic, or superheroic mutation that made it possible.

That’s important. So let’s say it again, together.

He’s no different than you or me.

The only thing different from where he is and where you are is that he took the actions that made his success happen. And as he said in that living room – nearly two years ago to this day, actually – any of us could do what he did.

So, here’s what to do, if you’re launching your business from scratch:

1. Tap your networks to help you get the word out when you launch, and as you hit big milestones.

2. ID the big influencers in your network, who also have large networks of their own.

3. Make it worth their while for those influencers to become your Firestarters – the ones who will spread the word far and wide, over and over. And don’t hesitate to do the same for them.

Now, a word about ID’ing your influencers. And what I’m about to say, I say with a grain of salt. Klout and Kred are by no means perfect in terms of identifying influencers. BUT…a brief analogy. You might ask Google to give you a list of keywords to consider for an ad campaign. And when Google does, you’d go through that list, and say, “Yeah, that’s a good one” to one, and “No, that’s completely off base” to another, and so on. Use Klout and Kred the same way, to get a first-level list that you can review to find the best fit for your purposes.

Remember, you never really start at zero. If you find yourself falling into that mental trap, remind yourself of what you do have. Then put your bountiful blessings and assets to work.

Powerball - A Great Website FAQ ExampleZen proverbs? Imaginary dragons? A deep meditation on the number 19?

You’ll find it all on the Powerball website.

This is a story of how every single webpage – even your FAQs – give you the opportunity to make an emotional brand connection with your audience, and factor into your website and content marketing strategy.

But first, a brief prologue.

There have a couple of REALLY big Powerball jackpots this summer, and we finally joined in the frenzy and bought a few tickets. In the process of checking to see whether we’d won (we hadn’t – darnit), and being the curious type, I started poking around their site.

On their FAQs, I stumbled into this:

Greetings Gentle Reader,

“Gentle Reader?” From the “Multi-State Lottery Association”? Really?! I’m already intrigued. And then I scan down the page, and find these examples of dry-witted, laugh-out-loud surprises:

 MY NUMBERS ARE: XX-XX-XX-XX-XX-XX; DID I WIN?

I can’t check numbers for a million folks a week. You can check your numbers on the web site. Teach a man to fish. Please go to: http://www.powerball.com/powerball/pb_numbers.asp

YOUR ODDS / PROBABILITIES ARE WRONG.
Are not.

HOW COME THE ONLY JACKPOT WINNERS ARE FROM THE [EAST - WEST - NORTH - SOUTH - CITIES - RURAL AREAS]? HOW COME ONLY [WHITE, BLACK, TALL, SKINNY, YOUNG, OLD] PEOPLE WIN?

Powerball is a random game that knows nothing about who buys a ticket or where a ticket is purchased. There really is no white/black/old/young/rich/poor, etc. button on the machine.

DO POWERBALL TICKETS EXPIRE?
Yes. The Universe is decaying and nothing lasts forever. Ticket expiration periods vary from state to state – from 90 days to one year.

I’m excerpting from longer (and percentage-wise, mostly serious) answers, but c’mon…isn’t this great? How often do you come across stuff like this? I’m guessing this is the work of their Executive Director, Charles Strutt, who has a pretty amazing bio. And his further responses to real letters are even more hysterical – and where you’ll find the “Zen,” “dragon,” and “19″ items mentioned at the start of the post.

So, back to their FAQ page: It’s human, it’s helpful, and it’s got personality to burn. It’s everything an FAQ page should be. Check it out, and then go back and look at your own FAQ page – if you have one. And ask yourself,

“How could I have a little more fun with this, and use this as another chance to better engage my site visitors, reinforce my brand, and deliver another useful and effective call-to-action for my products and services?”

Or, check it out just for their answer to this: “Is there secret to improve your chance of winning Powerball?”

There is…and they’re happy to share it, while prefacing it with, “But you have to promise to keep the secret – called THE BIG SECRET TO WINNING POWERBALL — between you and me.”

Reed Hastings, Netflix, and Negative Serendipity

Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix, by Ben Lucier on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Getting charged $40 in late fees doesn’t sound like a serendipitous event.

In fact, let’s double-check the definition: Serendipity, noun. Accidental, desirable discovery. Doesn’t sound like late fees qualify.

But serendipity doesn’t always come in a positive package. It comes in negative ones, too. In this case, the $40 in late fees were charged, once upon a time, to Reed Hastings. (That’s him in the spotlight, as the co-founder and CEO of Netflix.) Any guesses as to what the late fees were charged for?

If you said “overdue video rentals,” you’re right on the money. And this accidental, un-desirable discovery got him thinking along the lines of, “Why can’t you rent videos like you go to the gym, and get charged a monthly fee regardless of your usage?”

$40 in late fees. That was the genesis of Netflix. Jump forward 15 years, and Netflix is a $3 billion company, with more than 2,000 employees. Last week, they broke new ground by becoming the first providers of original, online-only web television series to receive nominations for the Primetime Emmy Awards – 14 total nominations for 3 separate shows.

Don’t let your most powerful, potential-ripe moments of serendipity slip by, just because they don’t look the way you expect them to look.

Had a “negative” serendipitous moment in your own life or biz? Please share it!

No Exit, With Chris Brogan (photo by Chip Griffin, CC BY 2.0)

Chris Brogan says, “No exit for you!” (pic by Chip Griffin on Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

So, the estimable Chris Brogan recently wrote a post about the state of social media these days (spoiler: not good). And it has nothing and everything to do with this post.

We’ve consulted for, and sometimes posted on behalf of, clients of all stripes for their social media channels over the years. That list currently includes, among others:

Two state government agencies

A national animal welfare non-profit organization

A university recently ranked as the most innovative education institution in the world

Multiple brands within the portfolio of a Fortune 500 entertainment company

I’d like to think we’re doing better with what we manage, and what we teach, than what Chris is seeing out in the wild with other agencies. In fact, his post was a good gut check, to make sure we haven’t lapsed into any bad habits. There’s always room for improvement, right?

And yet…and yet…

Sharing Your Doubts

I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with my own social media channels these days, because I’m not satisfied with it. And the source of it seems to be the conundrum between “belief” and “proof.”

So much of what we’re seeing in the social media realm is all about metrics, metrics, metrics. What can you measure? What can you see, taste, touch? What can you PROVE? What numbers can you show me to make me BELIEVE in this whole social media scene? Because if you can’t demonstrate the ROI, you may as well go back to your cat pictures and leave me out of it. So say the non-believers, the people to whom you have to justify your time and investment in social media. Most often heard behind the Corporate Curtain.

Which Comes First, Belief or Proof?

When we left corporate America, left Los Angeles, and settled ourselves two hours north of Boston, almost every one we knew thought we were crazy. How could we make a living in the middle of rural New Hampshire? (It’s not that rural, really. Though we occasionally get mail addressed to “Rural Route 12″ instead of our actual home address.)

We believed in what we were doing, and thus brought the proof into reality. All the naysayers had flipped that equation. They needed proof before they could believe. And we gave them the proof, with a business now in its 10th year, having its best year yet, so now they believe it.

You could say it’s like a chicken-or-the-egg scenario. For some people, belief comes first, and for some, proof does.

Except that it’s a lie. Receiving proof before you have belief doesn’t create belief, it creates acceptance. Belief is active, working, reinforcing. Acceptance is passive, surrendering, and limiting. Belief stirs up passion! Acceptance? Not so much.

And this is one reason why “social media” is at the breaking point for many adult business types.

Stan Lee, the man who forged a generation of true believers

Stan Lee, the man who forged a generation of true believers (pic by patrick409 on Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

We Need More Believers

Believing doesn’t erase the possibility of failure. It doesn’t erase the trial and error, the learning from mistakes, the iterative improvement. What it does is get you through the barriers that stop the other 99% of people who accept what “is,” or rather, what appears to be “proof” of their worldview. The businesses and agencies failing on social are failing because they don’t believe. In the product, in the channel, in the consumer, in the message, in the vision. I think this is at the root of what Chris is seeing in the social media space, and what he finds depressing.

The good news is, he, and we, and all of us, can tell ourselves a different story. We can believe that there are still people doing remarkable things with their lives and businesses, and doing the best they can to help more and more people belong in the space of their beliefs. And by believing, bring the proof into reality.

“Face front, true believer!” as Stan Lee used to say. Let the change begin. Let it begin with us.

Last Thursday, Lani and I had the honor of presenting at “Making the Most of Your Media Moments,” a media relations focused event which also included sessions from Tammy and Steve Boucher (she: Principal of Boucher Public Relations; he: Director of Marketing and Communications for Southern New Hampshire University), and Matt Mowry, Editor of Business NH Magazine.

And talk about a fun time! ;) Leslie Sturgeon, president and founder of Women Inspiring Women (which offered the event to both members and non-members alike), not only knows how to throw a terrific event, she’s created a remarkable organization of professional women – “Cool Chicks,” to borrow her phrase – for networking, empowerment, learning, and joy.

Making Press Release Writing Easy

Our own presentation was on writing press releases, wich we’ve been doing successfully for our own business for years now. So we pulled back the metaphorical curtain, and thoroughly deconstructed two of our own recent press releases – one short form, one long form – to demonstrate the formulas we use in each case, and how we try to leverage the longer-form releases in multiple ways.

If you’ve wanted to write press releases for your business or organization, but haven’t known how to start, been too overwhelmed to take action, or just don’t consider yourself “a writer,” this is for you. Here’s the presentation, for you to go through at your own pace!

 

 

For the three-paragraph press release described in the presentation, we have a template to help you build your own similarly short ‘n sweet press releases. Chick here to get it in PDF format. And as for the 7-9 paragraph release, we’ve updated the press release example inside the presentation, and you can also read the PR in its entirety here:

The State of NH on Facebook: Free Report Now Available

Just remember – if writing press releases doesn’t yet come naturally to you, keep these three things in mind:

1. The more you learn about them and actually write them, the better you’ll get.

2. No one ever said you have to write the press release in order. Personally, I write mine nearly backwards, starting with the call to action and ideal audience identification, and leaving the headline and opening “hook-y” paragraph till last, then assemble the thing in the proper order. My way doesn’t have to be your way. But it’s different enough from what we usually hear that we thought it might be worth sharing.

3. Start small and work your way up. Even a three-sentence blurb is better than no media attention at all!

 

Amazon Reviews for Argo, Academy-Award-Winning Best Picture, as of 2/28/13

Online reviews are an essential part of doing business these days. From Amazon to the App Store, Google to Yelp, eBay to Trip Advisor and dozens of places in between, positive reviews can help you drive sales.

But as much as you want to get more reviews – and of course, more of the positive reviews – don’t be tempted to pay people to give them to you. Just a couple of months ago, ABC News reported a story about Yelp slapping warning labels on company pages that paid for positive reviews.

Yelp is actively ferreting out these situations, because it’s a threat to their own business. Their logic: If you can’t trust Yelp reviews, would you keep relying on Yelp as a source for finding good restaurants, hotels, and so on? Nope. You’d drop Yelp in a heartbeat. So Yelp is fighting back against the people paying for positive reviews, and you can bet other sites that solicit and rely on reviews to build customer trust are doing the same thing.

Now, what can you do as a business to get more reviews, and get them honestly? Here’s a quick (2 minutes, 46 seconds) video with 3 tips about doing just that, along with another big reason why paying for reviews is a bad, baaaaaad idea.

(Can’t see the video here? It’s also on YouTube. If you go there, please subscribe to our channel, too!)

 

Coming to fix your website and social SEO!Giving your website an SEO tune-up? Want to make sure you get the biggest search engine optimization bang for the least amount of effort? There are five areas of your website’s pages – easily within your control, or the control of any web developer with basic skills – to which you should pay attention.

In fact, if you handle these five areas well, you’ll hit the 80/20 Rule’s sweet spot. That is, you’ll get 80% of your potential SEO value for just 20% of the total effort you could put into optimizing your website (and social media channels!) for search.

It’ll take less than four minutes to bring you up to speed. And if you can’t see the video below, you can also watch it on our YouTube channel – and please subscribe while you’re there, so you can get updates when we release more videos like this one!

 

You just uploaded your latest video to YouTube. Congratulations!

Now what?

You need people to actually watch the video you spent your valuable time planning, filming, and posting. Which means getting the word out about it, as easily and effectively as possible. So what you’ll find here is a short-and-sweet list of 11 comparatively basic tactics for video promotion. And by “basic,” we mean things that you can likely do yourself, which don’t require a lot of technical expertise.

Some videos are more important to your business or organization than others, so consider the following list as one to complete for your most important pieces. For the less urgent items, play with a few of the options here and see which ones give you the biggest bang for your resources.

1. Optimize.

Make sure your video title includes the most important 1-2 keywords, preferably within the first 20 characters if you can do it and still have the title look like natural language. Add all relevant tags in the tag field, and write a keyword-rich (not stuffed, just rich) description. Include a link to your website in the description, too.

2. Share.

Post links to the video on your social media channels. Specifically, think Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. (With Facebook, you may prefer to upload it directly – see #8 below.)

3. Embed.

Use the YouTube embedding code to make the video appear on your website or blog. You’ll find that code under the “Share” option on the YouTube page for your video.

4. Announce.

If you’ve got a YouTube channel, chances are you have subscribers to that channel. Send a quick message to your subscribers to let them know about the new video.

5. Expand.

Write a blog post that tells a bit of the background behind the video. Focus on things like why the video was made, deeper details about the topic covered in the video, or what people should do after watching the video, for example.

6. Email.

Let your in-house contact list know the video is available to them, as part of a regular communication (like a newsletter) or even as a stand-alone missive.

7. Publicize.

Some videos are a big enough deal that it’s worth letting the media know about them. Reach out to media outlets directly, and also use an online submission/publication service. For free, try PR.com, and for paid, OnlinePRNews.com beat out a number of big name services (MarketWire, PRWeb, etc.) in customer satisfaction.

8. Upload.

If you have the raw video file, consider a video syndication service like TubeMogul for broader distribution. Also, upload it directly to the second biggest video sharing site in the world – Facebook.

9. Inform.

Let your partners, allies, collaborators, suppliers, vendors, and other folks key to your business’ success know about the video – and feel free to ask them to share it with their audiences, too.

10. Ask.

For engagement-type actions, specifically. Likes, comments, shares, video replies. The more of these actions that your viewers are inspired to make, the better your video performs in Google and YouTube search results. This is called “social signaling,” a key element in the next phase of search engine algorithms. Facebook already uses a form of signaling in its EdgeRank algorithm, which determines what shows up in your News Feed on Facebook.

11. Advertise.

YouTube’s trying to get the word out about video advertising in a big way right now. You can stay within their platform, or you can pick from a number of different online and offline advertising vehicles. Facebook Promoted Posts, Google AdWords – heck, you could even put a good old fashioned print ad in a trade publication to drive eyeballs to your video.

Your Next Step(s)

At the very least, every video you upload should be both optimized (#1) and shared (#2). And here’s a bonus tip related to optimization: Add a closed caption transcript to your video. Not only does it make your video content accessible to audiences of all abilities, it also gives you an extra keyword ranking opportunity. If transcribing your video yourself doesn’t sound like a fun way to spend the day, check out a service like Fiverr, where you can find folks who’ll do short transcriptions for as little as $5.

You worked to create the video. Now put the video to work for you!

Got more tips about what to do with YouTube videos to get more views? Share them in the comments!

In 2013, social media is finally going to take its rightful place alongside the rest of the world’s useful business tools. And when it does, your job isn’t going to be about “social media,” just like your job now isn’t about “Excel,” or “Salesforce,” or “MySQL,” or “insert-your-platform-of-specialty-here.”

As it cuts across corporate functions (sales, R&D, support, intelligence, marketing, etc.) and fully assimilates into the communications arsenal of small businesses, non-profits, and government agencies, people will still have to learn how to “do” social media as part of their work. But more importantly than ever, success depends on the “being” side of the equation.

Who are you, what do you love, and why do you do it for a living?

For the social-media-themed PechaKucha event held by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, I did my best to pack these ideas into the 20 slides, 20 seconds per slide requirements of the PechaKucha format. Got an index card nearby, like the one I’m waving in the photo? Use it to write down your own answer to the question posed 2/3rds of the way through the video embedded here. Then share it in the comments, if you’re game…or tell us, where do YOU think social media is going in 2013?

 

Not to be all that dramatic, but…

The world was supposed to end a few days ago. At least, that’s what some people said.

And *they* have been saying it for a while. 12/21/12 was only the most recent dire prediction date.

Let’s for a minute, though. In spite of the fact that the world didn’t end, ask yourself this:

What if the world really WAS supposed to end, and the catastrophe was somehow averted? 

What would that mean to you, your family, your community, your work, your world?

What would you being doing differently this year?

The Gift of 2013

I’m not exactly suggesting you start making your Bucket List.  What I’m putting out here to you, as you start this new year, is to consider the idea that you’ve been given a year, 2013, that some people very loudly proclaimed you wouldn’t live to see.

If given one extra year of life, most people would do something remarkable with it. It wouldn’t have to be big, though it could be. It would have to be meaningful. To you, certainly, and probably to other people around you.

So here’s the question:

What are YOU going to do with 2013? What’s just one thing you’ll do to make this year remarkable?

Please share it in the comments. Let’s inspire each other to do wonderful things this year.