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Where is the separation?

The other day I was asked to begin blogging for another website, eBizq. They focus on professionals, vendors and industry analysts exchanging information on enterprise technologies, problems and solutions. During the meeting with the Managing Editor, I referenced my personal blog and my work blog as a reference guide to my style and the topics that I write. While I was describing the differences between the blogs, I got to thinking, they are fairly the same blog. Granted the tone and style may be slightly different, but in general, they are the same blog. I have also cross-posted a few posts between the 2 already.

After I thought about it a little more, can I write for 2 or 3 blogs, focused around the same topic? Can I/Should I try to consolidate the blogs somehow? I do not want to “lose” the current readership (no matter how small that it is) on my personal blog. People have obviously subscribed to it for some reason, and if I change the topic or content on the blog now, then I will lose them. I would not mind forwarding those individuals over to my work blog, but then again, people do not want to read what a “company” is saying, they would rather read an opinion from an independent source, that has no bias or agenda – which I can totally understand.

I guess that my question is, Can a line be drawn? Once you choose a path, is there a way that you can change direction? While I do not mind writing on 3 different blogs, I do not want to duplicate the content and readership, or spread it too thin. Has anyone had this issue and the past and what decisions did you make that seemed the most appropriate? Personal Branding vs. Professional Career vs. Industry thought leadership?

I am sure that you all remember the good old cartoon from Bugs Bunny, the Tortoise vs. the Hare:

 

During the entire race, Bugs Bunny is trying to cheat, cut corners and sabotage the Tortoise in order to win the race. The Tortoise on the other hand just runs the race and stays the course. When all is said and done, the Tortoise wins and proves the point, Slow and Steady wins the race.

Social Media implementations are very similar in this approach, or at least successful ones are.

In the more recent past, companies were getting involved in Social Media and launching online communities because their competition was, or because it was the ‘Thing to do, and they followed the concept of “if-you-build-it-they-will-come”. While that approach may have worked in the past, it most certainly does not work now.

People have so many place that they can go to converse and interact with others, that they have their pick-of-the-litter when it comes to Social Media. Have you done your research ahead of time, or have you rushed into the space, hoping that by cutting corners you will beat your competition?

Which do you think that you are at the moment? Have you built your application or Strategy? Are you reviewing other applications (Twitter, Facebook) and doing your research up front before you jump into the game, analyzing your audience ahead of time? Are you setting yourself up for failure before you even begin?

Has Social Media spoiled us? It is a corporations responsibility to reply to every mention on Twitter or every video complaint on You Tube? I am torn with these questions and am curious how others feel.

I understand that corporations should be interacting in some way/shape/form online. Some are building their own communities and others are creating a strategy so diverse that they are on Twitter, Facebook, You Tube and other Social sites in order to reach their audiences. Some are also conducting focus groups and including their feedback within internal processes. I say good for them. Great for them! They may have the manpower and bandwidth in order to execute such a robust strategy. But what about those that do not? Are we to discredit a company because they do not reply to us on Twitter? What if I post a question on Twitter (my choice) rather than go through their support forms? Maybe I am doing it on purpose because I know that I will get an answer quicker. Is that fair to the other members with questions in the Support queue, since they will have to wait longer while the company re-assigns resources? What if they do not have a Twitter process, am I to assume that they do not care?

Don’t get me wrong, I am a Social Media guy through and through, but I do not expect corporations to bend over to my individual needs, based on my choices. If a company has a webform, then I would expect that they have a process in place to reply and track the form with their support tools. They track the issues and make any necessary changes based upon sheer numbers. If I circumvent the system, how can they track my issue and make any necessary changes to their processes to resolve the situation? We work through processes on a daily basis, some work and some do not. For the ones that work, why should they change for ME (I may be the only one that thinks they need changing)? Should I assume that they do not care because they are not on Twitter?

Don’t forget about what they say about the word A-S-S-U-M-E.

I realize that there are situations where Twitter can be the first line of defense for a company, and there are benefits of participation and interaction. But we should not condemn those that are not, or expect those to interact because that is where “I” am.

The truth of the matter is that we should work directly with those companies to help them understand their deficiency. Write to them, let them know what they are missing, rather than condemn them initially saying that they do not care (and tweeting that to your 1,000 friends). By condemning, you are in fact prolonging their acceptance of Twitter as a communication channel and are scaring them away. Not what you were trying to do is it?

Think before you Tweet ;)

Thoughts?

Mike

I have posted many updates on twitter over the last year or so (over 1,000). Some updates include my travels, some updates include different places that I go to eat, while others are focused around Social Media questions – all of the posts have a different focus and require a different interaction from others. I had heard businesses wonder about Twitter, and what effect it may have on them, and while some “get it”, others can not make the connection. I wanted to highlight 2 different ways that Twitter’s platform can have a positive effect on your brand.

Brand Awareness
The other day, I posted that I was going to the Boston Celtics basketball game. Within 10 minutes or so, I was followed by The Bulfinch Hotel

.

Now I did not post that I needed a place to stay in the city, or that I was looking of a restaurant to eat at, I just posted the Boston Celtics, and the hotel decided to follow me. Now my curiosity got to me, so I looked at their profile and went to their website. I learned a lot about where the hotel is and what their costs are. In the future, when I go into the city and need a place to stay, I will probably give them the benefit of the doubt and stay with them based on their eagerness and aggressiveness of following me on Twitter. By setting up a simple search on Twitter for “Boston” The Bulfinch Hotel is able to see everyone that posts that within their tweet. They can then take the initiative to follow those people if they feel the need, and their scalable, cost-effective Social media campaign is launched.

Customer Support
Last year New England had a “wicked” ice storm that paralyzed the area for many days, and weeks in some cases. We initially lost power on a Thursday afternoon as I remember. During the first couple of days, I did not call our electric company PSNH

too much (after the initial report), as I was sure that they were on it, and that they would restore power as soon as they could. When I got to work on Monday, I began reading about the storm through local websites and news outlets. Within the articles that I read, the electric company promoted the fact that PSNH was on Twitter and if you wanted to report outages, or stay up-to-date with updates concerning when power was going to be restored to your area, to follow them. I followed them immediately and again reported the outage in my area. I was then contacted by a representative of the company on twitter letting me know that they were aware of the outage and that it would still be a couple of days for them to resolve my specific situation. I was in contact with their twitter account over the 7 days that the power was out for. Because of this, I did not call their support lines, or have to listen to dreaded on hold music while waiting for a support person to not tell me anything that I did not already know.

Now I do not have a huge reach within the “blog-space” and do not have thousands and thousands of readers. I may not be able to have any effect on their bottom line, but these 2 companies understand the importance of communicating with their audience 1 person at a time, which, when it comes down to it, is just what it takes to make a difference.

I remember when I was a kid, at the end of every GI Joe episode, they ran a nice little segment that taught kids many different lessons, and then the characters would say, “…and knowing is half the Battle”. Now how am I going to relate this to Social Media you say, well here goes…….

knowing-is-half-the-battle

I love Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other Social Media/Networking applications and platforms because it helps me learn a lot. Within Facebook it is great to see what my friends are up to, living all across the World; Twitter allows for the immediate gratification fix; for LinkedIn, it is crazy to see where people are moving within their professional careers, and potential business/job opportunities that can spawn out of those contacts/networks…you get the picture.

Now, I am rather new within Ektron, and I do not know anyone here. My 1st order of business was to check out the Intranet. Now the intranet has the typical information that you may find on other sites, announcements, events, documentation, you get the picture. Low-and-behold though, Ektron is eating their own dogfood (or drinking their own champagne) within the Social Media/Networking aspects of online communities, as we should be. Immediately I was able to review profiles of all of the employees – think of Facebook (photo’s, Updates, Twitter feeds….) – but for the organization.

At first I was very selfish in thinking how great this was, I could get up to speed rather quickly – getting to know who else on staff liked the same TV shows or local dining establishments in the area. I was very focused on the personal aspects of my new landscape and not thinking about how this could be beneficial within my “job”.

The Ektron intranet:

  • offered me a comfort level that I have not felt when I was hired by any other company
  • provided me insight as to the projects that were happening, and their status
  • immediately informed me as to when documents were being changed, and allowed me insight into what those changes were, and who made them
  • let me know who was on vacation, where they were going/when they were coming back
  • provided me the tools that I am used to using in my personal life, in a professional manner

Think about the last time that you had to print out a employee contact list because it was too hard to find; not know that someone was on vacation because they forgot to put their OOO on within outlook and go weeks before you got an answer; sent an email with a document that had been updated but not had “track revisions” on it; there are many other situations that can be described here.

Here is the question:

How important to you is it to keep up to date with someone that you have not seen in the last 10 years, and become part of their Mafia vs. Awareness within the decisions and on-goings that happen on a daily basis within your professional career and being able to affect the results?  

From now on, I will do BOTH (except for the Mafia part). 

Have you had a similar experience or wish that you had? As always, thanks for reading

When I think of Social Media and companies that are incorporating a strategy around it, I think of sailing. Now for all you true sailors out there, I will promise you that I will probably get some terminology incorrect, and will do my best to paint an accurate picture, hopefully  you all will get the picture.

I think of the boat as being your business; the Captain, as just that, your leader; his crew are the Exec’s, Board members and other that can directly influence the course; the sails that you sail under as the decisions that you make; the wind behind you as your employees, or your customers, basically anyone that interacts with your company, or helps it move forward.

The wind will always be there, whether it is strong or whether it slows down, it will always be there. The Captain is always there to make sure that you are heading in the right direction, and grabbing as much wind as possible. Most boats sail with the same number of sails, which makes the decision making process for the Captain really difficult and timely, as the winds could shift tremendously, and if you are not ready for the shift, you will be dead in the water. If another boat with the same amount of sails cuts across your bow and steals your wind, the race is over for you. The fact of the matter is that he WIND is what keeps you moving, and the Captain has to know when to listen to the Crew, and when to observe the wind and go with his Gut.

The Social Media sail, once drawn, can assist in many decisions that the Captain can make throughout the sail, while also grabbing additional wind in the process. Whether the “wind” is employee productivity and retention, additional sales and revenue, streamlining processes and procedures (efficiency)……the benefits of this sail can and will pay itself off over and over again. While this ROI is different dependant on the implementation it is there and can be measured.

When I hear companies discuss if they can afford to implement Social Media technologies or implement features and functionality within their website that will empower customers and employees to interact and provide feedback to each other as well as directly to the business, I think of this – “Can you afford not to”? Can you find yourself in this photo?

sailing

Where are you?

I cannot believe that it has been over a month since my last post, so much for keeping up with my responsibilities.

The last month has been full of everything, traveling, interviewing and landing a great opportunity. First, let me tell you about my travels over the last month……….then again, what the heck am I thinking, let me tell you about the opportunity that I landed 3 weeks ago.

Thanks to Heather Strout, I was able to get my foot into the door at AAA, working with their Mid-Atlantic division (DE, MD, PA, DC, VA, and NJ). They had launched new communities (blogs, message boards, profiles, recommendations) around Cars & Driving and Travel. Through their strategy phases with Mzinga, they realized the importance of having someone Manage the area and become the internal evangelist for their community and its members. After a couple of meetings, I was offered a Contract position with AAA Mid-Atlantic. This is a very exciting opportunity for me, as I am getting back to my roots of Social Media/Online Community management – building an online community and developing a Social Media strategy around it to increase customer satisfaction, brand awareness, membership, visibility and all of the other things that come along with a successful plan.

I have just begun my 2nd week and am already in the depths of the Metrics and Measurement side of things, so that I have a holistic view of what can/not be accomplished. Granted the “anything is possible” saying comes to mind, but I like to be a little more realistic.

As for my travels, they were all New England based, some Vermont, some NH and some MA. Nice to do a little bit of camping and hiking while the weather is nice.

As I have promised in the past, I will try to update my blog as much as possible; you may notice a slight change in the “Voice” as it may come on less of the Moderation side of things, and more of the Management side of things.

As always, thanks for reading.

Mike

Over the years, I have been a part of many conversations over being genuine. Whether they happen online or during meetings, some think that they can get away with trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes, thinking that they can “get away” with it.

I think that we are all familiar with the infamous tale below, as written by Hans Christian Anderson.

New ClothsIf you are in that school of thought, then all you are really doing is playing the role of  the tailors that fooled the King. But please be sure to remember that someone will always “call you out” and set things straight.

My previous post focused on transparency, and I tried to ensure that people think about when and where they need to share any and all information. There are times and places for everything.

But being genuine though is something that is very different. Being genuine shows that you really care and have a vested interest in growing and nurturing a successful “thing”  (business, online community, friendship…..)

Being genuine is also just like trust in the fact that it is earned, and once it is lost, it is hard to gain back. If you are not genuine 100% of the time, then no one will believe what you say and you will discredit yourself time and time again.

Being genuine is something that needs to happen 100% of the time.

First off, I apologize for the hiatus that I have taken with my blog posts, but I have been able to take full advantage of my employment status and just got back from vacation. Orlando was fun.

Mystery Machine

Mystery Machine

I post the above image because to most, online communities are a mystery; People never know what to expect, or what is going to happen once the flood gates are open. If you take the proper steps in advance, you can begin to put the pieces of the puzzle together – the truth of the matter is that you need all of the pieces in order to solve the complete puzzle. Without all of the pieces, your puzzle, and community, will be incomplete.

Research is a key beginning step. Observe what others are doing. If you are the 1st in your area to expand into Social Media, review similar areas/sites – odds are, someone is doing it, and doing it right. At the same time, no one likes a “copy-cat” so what may work for others, may not work for you. Pick and choose what is appropriate for you and your members.

Figure out who your demographic is – who are the key 2-3 groups of people that you are trying to reach. What are they looking for, and what is missing? What is their personality and how do they want to participate (pulling or pushing of information)? Depending on the answer to that question will depend on the types of tools that you should implement within your community.

Develop a strategy based on the answers and discussions above. The research and discussions that will happen during the above steps will help to mold and shape your strategy.

Once your strategy is complete, discussions around an “internal build” or external Software as a Service (SaaS) provider partnership can be discussed. There are many schools of thought around this, but my thoughts are that if you do not have to reinvent the wheel, why try. There are many vendors out there that can assist in all aspects of your online community initiatives, so leverage them as much as possible.

Crawl before you walk, walk before you run. Do not overwhelm your community up front. Remember you never get a 1st chance to make a 2nd impression.

The most important aspects of any Social Media or Online Community initiative is to ask questions and begin the discussion with those key stakeholders that are familiar with these tools. Make sure to capture the dialogue that happens during these meetings, as it will be very insightful….and when in doubt, you have to go with what and how you feel. Decisions based on revenue generation can have  a detrimental effect on your community.

Thoughts? Obviously this is just scratching the surface on things to think about.

personalities-2

Over the 10 years that I have been working with and on online communities, I have come across numerous member personalities. It is funny how these personalities are similiar to real life. At the same time, it is also interesting how someone in real life can project an entirely different personality online.

I wanted to share a couple of those personalities with you and would ask that you also share some of the ones that you have noticed, that I may have missed.

* Note: All of the titles have been made up

The “All-Knowing” – will answer any and every question, and will not reference any materials that may have assisted in their answer. They know it all, just ask them.

The “Researcher/Teacher” – will find sites to reference within the answers that they post, and link directly to those sites. Very knowledgeable individuals.

The “Poet” – all posts are a work of art, they are all well thought out and to the point. This member really knows what to say, when to say it, and whom to say it to.

The “Pile-on-er” – if there is ever a disagreement and it is many against 1, this member will always take the side of the many. They may not post that often, but they know when to pile-on and chime in.

The “Agree-er” - similar to the above, except this member will not just pile-on, they will simply agree, and move on. They may not post a reason for their actions, and may just post, “I agree”, but these members are out there.

The “Bater” – always wanting to start a fight, this members knows what to say, and who to say it to to get things going and to start a debating discussion that could spiral out of control.

The “New-bie” – someone that is truly new to your community and posts to find information or see what the community is about. These members need immediate attention so that you can retain them.

The “Goold-old-days-er” – this member will reminisce about how things were in the past, and how much better it was. At the same time, they were also complaining back then as well, so nothing really has changed with them.

The “Multi-personality” – will create numerous ID’s on your site to either agree with themselves, or fight with themselves. They can also gang up on others within your community and make it seem that some members are outnumbered.

The “Governor” – weather self-appointed or not, this member feels the pressure of leading the community to the promised land and will do anything in their means to protect it. While in most cases this can be a good thing, in some cases it can end bad with the member feeling that they have too much power.

The “Mediator” – generally every community has a couple of these. Whenever situations seem to begin to spiral out of control, this member will try to step in and diffuse it, not taking either side.

I think that this is a good start, but know that it is not a complete list, please feel free to add yours below.

As always, thanks for reading.

Mike

Employment

I am currently employed at Autodesk as a Senior Manager of Online Community and Social Engagement. My team is responsible for the Customer Support initiatives across all of our Social channels.

Community Roundtable

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