Tuesday, December 25, 2012

2013 Swing Voters and Their Annoying Need for Facts

The second 2012 Presidential Debate is tonight and social media campaigns abound from the Left and Right aimed at undecided voters. To paraphrase their message, the opponent is the Devil incarnate while their candidate is the Messiah's messenger on Earth. (And that's from the non- denominational groups.) But it's online facts, as a Google study on today's media savvy swing voter  that gets their attention. And that is, well, confusing the hell out of both parties.

Facts evidently have little to do with Presidential elections any more being used only as a last resort. Most registered party voters profess to routinely vote across party lines, though I tend to believe otherwise. Is it to convince themselves and those in earshot of the water cooler that their vote was based upon a well thought out decision rather than on dogma? Maybe they voted for the Dog Catcher because they attend the same religious service or coach little league with them? Or maybe they just have an insatiable taste for Kool-Aid?  The Undecided prefer water. Clear, odorless, and sensible choice.

But you can't just blame the parties. Social media campaigning is everywhere. Just look at your Facebook wall or Twitter roll and you'll see it littered with political rants. It's dirty politics at its worst as little is censored. "But that's what social media is for," you say? "A soap box for everyone to publicly rant."  I suppose I can filter them out or just not read them, but the posts don't anger or insult me. I find them perplexing. Regardless of the point of view, I always ask "Who does this social media onslaught intend to sway anyway?"

The Undecided, contrary to perception, are not indecisive when it comes to politics. They are decisively unimpressed, uninfluenced, and unmoved by rhetorical fear-based politics. They believe decisions should be based upon facts rather than made by committee. And the more that facts are spun, the less credible anything they say will be perceived. In short, if you want to sway the swayers, provide more solutions with detailed plans and substantiated facts, and less Devils serving Kool-Aid.

Political doctrine has been replaced by conjecture and many truly believe this Presidential election is tantamount to Rapture. To those ensconced in the middle or the parties on the fringes, it's a football game wherein the same two teams buy their way into the Superbowl each year. A word to the wise: if someone's not wearing a red jersey of a blue jersey it doesn't mean they haven't picked a team to root for, it means they are not team players. So cheer if you must, online pundits. Spar with your opponents and make it down and dirty if it makes you happy. It's your privilege and responsibility as Americans. But please, while you're out rallying the fans, let the Undecided swing voters study the players, process the facts, and select the winner.

Article first published as Swing Voters and Their Damned Facts on Technorati.

2013 Facebook's Doggone Stock

If Marky Mark 2.0 was creating Facebook today, would he choose a different name in light of recent missteps to monetization?  Would he have used "FaceValue" to reflect the falling stock price since its IPO?  Or "FacePalm" to refer to the embarrassment over privacy concerns and leaks that pop up faster than "Like Us" buttons.  Or perhaps "Fakebook" to play off all the millions of fake accounts it continues to uncover every day?

These were my thoughts as I waited at the vet's office frustrated by the new
mobile ads clogging my Facebook mobile feed.  As I watched my poor dog get prodded and poked with needles, he seemed unfazed. Nor did he bat an eyelash at visit's end from the exorbitant bill for his food and medicine. He got a treat and was thrilled.  And that got me to thinking on how to rescue Facebook stock.

developers, attorneys, and management aren't responsible for all these problems. It's us who are to blame; the three-quarter billion-give-or-take real members whose data makes up Facebook's nest egg.

I mean in its defense, we're not even supposed to be using Facebook in the first place. It was designed to pick up Ivy League co-eds as The Social Network explained. And now, it's not just college folks that belong, it's far worse -- working people. To some Silicon Valley start ups, the real world is a necessary evil. The irony of the social network being created by an anti-social network is not lost upon them.  Alas, if only "The Matrix" was reality and people could be "commented out" of the source code, we wouldn't have put Facebook in this compromising situation.

Facebook advertising revenue generating has been a bust. That's why the stock value's continued to drop and the less than expected revenues. It's totally all our fault because we prefer the Google and Amazon ad plans. Recently it started seeking out and deleting its millions of fake profiles to help win over skeptical advertisers. Of the 83 million false accounts it initially found, over half were duplicate accounts, and almost 23 million were used for companies, groups...and pets. 

That's right. Pets. And therein lies the goldmine Facebook has overlooked. My epiphany at the veterinarian's was that the road out of the "dog house" leads straight to our dog's house. Rather than play with people's privacy why not just undermine the personal lives of the canine contingency? They actually prefer when they have their privacy infringed upon.
Why not target dogs with ads rather than using the their masters? People just complain about not wanting to be exploited. But pets...well what self-respecting dog wouldn't invest their life savings in a website that gave them say rawhide treats?

To Fido, Facebook isn't undervalued, it's simply under-scented.
Rename it Nosebook, then figure out a way to replace photos with "Scratch and Sniff" and the dog members of Facebook will make the stock skyrocket. No complaints regarding user interface, privacy, or user enjoyment now. Just one smelluva' good time.

The ball is in your court, Facebook. (Or better, pretend to throw the ball the other way and fake us all out.)  Bring back those accounts and appeal to the needs of your four legged friends and the stock will flourish.  All this time the answer was right under your cold, wet noses. Now, who's a good boy?

Article first published as How to Save Facebook Stock on Technorati.

Monday, December 17, 2012

2012 Help Wanted: Economists Needed to Repair Roof

I am not a Presidential candidate, nor do I play one on TV. My patriotic duty, if I choose to exercise it, will be to select a candidate in a few days who I believe will protect and foster my country's best interests. I am well-educated, worldly, open-minded, unaffiliated with a political party, and a chasm away from the 1% or the 47%. I routinely make complex decisions and have no issue moral or otherwise committing my support to one candidate. And I am by no means alone.

Like in many past elections, rather than selecting the best candidate for the position from thousands of qualified men and women, I find myself once again facing the much more difficult task of having to select the best (or least worst?) of two. No television commercial, email blast, tweet, or social media onslaught can help them now. I'm too demoralized and campaign-weary.

I apologize to those who have championed a cause but I do not accept rhetoric, statistics, or unsubstantiated claims of either Party as Gospel. I know both parties spin the truth to suit their agendas in hopes to sway voters. I do not believe that casting a vote should be tantamount to guessing who tells the fewest lies. But this is our political process and there is nothing we can do to change it at the moment.

What we can do is select the most crucial issue facing our nation and make our decision upon that, and the state of the economy seems to have won quite the mandate on that selection process. The Economy has topped the list of a majority of voters this election, including mine and it will be upon this that I will cast my vote.

Let's personalize it for a moment. If there was a leak in your roof, you'd hire a roofer. And if there were time, you'd interview a few and see how they planned to fix the leak and what it would cost. Well the Economy has a gaping hole in its roof though it seems the rain has been stopped at least temporarily from coming in with a tarp (or TARP as it were, if you see where I'm going with this. One candidate has experience doing it as President but though the hole is smaller, rain continues to fall in. The other is a businessman governor who appears to be more experienced fixing financial holes yet presents no bulleted plan or facts on how to get that hole repaired faster.  

I am not an economist, nor do I approve when Presidential candidates play one on TV.  Many factors affect the economy's health but I will not claim to know which are more important indicators because I am unequivocally unqualified to do so. That's what economists are meant to do yet the opinions of to no avail. Where are the ones without agendas? Ones that believe in doing what's best for the country regardless of political affiliation?
Perhaps rather than fixing holes, they're all busy digging one underground in which to live.

Article first published as Help Wanted: Economists Needed to Repair Roof on Technorati. 


2012 Social Media is for Experts Only. Do Not Attempt!

Please stand back. I'm about to adminster social media expertise.

Social media content writing is not rocket science -- it's far more difficult. And it shouldn't be attempted by non-experts or someone may lose and eye. Or that's what "social media experts" will tell you. And they'll also tell you that they're social media experts right from the get go.

Social media is just public relations, advertising, sales and marketing packaged into bite-sized pieces. So whoever handles those functions should be the same people who handle your social networking.I spend much of my day involved with social media and have for about three years now. I create strategies, write content, link efforts over various social networks, monitor and track mentions, identify influencers, and so on. The industry is still forming and changing so we are all perpetual students. The problem is social media hasn't been around long enough to create experts. Seasoned communications professional, certainly. But social media expert? It's like saying you're a Justin Bieber historian.

I might go as far as calling myself a social media guru as that sounds a tad more humble. And humility has a lot to do with social media. After all, it's not anti-social media. Or Upper crust media. The more humble you are the better your results. You like me more already, don't you? I can tell. ;)

No social media is not rocket science, but it is a science with formulas designed to make people open your email, click on your tweet or share. Want 5 Social Media Pro tips for free? Steal that last sentence. Certain phrases are more likely to get attention and are best when put in question format. Most of us know that the word "free" increases interest but so does "How to" and "Learn more."  Also quantifying items like "3 tricks" or "Top 10" works great. And yes, even  "expert" or "pro" adds a sense of importance.

Sometimes sentiment can trump content. Your tweets shouldn't be mundane but they don't always need to be Earth shattering. That's a bitter pill for marketing and public relations professionals to swallow. We don't send out press releases unless it's real news. But real news in social media has been redefined. So if it's not expert driven why the hesistation? According to a new study, most companies are not still not capitalizing on social media.

So in short grab the attention, be humble, and redefine what is news. Like this article for example. Before social media was around, this would have been bounced back at me by any editor worth their salt as being light on content. But today, it's being read and the insight supplied revered by thousands. But then again, what else would you expect from an expert?

Article first published as Social Media is for Experts Only. Do Not Attempt! on Technorati.

2012 Microsoft Surface, the iPad, and an Act of God.

This week will see the release of the Microsoft Surface tablet and Windows 8 operating software that supports touch screen. To me, it's the technology equivalent to an 80's hair band releasing a new album. Does anyone really care at this point? Evidently, yes. Early reviews have been  glowing and the company reports sold out pre-orders in the first day.

Regardless, it will surely be a tough road ahead for Microsoft fighting to gain a foothold in this new tablet market. Its Internet Explorer by most accounts continues to lose market share in the web browser arena to Chrome and Firefox, and it's playing catch up to Android and iOS on cell phone operating software. Microsoft Office still dominates business offices but Google Docs is free.

Here's a phrase I thought I'd never say: I feel a little sorry for Microsoft. You see, Apple is expected to release its new iPad mini this week. Apple is the technology media darling and can do no wrong even when its products seem flawed or over-hyped. The iPad mini and other new Apple products will undoubtedly steal Microsoft's thunder. And I haven't even mentioned the Android tablet market. How do you pity for the world's largest software company? I'm not a dictator sympathizer but I am human and it's at the very least odd watching as a leader falls be it by guillotine, firing squad, or tablet.

Millions swear by them but I've decided to pass on the tablet. First, I'm too rough on my equipment and so the iPad or any tablet would not last with me. Second, it's an awkward size in my book. I caught flack from women friends after my article on the iPhone 5 being too light, too thin, too small, with no customization. Most say they love theirs. But none have man hands or a head the size of The Great Pumpkin.
If your question is to tablet or not to tablet, then consider the two reasons people get online. To consume (read) content, or create (write) content. I fall into the latter group. I craft more emails than I reply to. I write more articles than I read. I edit more photos and create more illustrations than I post on my Facebook wall or pin on Pinterest. Yes the tablets can add keyboard attachments but why not just get a laptop? The new Google Chromebook, is a lightweight laptop that costs less than all the tablets, excites me more.

So if you do much of your reading online, never drop your phone, wash your hands incessantly, have Veruca Salt syndrome that requires you to have everything new and have it now, have run out of infomercials to spend your expendable cash on, or write email that usually don't go much longer than "Thanks," "No problem," or "Call me" than a tablet may be right for you. Though I predict in about a year, you will be using said tablet as a $400 coaster in front of the exercise equipment in your bedroom that is now a $1,000 towel rack.

But don't listen to me. I never would have predicted a need or want for something in between a smart phone and a laptop. So with luck and time Microsoft Surface may make inroads into the tablet market, but it may indeed take an Act of God to put it back on top as the technology leader.

Article first published as Who is Praying for a Microsoft Surface Tablet? Microsoft is. on Technorati.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

2012 Why No One "Likes" Your Social Media

Good for your company on starting a Facebook fan page; bad for you if you're the unlucky one forced to manage it without direction. The first mistake companies make is concentrate on sending the page to coworkers, friends, family then have to sheepishly ask for clicks like we do for our kids doing school fund drives. Problem is you are not a collector and they are not "fans."  So "Like" building has been your focus so to appear legitimate or because you believe more is better, then you'll likely generate as much new business as Donald Trump's hair stylist or Honey Boo Boo's charm school teacher. (Or Trump's charm school teacher or Honey's stylist. Take your pick.) 

The companies with successful track records on Facebook know that number of "Likes" is irrelevant. But trying to convince upper management of this fact van be tough. To them, it's all about numbers, more the merrier, the buckshot approach, fish in a barrel, and all those other sales idioms they tend to throw around. Challenge their "Trolling for Likes" approach by putting it on a personal level.  You know those friends with ridiculously high friend counts? (I haven't met 3,000 people nonetheless willing to call them amigo.) Is this really friendship or a collection of strangers? Can you count on them for help?

Now apply this to your company "Likes."  Can they "help" you? They are useless unless they are potential leads. Visitors care if they get something out of it and care little if others do. The only people you want to click the Blue Thumbs Up should be potential and current customers. You're intent is to build trust, credibility, and foster future business by supplying pertinent content and engaging offers.

So what should a business do? A Facebook Fan Page is meant to reinforce — not replace — your sales, public relations, and customer service. The idea of Facebook for companies is to create and capture new leads by building credibility and interest. Try to push visitors to their websites, custom landing pages, etc. Here are a few simple rules:
  • Vary the sentiment of your posts. In addition to posting news about your products, offer Facebook-only promotions, special offers, and helpful tips.
  • Remember it’s social media. Include photos of the staff at work, company outings, parties, etc. 
  • Cross market and place the Facebook address on all other ads, emails, promotions, etc. to increase fan count.
Let your fan page bring us into your world. Give us reason to visit and to return. Who knows? Just like Mikey from the old Life cereal commercials, we just might "Like" it.

Article first published as Social Media: Why Nobody "Likes" Yours on Technorati.

2012 Social Media: Like Marriage it's a One-Way Street

Social media and relationships: that's what the new Facebook couples pages is all about. Listing yourself as "In a relationship" is so traumatic that it's probably ended more relationships than Vegas trips and Victoria's Secrets catalogs combined. But now, a page to illustrate the relationship?  (For more information on this please see "Kiss of Death".)  Instead let's discuss the business/customer social media "marriage."

First, if you believe the adage "Marriage is a two-way street" then I might have due cause to suspend your relationship license.  Or maybe you've never walked down the plank, er I mean, aisle. Marriages — even the most successful ones  — are more often than not comprised of a giver and a taker. And the social media business relationship is no different except the business is always the giver and your customer is always the taker. As the reader/follower/customer, I want, want, want. I don’t care if it’s an insight or a laugh,  though I'd much rather have a coupon, hot tip, chance to win, or anything FREE! Just hand it over. The better it is, the more I’ll return.

When a company starts a Facebook fan page or a Twitter account they expect to build relationships with clients right away — both current and potential ones. Like marriages, there is a honeymoon period. They like your product/service, so they will "Like" your page without much expectations. But you'll need to deliver or the relationship will sizzle. 
Too often companies expect the leads and sales to file in like lemmings. They won't. It takes time. Many companies simply give up too quickly. And like marriage, it takes work. A lot of work — and I don't mean just taking out the garbage every once in awhile.

Social media is about providing relevant content to act as a catalyst to create buzz or “call to action" not instant sales.  So if you’re selling, rather than a post that basically says “Read this and buy my product” get intriguing instead. Try “Buy this because today and we'll charge you less. Click for your special pricing.”

The marriage parallels are all there: hard work, interest, intrigue, and a willingness to give.  Done correctly, social media, like marriage can greatly enhance both your sales and customer experience. 

Article first published as Social Media is Like Marriage: A One-Way Street on Technorati.

2012 Want 5 Top Pro Social Media Tips? Steal this Headline

Did you see what I did there? I front-loaded the headline with tried and true triggers to make even the most skeptical reader to click and open. Like you just did. Marketers have known for years that people respond to sentiments that imply easy, free, expert or quantitative points. But social media is upping the ante. We live in a 140 character world that will keep getting shortened until mind reading is a downloadable smart phone app. The bad news is that my Magic 8-Ball says "Chances are good" that several people who will repost this very article will do so without ever reading it.

And therein lies one of the most prevalent problems that social media for business is facing today.
There is such a frenzy by businesses to share post, re-post, tweet and retweet that few stop to read what they share or know why they're sharing it. Often it's rehashed info we just read --and those are the good posts. More often articles are a few paragraphs seasoned with keywords to improve someone's SEO (search engine optimization.)  And then there's the "joiners" who have never asked why and are adding to post proliferation for the sake of doing it. If it were paper, Green Peace would be knocking down their doors. (OK it's Green Peace, so perhaps knocking politely asking us to stop.)

To quote a conversation I overhead the other day at social media central (aka Starbucks): "I'd like to reach a point, at some point." Unintentional yet brilliant advice actually. As a world, we no longer write to inform; we write to get noticed and that my concerned friends is a very dangerous concept. Am I calling for a referendum on rampant post sharing? Yes, but it's too late for that. So I will settle for reposting or sharing with a purpose. Nothing wrong with an enticing headline as a little playful manipulation is fine. It's when you don't deliver on those teases that readers get angered. But keep doing that and something far worse will occur, they'll start to ignore you.
So when creating social media content, it's important to remember to deliver what you're subject line promised — even if you didn't create the content yourself. Ask yourself what you can add to it and how you can shed light upon a subject that may have never occurred to the author. Agree or disagree. Praise or chastise. Share with a purpose.

Finally, kudos to those of you who made it to end of this article--because you're customers will. All they ask of you is that you think and read before you share and add your take on things. After all, it's why they follow you. If you add the hash tag #sharewithpurpose when you share this article, it will let everyone know you did.

Article first published as 5 Free, Fast Pro Social Media Tips? Steal this Headline on Technorati.

2012 Social Media & Facebook Friends: In Need of Defense

 A new social media website wants to encourage us to follow the advice of our friends instead of complete strangers. With perpetual skepticism, sarcasm approaching warning levels, and being named yet again to People Magazine's "Sexiest Curmudgeon of the Year" list, I've somehow accumulated more friends than I really should have. (O.K. so I may have substituted the word "messiest" with "sexiest" in the previous sentence.) And some of my best friends are strangers I have only corresponded with through social media; ones I have never met and not likely I ever will.

If you think about it, you didn't really choose the friends you saw this weekend. More likely, they're your neighbors, your family, work associates, fellow students who sat next to you in Algebra class, or the parents of the other kids on our kid's team. We "promote" these people to friendship status due to their close proximity to our lives, their time served in it, or due to our disillusionment with other friends who we feel should be, well, friendlier.

The Peter Principle is a belief that, in an organization where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit, that organization's members will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability. When applied to friendship its rising beyond the levels of commonality.  See, I don't really want to have Peter as my friend. He just sees the photos of my kid everyday on my desk, or lives in the apartment above me, or dropped me off at the mechanics to pick up my car -- well you get the picture. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but we often don't even like our friends. Harsh, I know but we're usually appointed our "real life" friends. 

But social media friends are friends we actually select. Earlier I called them "best friends" which was not the right term, but do I know that at times I like them better than some of my "friends by default." I like what they have to say, how they say it, and who they say it about. We have similar politics, senses of humor, sensibilities. We choose to keep in contact rather than be handcuffed by association. We look forward to correspondence rather than feel obliged to respond. Our heartfelt support soothes us emotionally from an emotionless laptop. 

This is not about discrediting the importance of friends I've known for years but rather giving more respect to those I've only known virtually. You could make the argument that we only interact with online friends superficially. We see each other through photos at our best and communicate our wittiest thoughts.  But yes, at times I do like some of my virtual friends better than my live ones and that's O.K. because those friends by default are like an acquired taste: I wouldn't have chose them but glad I found them. But more importantly, -- online or in person -- real friends are preferable to fake ones, as they're the toughest to find.

Article first published as In Defense of Social Media and Facebook Friends on Technorati.

2012 I Like My News Like My Water: Unflavored

When I ask for a glass of water in a restaurant now it invariably comes with a wedge of lemon. When and why did this become the norm? Was this the idea of the Lemon Council? There is a Lemon Council, right? There must be as there are lobbyists for everything now. Did their sour, puckered lips sweet talk every eating and drinking establishment in country with promised tax loopholes? Or maybe its a Lemon Consortium that strong arms bars to "add a slice if theys knows what's good for 'em." I'm thinking they are just taking their lead from news organizations.
News organizations all flavor their news. That goes for whether whether they are online, on air, or on Death Row (the medium formally known as "Print".) Rather than scouring the Internet looking for news I find myself scouring the news looking for unfiltered versions. Most have an overtly political bent, others focus on technology, or sensationalism.
It annoys me to no end that I have to go out of my way to request water without lemon when without lemon is the way it should be served. And it's nearly impossible finding straight news sources these days. Where do you go for your news?
The point of social media news is to supply the facts while they occur without any agenda. For me, the opinions of other news readers seem to carry the most validity. I now like the sites like Reddit that rank their featured news by reader views as it saves me the time and frustration of reading through the muck. Yes Reddit, whose viewers in an interview with President Obama posed the very important question of "Would you rather fight a horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?" Make fun of Reddit as much as like — in fact it's encouraged. It keeps the news posts and posters honest.
Of course there are many sites that let you tailor your news page to your liking. But really it's the equivalent of letting you choose which lemons you'd like in your water and how many slices you'd like to add.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to discern what agenda is being pushed upon us and ever more clear that skepticism is required for nearly every news source we encounter. The point is if I want to flavor my water I shall do so myself. And I want my news like my water: fresh, in a clear glass, and unflavored.
Article first published as A Glass of News; No Lemon, Please on Technorati.

2013 Perfecting Your Social Media Timing.

The precise moment I pulled up to the gas pump this morning, my car chimed and the "Need Fuel" icon light came on. I thought about how great it would be if I could achieve similar perfect timing with my social media to maximize results and reach. To have posts, emails, texts, them appear precisely at the moment they are needed or desired.

One of the first things I learned about being a social media professional was that before you spend time on the metrics of perfect timing, it's better to spend more time tweeting and Facebook posting more often. The number one reason social media campaigns fail in my opinion is because businesses get discouraged by a lack of results and stop posting. Or they run out of ideas. Or they just don't keep up with a regular schedule.

Instead, first think about your intent. Why do you want your posts to be read? What are your expected results? Is it just to be retweeted or reposted? That's good for the ego but doesn't much help the bottom line.  Is it to drive sales or drive visitors to another site?

Don't worry about repeating yourself particularly when you are just getting started with your social media.  Like learning tennis, don't worry about hitting winners or even hitting the ball over the net. Concentrate on form.  No one follower will ever read all your tweets so they don't have to all be gems.

Perfect timing for your social media will vary industry to industry. Sometimes the first week of the month will garner the most attention other industries it's the last. Once you've got a better idea on why and what, the when will become easier to determine.  I can tell you that certain days to post are better than others. For blogging, Monday sees the most posts while Friday seems to be the day when most are read. Studies show the best time to Tweet and/or post on Facebook is between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Yet most of the readers who will retweet this article will likely do so first thing in the morning. We all tend to believe that real news happens when we were sleeping. Lesson? Vary times and track when you see the best results. Then stick to a schedule.

But even when you think you've got it all figured out, social media success really comes down to luck of the draw. That next customer may read all my tweets in the afternoon but the one that catches their eye might be the one they read while waiting for my appointment at the dentist tomorrow morning. So in other words don't worry about how fast your going and lose site that you're in fact, running on empty.