Archive for the ‘Social media’ Category

Your 15 Minutes of Fame is Now 3: Get it Right

In case you hadn’t heard, online video is huge.  Online search is still more prominent, but YouTube is the #2 search engine.  And it’s not just your 20-year-old cousin — it’s popular across age groups.

Organizations need to know how to “do” video.  If you do it poorly, it won’t work.  As demonstrated by David Neff and Aaron Bramley of Ridgewood Ingenious Communication Strategies at this month’s Austin Social Media Club confab, by following a few rules, you can produce video that doesn’t suck.  I personally am still playing around and learning myself.

Here are some basic rules to get started, thanks to David and Aaron:

  1. Rule of thirds – think about the composition in terms of a 2×3 grid and don’t place the main object in the dead center.
  2. Light and dark – be conscious that this can become way more pronounced on video, especially if it’s projected.  For the best results, use 3-point lighting.
  3. Steady, steady – a shaky film will turn people off.  Use both hands when holding the camera, or use a tripod.
  4. Use close-up shots to show emotions or conversation, medium shots for interviews, and long shots for action.
  5. Sound is very important; even if the shots are great, if the sound is bad, people will tune out and turn off.  Unless you’ll be in a quiet room, consider buying an external mic that can be clipped on to or held by the subject.
  6. Include transcription for your videos – you will get better search engine optimization (SEO).

David and Aaron also provided some documents to help budding videographers:  an individual release form, location release form, and production grid are available here.

If you need some data to help back up your argument with your boss that video is a good idea, see David and Aaron’s presentation.

Oh, and 3 minutes? There’s no hard and fast rule about how long most people will pay attention – just remember, we all have short attention spans these days… think carefully about what your audience and your message.

The Digital Divides – They Lives!

When most people talk about the digital divide, it seems they are referring to the inability of low income people to surf the Internet. Or, basically, to receive and regurgitate the messages that we, the digital elite, are sending to them online.

But there are plenty of small businesses and small non-profits – run by educated, middle class people – who are being left behind, too. This is not simply due to a lack of access to the internet, but the inability to keep up with the rapidly changing environment of social media, search engine marketing, and the like.  I also think it’s the inability to imagine the possibility of this new world, like Clay Shirky has described in his book Here Comes Everybody.  Perusing the job postings of local non-profits, I don’t see many marketing and communications positions that even incorporate knowledge of social media into their job descriptions. I think perhaps they don’t want to scare off some of the older professionals (including people in my age group!) but it’s surprising that it’s not even mentioned. Again, evidence of another aspect of the digital divide.

Big corporations and most of the national non-profits have the resources for getting their message out. And despite the promise of the Internet, I think it is only being partially fulfilled for the small players.

Lately I have been trying to see this as an opportunity. I was initially shocked that people would pay to learn how to use Web 2.0 tools, including LinkedIn and Twitter, but EveryDotConnects has been hosting workshops on this subject! 

 So what should we, the digital elite, do to help our brethren discover the potential that exists in social media? Will our moms forever continue to simply forward us cute and/or alarming emails and, if they’re businesspeople or community leaders, have 1998-era Web sites? And if they do participate, will it continue to be mindless regurgitation? Wait a minute, even those 20-somethings are doing mindless regurgitation… so yes we do need to ensure that technology is used for good… and why should social media literacy be relegated only to the young and hip and savvy?

If You Build It, Will They Come? Probably Not Without Some Groundwork

So you’ve heard about this new trend – indeed, some say, the new way of doing media – user-generated content – and decide that you need to ride that wave. Well, as anyone who’s ever tried surfing will tell you, there is a need to plan exactly where and how to catch the wave – by watching and anticipating and practicing. (And maybe getting a little wet and turned upside down and almost drowning!)

This week, I received an email from Hope Equity, a pretty innovative organization working to improve the lives of poor people around the world through what they call “Micro Endowments,” which allow people to contribute to and fundraise for the charities they select. The money is invested and the returns are given to your charity of choice. The email announced Hope Equity’s new “streamlined, user-friendly” Web site. After checking it out (and without going into some of the accessibility issues), I saw a link to a “member’s blog,” part of the Community Center section. I clicked on the link only to find a generic post about the blog being a space for members to let their “voice be heard.” Apparently, the creators of the site intended for the blog to be a place where their constituents can talk about projects or ideas. Unfortunately, even almost a week later, the only posts from readers are two generic comments in the vein of “good for you” and “Hope Equity is great!” Not exactly something that will keep many people coming back.

As I’ve learned the hard way myself, just throwing up a collaborative space is not going to magically get people to participate. You need to do some advance work (watching, anticipating and practicing). Some basic tips:

1. Identify key constituents/ volunteers who could be the seed group. In this case, if you can find people who have their own blog or are young enough to have used social networking sites, you’ll probably have better success with them. Those are the low-hanging fruit. If there is some celebrity or leader type in your midst, it would make it exciting for others to see them participating, but you should be careful to make certain they understand the time commitment and be open to interacting with your other supporters and, perhaps, critics.

2. Work with the seed group to identify stories. What projects or charities have they been involved in? What are some of the common questions you get from prospective supporters? Perhaps your supporters can talk about their own experience – in this case, why did they pick the charity they support?

3. Keep monitoring and participating in the space. You should identify a staff member who will do this. Again, it should probably be someone who already participates in social media. Beth’s Blog, which discusses how non-profits can use social media, lists the following qualities to look for in a community manager:

  • Someone who is on the Internet a lot
  • A risk taker
  • Someone who is tech savvy, or at least comfortable or self taught
  • Someone who has grown up using the sites and really enjoys it
  • Someone who takes a less regimented in communications – less formal – uses happy faces
  • Someone who has a good online persona and personality
  • Someone who enjoys it

If you get these aspects covered, people who receive your announcement won’t go to the community blog (or wiki, or social network) and see nothing. It may be a challenge to get them to return if they think there is nothing going on in that space. Of course, all is not lost – Hope Equity can still focus on and promote their “Community Center” on their Web site. It just would have been much better if they had done this groundwork before announcing their revamped, “user friendly” site.

Do you have any secrets to online community building to share? Examples, good and bad?

Don’t do a business blog to “be cool”

Blogging has been hot for awhile and has become part of the mainstream enough now that many business owners, from CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to coffee shop owners, think they need to get in on the game. But should they?

I worked for a large organization where two of the senior managers decided that they needed to have a blog. Both blogs failed miserably. Why? For one, neither of these executives were readers of blogs. They basically used their blogs to try to post very high-level, generic statements and then ran out of things to say. Then they wondered why no one posted any comments.

Business blogs, in my experience, are best when they provide insight into the thinking of the person, and, by extension, the inner workings of the organization. They may not lay out every detail and secret of their business for all the world to read, but should provide more than just trite comments or PR fodder.

Writing is hard work, and writing a blog can be harder.

If you’re a business owner or top executive that wants to start blogging, consider the following:

1. Define your goals and your audience. Who are you trying to reach? What do you want your audience to know? If you are a real estate agent, you might consider talking about the community in which you work and your perspective on where things are going in the real estate market.

2. It’s okay to give away some of your expertise! Some people might try to sell or buy a house without a Realtor, but once they see the complexity of such a transaction, they’re more likely to come to someone who clearly demonstrates they care about the community, their profession, and their customers. For an example of this, see Austin’s Crossland Team’s blog. Apparently only about 2% of real estate professionals have a blog, so blogging could give you an edge over the competition.

3. Be consistent. If you set the expectations of your readers up front and state that you will be posting your thoughts once a week or once a month, and stick to your plan, you have a better chance of keeping your audience. My friend Emee of EJP Events has been posting at least once monthly in her Portland Wedding Coordinator blog.

4. Be controversial. Don’t be afraid to address issues that may be controversial and state your opinions. That is what people want to hear – what you really think.

5. Read other blogs and comment on them. Then use references to others’ blogs. That is the great thing about blogging and social media – the community and the conversation that it engenders.

That’s just to get you started thinking.

What should small business owners do about negative online reviews?

If you’re a small business owner who works with the public, you’ve probably at least heard about Web sites such as Citysearch and Yelp! that help consumers find information about businesses. Whether you are a salon, men’s boutique, or car repair shop, it’s likely that your customers have gone online to find information about you and to post their opinions of your products and services. And if they haven’t yet done so, they likely will at some point in the near future!

Hopefully, you offer excellent customer service and a quality product at a reasonable price and your customers will sing your praises. But, what if you have done all you think you can do, and someone goes online and disparages your business?

The key to this new world is to be proactive. Ask your regular customers to go onto the sites that provide online reviews and write about their experiences. If a prospective new customer sees one negative review among 5 or 10 or more positive ones, they will likely ignore the negative comments. You should also monitor the reviews regularly and read the sections of these sites for business owners.

And don’t be afraid to write your own review, but be sure to disclose the fact that you are an owner (or a manager or employee). It’s possible someone may discover your true identity anyway. Large corporations have tried to game the system, such as a supposed fan blog that was surreptitiously funded by Wal-mart, only to be exposed in the end.