Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Do You Want to Strengthen Your Social Media Relationships? Meet Your Contacts in Person

Some of your business relationships may develop solely through social media; most of the time, however, meaningful engagement in social media doesn't happen in social media alone, but when you participate eagerly in extrasocial media activities -- where you run a good chance of meeting your social media contacts in person and forging the kind of long-term relationships that yield good business.

Fortunately, you enjoy a wide berth in how you wish to go about combining your social media participation with your off-line networking: Because different social media channels facilitate face-to-face follow-up differently, you have options to fit your style. The possibilities are many, and social media is bigger than the big three social media destinations, but to keep this blog entry from growing too long, we'll cover just these three.


Facebook features a constellation of opportunities to interact. From commenting continually, to sharing all manner of media with your contacts, you benefit from a robust baseline opportunity to interact, and through an interface that is highly intuitive even to the uninitiated. (The greater challenge on Facebook, in fact, is not finding ways to interact, but avoiding too much interaction.)

As you delve ever deeper into the tool, the social nature of Facebook takes on several dimensions and grows increasingly dynamic. And with this multidimensional, increasingly dynamic interactivity grow the odds that someone, somewhere, who is in need of sitting down for the purposes of discussing business with someone like you, will ask to do just that -- with you.


Because Facebook is already conducive to easy-to-grasp interactivity, some may find it better-suited than Twitter to eventually meeting social media contacts off-line. But even Twitter, with all its abbreviations and shortcuts -- arcane knowledge to the newbie -- complements off-line networking and prospecting; in fact, used properly and among peers equally savvy in the use of social media, Twitter networking is indispensable to people relations, actually enhancing off-line activity with online goings-on running parallel to the off-line experience.


Do Facebook and Twitter still scare you? Does the thought of immersing yourself in their environments, let alone finding yourself face-to-face with your resulting contacts, make you feel awkward, even kind of funny and weird inside? Then start by using LinkedIn to combine your online presence with your off-line activity, whether that be networking, one-to-one prospecting or something else related.

I'm all about LinkedIn, and you should be, too. Sure, LinkedIn enables you to build a social mediaenabled, newfangled Rolodex. In and of itself, that is boring, but thankfully, the functionality of LinkedIn extends well beyond access to information on the professional background of your contacts. Through LinkedIn groups, especially regional groups, you can find teeming clusters of networking professionals who meet in person on a regular basis.

Just conduct an advanced search of LinkedIn groups to find what you're looking for and request to join the groups that make the most sense for you. Once a member of the group, you'll have the option of receiving daily or weekly e-mails that compile the group's activity -- which, typically, will include posts about upcoming networking events.

Exercising Cross-pollination

Are you feeling enterprising, maybe even brave? For the purposes of growing their numbers, most communities that combine their online presence with off-line activity combine their use of more than one social media networks, as well. An effective networking-focused LinkedIn group, for instance, will encourage members to follow the group's Twitter profile so that they may receive quickly digestible updates regarding networking events, etc. It's just one of myriad ways that the technologically literate cross-pollinate between social media networks and grow their sphere of influence both online and off-line.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Don't Like Twitter, But Like Texting? Then Tweet Like You Text

Yesterday, I read an article on how the Chinese are creating their own version of Twitter. Actually, I learned of the story by browsing a snarky website, which linked to the article about the Chinese version of Twitter via snarky anchor text: "Chinese figure out way to make Twitter even more boring."

The notion that Twitter is boring intrigued me, but before I even had a chance to digest the thought, the snark reared its head again, this time during today's morning drive. Said the announcer reading the script of a radio advertisement, "Did you ever think 140 characters could make your friends seem so boring?"

All this snark got me to thinking:

Yes, especially for the uninitiated, Twitter can be boring. But do we get bored texting? Typically, no -- at least for me, texting can be engrossing, even time-wasting. With the right "textee," I rarely get bored. Texts can be downright entertaining.

Maybe there's a solution here. Are you having trouble "getting into" Twitter? Are you having trouble "feeling it"? Well, Twitter gives you 140 characters, just like Short Message Service (SMS text) does, but with a bunch of bells and whistles. If you like texting, pretend you're texting on Twitter. See what happens. Actually, let me know what happens. Let me know if it helps you to like Twitter, or if it does nothing. I'm curious.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Business Card Is Dead

Long live contact information.

Over the past few weeks, at more than one business presentation and network mixer—including #SMCNH (Social Media Club New Hampshire), #SMBNH (Social Media Breakfast New Hampshire), #mtosummit (MTO Summit) and others—more than one professional greeted my request for his or her business card with the response that he or she didn't have one, but "it doesn't really matter. We'll just follow each other on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn. What's your name? Mine's..." These professionals' heads then turned downward as they buried themselves in their BlackBerry or iPhone or Android or whatever and looked for me online—right there, on the spot.

What? At some of these gatherings, as I proceeded to look at my nametag and my newfound contact's, I recalled that event staff had encouraged us to include our Twitter user names on them. But even at the events where our Twitter handles were not displaying on our nametags, early adopters everywhere were eschewing the business card, instead going straight for the social media site or installed mobile application of their choice, either to connect or to record my contact information. As I handed these folks my business card, a feeling of slight embarrassment replaced the feeling of pride that has usually accompanied the notion that, "Hey, I have an official business card to share with you."

Of all the holdovers from the days of hard copy marketing collateral, the business card has seemed ironclad, its domain sacred and impenetrable by the otherwise unstoppable march of technology. "People will always trade business cards" we've all heard, and even now, rarely will someone say the business card is no longer a necessity. But the business card as we know it is dying. No longer a multipurpose tool, more and more its role is becoming relegated. More and more, the business card is becoming a statement of brand just as easily expressed elsewhere, and the contact information traditionally found on it is now available just as readily (and more easily stored and remembered) elsewhere, as well.

Sure, only those on the cutting edge of social media attended some of these events, but even so, the trend away from hard copy business cards is undeniable. Mobile technology is driving this change, and while many may rue the business card's demise and the loss of the tangible—count me among the Luddites in this matter—the alternative is in fact preferable; the easy exchange and storage of contact information has always been the primary purpose of the business card, and technology has rendered the traditional business card no longer the easiest way to exchange and store contact information. It's as simple as that.

For instance, savvy readers may already know of the iPhone Business Card for ActiveRain:

Another is Catcher in the Sky's Name Catcher:

Applications such as these facilitate the exchange of information during the initial business encounter. With them, the process is often to take a new contact's photo and then record the associated phone number, e-mail address, Twitter user name, LinkedIn profile URL, blog address, pertinent notes about the first meeting, and more into a dynamic, searchable and Web-enabled interface, usable whenever you find a need to get in touch with that person. With a hard copy business card, you must remember and find the time to record and store all the typically handwritten information later. Unless you're extremely organized, that can be the end of it, and unless the data is tailored for mobile technology, that information can be challenging (or just a plain old nuisance) to retrieve later.

Technology's battalions have exploited the old world's latest weak spot. The next time you go to an event where technology types congregate, see for yourself. As you proceed to obtain new contacts' information, take note of their attitudes toward business cards. Whether they're using a BlackBerrry or iPhone or Android or whatever, their responses may lead you to conclude as I have.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Re-tweets: Bigger Is Better—Three Ways to Get Re-Tweeted by Tweeters Who Matter Most

Yes, it's true, and for anyone who makes due with small re-tweets, I hate to be the bearer of bad news: If you haven't got a big re-tweet, any re-tweet will do, but bigger is better, and Twitter users everywhere ought to be vying for that big re-tweet. Why? A big re-tweet brings with it big visibility, and big visibility brings with it success on Twitter—but only when developed and cultivated in a methodical way. In other words, you need to know how to use that big re-tweet, or it'll do little for you. The consolation is this: That big re-tweet is anything but complicated to get. Just provide the valuable information (whether it be your own or someone else's) and sprinkle it with wisdom. Oh, and make sure you're in the right place at the right time.

Last week, yours truly lived a mini case study in what the big re-tweet is like. About a month ago, I joined the Twitter list of SmartBrief on Social Media, an aggregator of information pertaining to search and social media. SmartBrief distributes its e-mail newsletter daily to thousands. Earlier that day, I had seen an article at MediaPost Blogs that asked whether or not B2B companies ought to embrace social media in 2010. I thought this would be useful for my followers to see, so I tweeted a link to the article and tied the notion to the trade show industry.

Here's the original tweet:

brentskinner "Will B2B Companies Embrace Social Media in 2010?" http://bit.ly/cQ7uxp Well, trade show producers should. #mtosummit

Notice that my tweet happened to include the MTO Summit's Twitter hashtag. It did so because I wanted my fellow attendees at MTO Summit to read the linked article. My hope was that as many of them would agree: Yes, the trade show industry indeed ought to embrace social media in 2010. It's a reasonable statement highly relevant to their industry—the stuff of excellent tweets, actually.

Well, imagine my surprise (and elation) when SmartBrief on Social Media noticed my tweet and not only re-tweeted me, but also featured me as the day's "Big Re-Tweet" in its afternoon e-mail distribution. Here's the publication's re-tweet of me, as it appeared on Twitter itself:

sbosm @brentskinner is the man of the hour -- and the #ireadsbosm big retweet of the day!

And here's the blurb that appeared in the e-mail newsletter:

RT @brentskinner "Will B2B Companies Embrace Social Media in 2010?" http://bit.ly/cQ7uxp Well, trade show producers should.

…which is the language of the publication's actual re-tweet, interestingly.

Thousands probably saw the re-tweet and the word of it in the e-mail newsletter, and in a methodical way I went about making the big re-tweet work for me—following the advice I shared with you a few paragraphs ago.

First, by encouraging a handful of my closest, most trusted and best-connected followers to re-tweet the re-tweet, I effectively chased what I like to call the long tail of social media chatter. Would I have liked to do more? Sure, but I worked with the bandwidth I had that day. Additionally, I forwarded the e-mail to as many of my hottest prospects as I could think of, and in many cases, doing so reignited exciting conversations regarding deals. By at once playing the role of information curator and wisdom-sharer with one tweet that day, I capitalized on the big re-tweet in order to take a critical step in establishing myself as a thought leader in my field and as a curator of especially useful information in the Twitterverse itself.

Much of this might seem boastful, but in no way am I special. I simply worked the online ecosystem, and so can you. In fact, following are three simple tactics anyone with good ideas and tenacity can employ to get that big re-tweet that'll go a long way in getting them big results on Twitter:

1) Use hashtags liberally: Capitalize on hashtags to get your ideas in front of the Twitter users following the subject matter related to your expertise. Share your wisdom with these ad hoc communities, which display great fluidity. Some, such as #publicrelations, have great staying power; others, such as those forming around a trade show or networking event (e.g,, #mtosummit), can form quickly and organically, swell, and then, eventually, dwindle. Either kind is of great value—you never know when a key influencer will give you the big re-tweet.

2) Join lists: Created by influential thought leaders or by publications, lists automatically place your tweets on the radar of the list's creator and everyone on it. Once you tweet something perceived by that community as being of note, you may draw the big re-tweet. Several weeks ago, for instance, I joined SmartBrief on Social Media's list by following the publication's instructions to do so—i.e., by including the hashtag of #ireadsbosm in a tweet. This alerted the publication to my desire to be added to its list's roster, and being on that radar placed all my tweets on this influential publication's radar—hence, that big re-tweet.

3) Re-tweet notable tweeters: It may seem unseemly, but it isn't if you do it tactfully and mean it. Just refrain from re-tweeting others will-nilly and be sure to include your own nugget of wisdom, thus adding to the quality of the conversation. The powerful re-tweeted person's followers may very well notice your tweet, re-tweet it, and even follow you. And if that person's followers comprise your target market, you've gotten that much closer to new business.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Search Did Not Kill the Radio Star

It helped the radio star, actually -- a lot.

Think about radio advertisements. We've all heard them. Plenty of them try to be funny, probably a conscious decision on the advertiser's to make the message in some way memorable. I'm sure just about all of us laugh at some of them, anyway. Many radio advertisements are musical, as well, and I'm sure just about all of us can sing a popular local advertiser's radio jingle. Car dealerships have some of the best (and worst -- just sayin').

But what good is all the music and humor when most of us are driving as we hear these ads? We have no safe and convenient way, really, of jotting down the number; we're trying to drive, for crying out loud! For instance, I don't even attempt to write a note to myself. That would be dangerous. Put another way, radio advertisers ought to forget about me (and other potential customers) remembering to enter the brand name into a search engine later.

What I occasionally do try, however, is to punch in and dial the 800 number as I keep one hand on the steering wheel. I always hang up before someone answers, always intending to give the number, now in my call log, another try once I'm in a place to think about possibly making the purchase or learning more -- e.g., when I'm no longer driving. And almost always, by the time I get to that point, I've forgotten what the 800 number was for -- or that I'd even planned to call it later.

The circumstances beg the question: What good is a fantastic radio advertisement if the potential customer won't even think to look for the brand name online later?

Well, the question is partially legitimate, but partially based on a false premise, as well. Potential customers probably won't remember the name of the company in the advertisement they heard as they drove to work, but if they later need what that company sells and search for the keyword phrase associated with that need, they'll see the search-optimized company's brand name toward the top of the first SERP of a non-branded natural search, and the memory of the funny ad or the catchy jingle will then go far in sealing the deal.

The artificial intelligence driving mobile technology development is addressing many of these issues, of course, but the technology itself is largely not there, and presently, consumers' adoption of it is nowhere near where it needs to be to make a measurable difference, anyway. In a few short years that may change, but in the meantime, search remains the king that did not kill the radio star.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Twitter Is for People Relations

Put differently, Twitter is for networking*.

This might prompt you to respond, "Tell me something I haven't already heard." You might even say, "Oh, and please spare me the buzz by actually explaining how I can use Twitter to network. I've heard this everywhere. But never, it seems, does anyone back up the claim with an explanation or how-to. Please explain! I need a how-to!"

I used to be this way. Can you believe it? Yes, I was just like you. Twitter seemed inane, something I begrudgingly paid attention to only because something deep down inside told me if I didn't, I'd be in deep trouble.

But I've since figured out something fundamental to Twitter and all of social media: Social media complements brick-and-mortar relationships and the brick-and-mortar events that give rise to them. And, occasionally, social media can be the starting point of a relationship. In fact, the process is anything but linear; the two scenarios coexist. Feeding off each other as circumstances evolve, they ebb and flow continually, and either can be the starting point from which the other stems. Let me explain.

If you're reading this, you may be an entrepreneur of sorts, perhaps even self-employed. That's great. So am I, and as a self-employed person, I urge you to fill your schedule with a slew of brick-and-mortar events. Attend at least two per week. I prefer learning-style events to simple mixers, but that's just me. I just find that learning events tend to provide a more intuitive entrée to thoughtful conversation.

Whatever your event of choice, resist the temptation to stay at home or at the office (or at both, if they happen to be one and the same). Whatever you do, refrain from remaining in front of the computer all day long, catering to clients' every whim. Yes, clients are your most important asset, but don't let them keep you from the all-important activities that bring in new business. You're like a shark, which needs to keep moving to breathe. Breathing is important, and to breathe in business, you need to keep moving.

Press the flesh. If only for the networking opportunities, these occasions are the very building blocks of business-building. Ideas will come to you as you shake the hands of and listen to speakers at the top of their game share the inner workings of that game of theirs. You'll return to your clients energized and full of inspiration. Isn't that what any client worth having wants?

And while you're at those events, don't forget to use Twitter to network.

OK, here comes that how-to part of all this. ...

Earlier this month, I attended LaunchCamp at Microsoft's fittingly named NERD Center in Cambridge, Mass. A highly interactive event of the highest order, LaunchCamp explored the landscape of new online tools and their utility to burgeoning start-ups.

Did I shake as many hands as I could? Of course I did. But pressing the flesh is different nowadays. Sure, shaking hands in person will always make an impression, and I did plenty of that; we'll always do plenty of that. But social media enabled me to press the flesh online, too, and by doing so, I was able to accentuate every subsequent in-person hand-shaking moment.

Most forward-thinking events have a Twitter hashtag, a series of letters preceded by the pound sign (#). For LaunchCamp, the hashtag was #LaunchCamp. By including this hashtag with every one of my tweets pertaining to the day's activity, I was able to make my thoughts easily viewable to all in attendance, and by searching this same hashtag, I was able to follow all other attendees' event-related tweets, as well.

How did I make these capabilities work for me? I joined the many others in attendance who tweeted on the many ideas that speakers were presenting. A parallel, online conversation developed that was nearly as compelling as the brick-and-mortar's. As a fellow attendee, I was able to establish my own modest level of thought leadership among attendees. Others did so, as well, and people replied to me and others.

In between sessions, we all shook hands and established the foundations for post-event discussions on collaboration and…wait for it…new business.

So, Twitter is for networking. But don't just jump into Twitter without a plan. Even if the plan is as simple as making sure to tweet during an event you're attending and remembering to include the event's hashtag with every tweet, you'll be harnessing the power of social media as a people relations tool.

*By the way, I have Ari Herzog (@ariherzog) to thank for alerting me to the term "people relations," which blogger David Mullen (@dmullen) coined a couple years ago. At a recent Social Media Breakfast New Hampshire (#smbnh), Ari and I had a chance to chat, observing that public relations is really people relations, and that social media is a facilitator of it. There's more to this, actually, which I plan to cover in upcoming posts. For instance, business networking is probably the simplest form of public relations -- I mean, people relations. Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Seed the Net and Await a Harvest

The following news clip features identity theft prevention expert Robert Siciliano, a longtime client of mine, discussing the dangers of identity theft posed by Skype.

By the way, did you notice, just above the clip, that I immediately preceded Robert's name with his primary keyword phrase? I did so purposely. Just now, I've again contributed to his natural search engine presence (a.k.a. organic SEO). And it's how Robert and I built his online identity (no pun intended...) over several years -- to the point that the print and television news media now call him when they need an expert on identity theft prevention. Because he's easy to find and highly relevant, there's no high-priced publicist making outgoing calls for Robert; he doesn't need one.

Last week, a SearchInsider article shared data revealing the power of natural search traffic. The full article is jam-packed with information, but if you don't have the time to read it, here's the most important piece of information: An iCrossing study on natural search has found that sites receive more than 95 percent "of all their non-branded natural search traffic from page-one results pages across all three major engines. The data included 8.9 million queries sampled over nine months, representing 10 enterprise-level Web sites in many different diverse verticals."

I'll translate that for you. They're talking about keyword phrases that is not necessarily tied to your brand language. Think of all the keyword phrases you would like people to see you associated with in the search engines. Some of it might overlap with your brand language, but there's no necessary linkage. These are the keyword phrases of yours that would have counted if your own website had been included in iCrossing's study.

Now, what if you took it a step further? What if you were to integrally and purposely associate your primary keyword phrase with your brand language? This is what Robert and I did, and we proceeded to seed the net relentlessly with this language. The harvests have been bountiful. The news media now reach out to Robert first, not the other way around.

Now that's pull-marketing. And you can do it, too.