Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the like are agents of mass distraction. 

If your time on these sites is starting to affect your performance at work, getting in the way of exercise, or impinging on time spent face-to-face with friends, then you may have allowed yourself to slip into a pattern of addiction.

If so, then I've got some lessons to ensure your social media is as healthy as it should be:

  1. Don’t leave your networks open in your browser all the time: You’re begging to be distracted - tabbed browsing is not your friend!
  2. Shut down applications like Tweetdeck while you’re working: Those pop-ups will lead you astray!
  3. Singletask your Social Media: Focus as if you’re dealing with people face-to-face and you’ll get more value from your social-media time
  4. Know why you’re there: It might be for creative inspiration, relaxation, to laugh, to get business insight or to learn. All of these are positive motivations, but if you ever feel anxious while using social media then rather get back to work or do something else.
  5. Set a time limit: Even if you’re popping over to social sites throughout the day, decide before-hand how long you’re going to spend in total, and stick to that no matter what.

Social Media can be incredibly powerful personally and professionally, but I do think that we need to be mindful about how we use it.

Can you use social media and still be productive? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this

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AuthorDave Duarte
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Monitoring what people are saying about you and your company on social networks, forums and blogs is an important first step towards engaging people meaningfully to develop your brand and business online.

Online Reputation Management Software

There are a number tools that can make automate this process for you to some extent. The most basic are probably Google Alerts, BoardTracker and a couple of Twitter Search feeds. These tools are fine if you aren't getting an overwhelming amount of mentions online every day, but can time-consuming because none of them offer a comprehensive reporting dash-board.

For companies that are talked about online more regularly, online reputation management (ORM) software can be a worthwhile investment. Typically this software tracks mentions related to your brand and assigns a influence score and a positivity (or negativity) score to each mention. Some of the best ORM tools that I've tested are Buzzmetrics, Radian6, Trackur, BrandsEye and SaidWot.

Prioritizing your responses

The next step from listening to what people are saying about you online is to start engaging with people.

It's not always clear what you should respond to online, as you'll find that you get a whole range of communication from customers on social media -from rave reviews, neutral statements, to scathing reviews - the range of company contact is far broader than what companies are used to getting through traditional customer support channels. 

It is tempting to prioritise engagement with critics, who demand response, while ignoring your fans and evangelists. This makes some sense because influential critics can wreak havoc on a brand unless their wrath is contained. However, dealing with individuals in this way is to pick at the leaves of reputation management without tending the roots. 

What you really want to do is build up reserves of goodwill among your online stakeholders ahead of any potential crisis, which will make people more understanding (and less volatile) in the case that you make a mistake. This is kind of like building an reputational immune system online, where your fans are your white-blood cells who will help you deal with threats. 

The graph below illustrates the order with which I believe you should prioritize your responses and engagements.

Proactive ORM Matrix.001.jpg

Proactive ORM Response Matrix

Once people are speaking about you online, they're already more influential and engaged than ordinary customers and so they should be given priority treatment.

The US Airforce Web Posting Guidelines. Click the image to enlarge.

1. Complimentary Influential people: They may choose to defend you in the case of a complaint by other influential people. Offer them real benefits like product previews, event invitations and priority service. Try put together a list of 120 of the most positive and influential people connected to your business. 

2. Complaining Influential people: These people can cause a lot of damage if not dealt with swiftly. Firstly, you need to respond directly to their complaint online to explain the status of your response (we're reviewing your case etc), then follow-up very quickly with Direct offline engagement (a phone-call, meeting, email etc.) is often the best way to engage with influential people who are being negative about your brand online. If you've done your work with  building up your Positive Influencer community, then they'll jump in to help you here.  

3. Positive but not influential: Obviously you want as many people as possible to speak well of you - so encourage and reward people who do so. Acknowledge these people where possible, but be aware that amplifying and responding to every positive mention of your brand online can also make you seem desperate, so do it selectively. 

4. Negative and not influential: Not everyone who complains is credible. Firstly, check that you're not dealing with a "troll" - someone who criticises and complains about brands simply to draw attention to themselves - trolls are best ignored. If they're not trolling, then pay attention to what they're saying and try resolve issues their issues quietly and quickly.

Organizational Readiness

In their report, entitled “Social Business Readiness: How Advanced Companies Prepare Internally,”  the Altimeter Group  found that social media crises are increasingly making their way into mainstream media. The report also outlines what companies can do to prepare for crisis. Notably, they identified internal education as the most important factor. 

Transient
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AuthorDave Duarte
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So, Twitter is full of inane babble, right? Well, perhaps not. It can also be a source of inspiration, insight and learning if you want it to be. Here's six  things I think we can learn from using Twitter:

1. Perception is Contagious. The people you surround yourself with affect your experience and perspectives. Your experience on Twitter is largely determined by the people that you follow - if you follow boring, prejudiced or self-absorbed people on Twitter, you’re probably not going to have a very enjoyable experience of it. However, if you following curious, interesting and insightful people, you’re likely to be surprised and delighted regularly.

2. It’s not all about you. Being selfish and cagey is a sure way to be ignored. The more interested you are in others, the more interested they’re likely to be in you. The most popular people on Twitter engage and respond to others, share the ideas of others, acknowledge others, and add value with their own ideas too.

3. Sharing is joyful. There’s a certain delight that comes from sharing an idea that you care about publicly. This is compounded for every person that acknowledges your idea and passes it along (in the form of “Retweets” usually). In the same vein, it’s amazing how willing people are to help out with ideas or resources in response to questions you might pose on Twitter (of course, in this case you’d probably need to have some active followers for this to work).

4. Everyone has a story. One of the most remarkable things about Twitter is the abundance of experiences and perspectives that people have. Just browsing what people are writing about at any given time, or around any given topic is often humbling and enlightening. For example, I loved sharing the experience of fans around South Africa of the World Cup opening ceremony and game - people in the stadium, at fanparks, at home alone (dancing!), or with family and friends.

5. A little humour goes a long way. An informal survey I conducted on Twitter revealed that the most popular tweets for South Africans are humorous one-liners. In response to even the most tense debate, helping people laugh is sure to win you friends and followers.

6. Mean what you say. Insincere expression of feelings - whether good or bad can come back in surprising ways. People have lost jobs, business contracts, friends and followers from saying things they didn’t mean on Twitter. I think this stems from a sense that complaining is a good way to build sympathy - it works if you’ve had a real experience but can really backfire if you’re making it up. Just because you’re saying it online, it doesn’t mean there aren’t real people or real consequences on the receiving end. On the other hand, flat praise or outright lies tend to be exposed online, and people tend not to follow those who they don’t trust.

Lastly, I'd say that ultimately Twitter is pretty meaningless if you're only using it to accumulate followers. The real value of it is in the relationships you develop and the ways in which you can get to know people, share experiences and resolve problems.

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AuthorDave Duarte
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