One of the things I used to love about Twitter back when it first started, before it became the second home of Nigerian Prince’s and MLM marketers, was it’s ability to bestow upon its users Random Awesome through the power of connection. Don’t get me wrong, it still does bestow Random Awesome amongst its users – you just have to go through an added layer of filter now to build up those valid connections and get there.
What do I mean by Random Awesome? Late last night when it was time to put work away and get to sleep, I saw Tony Hawk tweet that he couldn’t take his extra skateboard onto a flight, and that he was leaving it in a terminal for some lucky fan to find. This was one of those unscripted moments of Random Awesome that Twitter was made for. Not a publicity stunt. Not a brand desperately trying to go viral. Just a celebrity and athlete I’ve tracked since my misspent youth as a Sk8 rat who decided to use a moment of inconvenience to make a fan happy.
When I woke up this morning to find out what had happened, I saw this moment of happiness:
These Random Awesome moments used to be everywhere on Twitter in the form of gestures of kindness from user to user, random tweetups (by the way, folks, a true tweetup isn’t a scripted sponsored event, and is something that users are finding again on Foursquare now – the chance to let people know where they are and connect to share a meal or drink on the fly and take connections offline and make them real, one on one or in small spur of the moment groups.), impromptu fundraisers for friends’ needs or local causes. These Random Awesome moments are not gone, but we are allowing them to become harder to find, and I think that’s a shame.
If you take nothing else from this off the cuff post about a cool moment on Twitter, take the initiative to bring back some Random Awesome. I’d love to go back to filtering less and connecting more, wouldn’t you?
Heck, I wonder what would happen if we all agreed to stop marketing (ALL marketing – charities, companies, individuals, ourselves, livetweeting conferences, official hashtagged business chats, etc) on Twitter for 48 hours. Would it improve your experience? How many external sites would you have to unhook to make sure no marketing got through? Is your network on Twitter rich enough that you’d still have people to talk to, or would it be a vast wasteland while the marketing stood still? Have you built quality, or gone for quantity?
Could you even do it?
Update: I’m a doer, and I like this idea of not marketing for 48 hours. I’m also intrigued to see if I can unhook everything I’d need to unhook to be completely non-markety on Twitter for that long. So… let’s do this. August 2 and 3, 2010 – no marketing on Twitter. I’d love if people joined me, but I’m definitely doing it just for myself regardless.
Hashtag #48HRAWESOME if you want to participate and spread the word, but remember – hashtags are marketing, so leave it behind on 8/2-3!
I started offering a la carte services this week. Well, I’ve always offered them, but haven’t had them published in an accessible fashion before. Why try to (what some may consider) ‘down sell’ a potential client? It’s pretty simple: business under a certain size need help and need to accelerate their learning curve, but they don’t always need a long term consultant – that’s for larger business, longer films, bigger bands, larger wineries (which I also do). This? This is for you.
The a la carte things I offer are designed to help the average one or two person endeavor break the learning barrier, get a road map to both online and offline efforts and tools, learn how to think about adaptive media and integration for themselves, and generally find their way in such a way that they can be responsible for their own growth without being scared or intimidated or feeling lost.
One word of caution: I dump a lot of information on folks in these a la carte sessions. This is not “sit in a room and listen to me talk”. This is “please bring your laptop to the table and your business plan and let’s both get our hands dirty helping you out for the day.” I require that the people who take the immersion course already have dipped their toes in to social media, because this is about so much more than just how to set up social profiles. If that’s a fit for you, click the a la carte link in the sidebar ->
Did you watch Betty White on SNL (Saturday Night Live) this past weekend? I bet you are one of the many who did. I’d be willing to bet that, like me, it was a) the first time you’d watched in years and b) you heard about it on Facebook or Twitter or through a friend or family member who uses Facebook or Twitter. I thought this episode would be a great teaching tool about some of the themes I discuss often when I educate people on social media as part of their overall business consult with me.
First a quick overview for those of you who may not have heard what happened. In December 2009 the Facebook fan page Betty White To Host SNL (please)? was created. It caught my eye fairly quickly as a consultant, for two reasons: it was an obvious, genuine fan page of an actor/comedian and it asked a simple, genuine, easy to remember question. The only thing I wondered about was whether enough people still loved and remembered Betty White enough to join. Well, join they did. Currently the page has well over 500,000 members after only a few short months. In a display of integrated on and offline marketing, fan numbers got a decided boost after the Snickers commercial starring White from the SuperBowl started airing.
As time went on, the number of fans on the page and how vocal they were about wanting Betty White to host SNL (and yes, I was one of the fans, of course – who doesn’t love Betty White!?) grew at a rapid clip. NBC couldn’t help but notice as the campaign grew, and the question became when to have her on, not if. NBC chose Mother’s Day and invited back some SNL alumna that are moms like Tina Fey, added rapper Jay-Z to the mix, and sat back to watch the reaction from the viewers. The consensus seems to be that it was the best overall SNL since perhaps 1980, and as you can see from the link above, the ratings went through the roof and the topic remained in the top five trending hashtags on Twitter all weekend as #snl and #bettywhite. So what can we learn from this?
1) Authenticity: Authenticity can’t be faked – it’s too hard to sustain if it isn’t real. This page was started by genuine fans with a good idea, offered a simple plea and a simple call to action, and made it easy for other genuine fans to spread the word like wild fire. You can see the page started by someone else for Carol Burnett to be on SNL after the success of the Betty White campaign is struggling a bit. You can see why it might be in the vast difference in page title (Burnett’s page is much more shout-y) and in how the Burnett fans are now spamming the Betty White page – people don’t respond well to that kind of stream spamming on Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere. It will be interesting to see if the Burnett fans realize this and change tactics and grow their page.
2) Cross Pollination: By creating a shareable page on a social network and keeping the message short and simple, the Betty White SNL campaign got some nice, willing, cross pollination across other networks like Twitter and across personal profiles on Facebook.
3) Social Media Arcs, or Curves: This campaign had a clear, simple, achievable and above all, finite, goal which followed the 3 month (fan base growth) and 6 month (goal achieved) arc I so often tell people to expect from a well run effort online.
4) Social Listening: This was a great example of the point we often drive home: you need to be online and listening, at least minimally if not in full force, no matter who you are or how big or small you are. The chances that an audience, whether it is one person or thousands, are already engaging with your brand online are great. You need to be seeking out your audience, fans and customers who are already talking about you, good or bad, and make yourself available for interaction. Period.
5) Audience: A great audience can’t be manufactured by follower schemes and software programs. A great audience will grow around a brand if it is worth growing around, especially if it is making itself available for that kind of engagement. Then that audience will be a powerful force behind you and your brand and give you the gift of social leverage to get things done. If your movie, album, song, personal presence, company, etc is worth rallying around and gives people a reason to do so – they will. Conversely, they will be just as vocal if it isn’t. Focus more on giving value than on getting numbers in a box online and you will do just fine.
Last night in a Twitter chat (#smcnhchat), several people mentioned a lack of restaurants adopting various online platforms in the area. That inspired this post.
Restaurant owners know something much of the general public doesn’t: being in that business means you lose huge chunks of your time. It is truly a life choice, much more than a career. For this reason above all others, restaurants have a hard time adopting social media effectively. What little time they have that isn’t already bound up in the day to day of running a restaurant (one of the hardest jobs out there, folks), social media can eat alive.
You see, something interesting happens when a restaurant gets into social media. The customers who find it there want to own their presence and direct how it is used on an individual level. In any other industry this isn’t a big deal – you have more time, more brain space and more energy to be flexible with how the customers and potential customers want to interact with your social presences. In a restaurant it can be a huge headache.
Let’s take Twitter as a simple example (it’s one of the hardest platforms for a restaurant to be on, even though it is technically easy to use). There is a high drop rate for restaurants on Twitter. They simply get overwhelmed. Customers see a restaurant on Twitter and want to interact with it in so many different ways: as a customer service channel, a review channel, a reservation channel, a suggestion channel, a conversation channel, a recipe exchange, a recommendation engine, and more.
People in general don’t always take time for reading fine print, so even if a restaurant follows advice and makes it clear in their bio what kind of interaction to expect from them, and how often, and from who – you still have people who ignore that. And trying to deal with it in a way that promotes great customer service can totally eat your time. So unless a restaurant has a huge staff and can divide the workload, or is part of a hotel or other established organization and being rolled into a larger social media plan – Twitter is not always the place for them.
If a restaurant uses Facebook, it’s a little easier. It’s more controlled, and a bit easier to manage – but you still get people who make the type of interactions you have there into what they need to them be. This is not always what the restaurant wants them to be! Add in Open Table (which integrates with Facebook and other platforms) and other new tools and you need to have a fully trained staff to monitor this combination of very cool services. You also have to take into account the time it takes to keep up with these interactions – one person is simply not going to be able to do it alone.
Another issue is season and consistency. A local restaurant owner may have plenty of time to start listing daily specials on Facebook and Twitter or on a blog or in an email blast in the slow season, but when tourist seasons ramp up, these programs – which customers come to expect – often fall by the wayside, forgotten. This has a negative impact on the engagement you started online – it’s important to only start what you plan to maintain.
Restaurants who blog are very popular – people love hearing what makes the chef or restaurant owner tick, getting recipes, and hearing future plans and events first hand. The blog comes with several more layers of things to keep up with: comments, trolls, sploggers, and more. Toss in the fact that FriendFeed, Google Buzz, Delicious, Google Reader, Facebook sharing, Facebook Liking and more can toss your content anywhere on the web, where entire conversations could be happening around it that it would be beneficial to find and monitor, as well as participate in on occasion… well, you can see where the average restaurant owner would be completely intimidated to be online.
If you are reading this as a restaurant owner, are now freaking out but still want to be online, and can’t hire someone like me to help you, here are a few tips to get you started:
1) You need at least three people to manage your social media engagement. More would be helpful, but one is definitely not enough. They all need to follow at least basic guidelines you set out for social engagement – this will prevent someone from promising something you can’t deliver in a fit of being helpful, legal issues, etc.
2) Choose only two platforms to start yourself off, and add a third in a few months once you get the hang of it. There is nothing wrong with starting slow. I recommend Facebook Fan Pages as one of these platforms. It’s a little easier to set up and manage than others. The second depends on you: YouTube or Viddler if you want quick video blogging are nice, Twitter is easy (but can be time consuming – be careful), and there are hundreds more. Nose around and find one you like.
3) Learn to brand your business. You need a person’s face as your little avatar (picture) on Twitter and Facebook and other places, and then your logo, etc should be on the page background or in the sidebar. That way people feel like they are talking to a person when you engage, but it’s easy to see it’s a business, too.
4) Find tools to manage your time. I recommend Seesmic Desktop or CoTweet for managing business Twitter accounts, Tweetie or Tweetdeck on iPhones, PocketTwit on Windows Mobile Phone, Uber Twitter on Blackberry, Seesmic on Droids. Many of these tools also let you update Facebook, and many phones have a Facebook app as well. Do some searching on Google and on Twitter and see what other restaurant owners use and like. There are hundreds to choose from.
5) Be strict about your interaction routine. Make it clear in every bio who is managing the account, what their cotags are (they need to sign every status update everywhere with their initials, like this: ^LP – that’s a cotag that discloses who people are talking to) and when they check the account – and then hold to it. Make it part of your day, several times a day, for about ten minutes at a time. That’s manageable. You may find you need to increase your time as you get more popular, but that’s a good start.
6) Take a deep breath. It’s tempting to feel like you have to follow every person back and engage with everyone who talks to you, but that can be overwhelming as the weeks go by and you get more popular. Do follow many back, but don’t get obsessed with equal following ratios. Do engage people, but learn which engagements will have the most value to you (this will take practice).
I could keep giving tips, but that’s enough to get any restaurant started, I think. Good luck, and have fun!
If you read my personal blog you may know that each year since I was ten I’ve chosen two words to meditate on and use to be better overall instead of having a traditional resolution. This year the words were “global” and “balance”. I’m doing pretty well on taking my company and myself and making it more global, both literally and in concept. Balance, on the other hand, is another story. It is a continual “work in progress”.
Balance is something my clients struggle with often, and something I struggle with as well. For me it boils down to what is often referred to as the maker vs manager dilemma. I’ve talked a bit about that before, but it’s something that still comes up – after all I am in a business that has a vast need for the creative as well as the managerial, and I own my businesses, putting me in a manager role often, even when it’s time to be creative.
I must say this dilemma is a problem I’m happy to have – I love what I do! To that end, I’ve tried a number of ways to scale this in my search for balance this year. The advice I give my clients works well if you are one business, no matter how large it is or how many people you manage, but how do you scale if you do what I do (three businesses, several monthly events, two yearly events and a variety of clients)?
1) Be The Gatekeeper Of Your Own Time
Set aside time when you aren’t available for meetings or calls. You don’t have to explain to anyone why you aren’t available at a certain time, but you do have to be your own enforcer. Even if you have a secretary or virtual assistant keeping your schedule, you need to help them enforce your blocks of time and set a precedent about this. This is the hardest thing to do – with a global economy, time differences, and the varying schedules of other businesses and people you may work with on projects, you will have some clashes. I can not stress enough how important it is to stand firm. Trust me, when you don’t you cause yourself stress that is far worse than the slight disgruntlement that may occur when someone finds they can’t speak to you right away about something.
2) Don’t Be Afraid To Go After Your Schedule With A Scalpel
A) Recently, I was slated to speak at SXSW. I had a brief solo presentation in the Future 15 block. I was honored to be included, but as the event drew closer, I found myself stretched thin for time, with new client deadlines looming, and no way to make a week of travel fit into the schedule without making my client projects pay for it. About three weeks before the event I politely bowed out and suggested some names of people who were more than qualified to give my talk (never, ever leave a conference planner in the lurch by canceling too close to the date or by not finding your own replacement – it’s just rude). How did I make the tough call? Several factors came into play, but the biggest factor was “How will attending this event affect the quality of work I am providing for my client?” followed closely by “How will this tip the scale on my time and to do list and how long would it take to recover?”
B) On the flip side, it sometimes isn’t your outside engagements like speaking gigs that need to be trimmed, but your client deliverables. I see so many bids for work on projects I’m doing that I have to reject or send back because the person did not include a time line at all, or did not follow the time line set out in the RFP when structuring their bid. If you give the client unreasonable expectations of turn around on facets of the project or result windows, you are going to set yourself, and your client, up for disappointment. This does you both a disservice. Every client would like things to go as quickly as possible, but personally – I’d rather have it go well. Don’t be afraid to be realistic and blunt in your estimates of time – in the end it will work better for everyone, and on some occasions, you’ll still deliver early.
3) Figure Out What Distracts You, And Boot It
In this case, for me, you’d think it was social media being on, like Twitter, when I have to write or create something for a client. Nope, social media isn’t distracting at all – it’s like background noise to me (this may not be the case for you – everyone is different!). For me, it’s the phone. I try to schedule all of my calls on two days in a week. I prefer these days to be Monday and Friday but sometimes it works out to be two other days. Either way, I stick to it – otherwise my deadlines get thrown off balance. I turn the ringer off, the phone face down, and send everything to voice mail, only checking a couple of times in a day, on the other days. That’s what works for me, and it took me a good bit of time to figure that out. Once I did, it made my working life much, much easier to manage.
Those who know I sleep about 5 hours a night may find this one a bit odd, coming from me, but I assure you it is essential. I don’t do well sleeping more than 5 – 6 hours a night, but others need as much as 14 hours. Figure out your sleep “sweet spot” and make sure you get it. I can tell when I pull several short nights in a row for a deadline that my work product is falling short of my own high expectations (not to mention the client’s), that my decisions are not as sharp as they could be, and that I need to put the brakes on and evaluate my time management to get back on track. Don’t burn the midnight oil because the “cool kids” seem to be up that late if it doesn’t work for you! Most often, those “cool kids” are just night owls and they still catch the sleep they need, just at different times of the day than you might. Learn your body clock, your sleep needs, and manage your time well so you take care of yourself.
5) One Day Blocks
These are not the same as a day off. In my office I call it “going to my garrett” because I do it most often when I need to write. One Day Blocks are days where you simply mark off your calendar, leave your extra gadgets behind and turned off, take only what you need, and go to a quiet place to be creative. No phone calls, no emails, no social media, no surfing the net – just you and your creativity. If you are trying to balance a maker/manager schedule, this will prove to be your hardest step to success. You will find that no one, client or staff, likes for you to be unavailable to them on their schedule for a whole day. I say TOUGH. Don’t defend it, don’t explain it, just stand firm about doing it, once a week or once a month – whenever you need to. Trust me, you’ll thank me for this one if you create.
6) No More Mobile Scheduling
Your calendar is your best resource for keeping yourself in balance and getting things done. In this mobile world, the temptation is huge to schedule things on the fly – everything we do it on our smart phones now, after all. No. Just no. The best advice I ever got on scheduling was from Michelle Wolverton, my VA, when she insisted that I never schedule anything unless I was seated at my desk, in my office, with my main calendar and computer in front of me. And she was right – making that a hard and fast rule was the best thing I’ve ever done for my business and my sanity. That way, you never have a forgotten appointment, you never go to two cities hours apart in one day (trust me, I’ve done that to myself, and once, 4 – don’t ask…), you don’t have calendar to phone synching issues, and you can visualize your entire week or month at a time, unlike trying to look at a tiny phone screen and figure it out.
7) Say No
With everyone chanting the “be helpful” mantra, especially in social media, it’s easy to take it too far. Learn to say no. You can not take on every project. It may look like I do every project, but I assure you, I turn down quite a few. Protect your time and your sanity and don’t be afraid to stand firm with a polite but finite and distancing “What a good idea, but I simply can’t fit that in.” Then stop. Don’t justify, don’t people please, don’t waffle, don’t waiver – say your no and then change the subject or excuse yourself. In the end how many plates you spin (or drop) is entirely up to you.
8 ) Keep Your Offline World Healthy
It’s tempting to have a fully online life for many, but that just isn’t healthy. It can be really difficult to balance work, play and home. Especially if you do this social media thing, and do it well, your offline friends may not understand. I do my best to bring the two worlds together whenever possible. I host wine dinners at my house for those that have become true friends online so they can meet my offline friends, and vice versa. I include and inform the significant other in my life (secrets are unhealthy, transparency begins at home). If your offline friends and family begin telling you they don’t see you often enough, they aren’t just being difficult – they really aren’t. Turn off the computer and go be with them if that happens, immediately, because a strong family and friends are gold. If they want to be online too, show them how – even if having your mom on your Facebook is hard (and it is). Do what it takes to give yourself time with the ones who matter most. No amount of perceived “rock star” online status or temporary internet pseudo fame is worth losing the people who helped get you there.
9) Don’t Leash Yourself To One System
To do lists, Get It Done, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (or whatever that book was called), white boards, segmented time… the list systems we come up with to keep track of ourselves span miles. I recommend having two systems. Why? Because I guarantee that in spite of your best intentions, life happens, and you’ll get off track. If you only have one system, you will only browbeat yourself for not keeping up and not be able to recover. If you have two in place, you can simply say, “Oh shoot, I missed xx on the GTD system, let me go over to my simple tasks in Gmail and see where I need to pick it back up”. It takes the pressure off, and acts as a backup plan. Rigidity kills.
10) Go Ahead: Drop The Ball
I say this with all seriousness – even if you follow every management tip you’ve ever heard to the letter, you will occasionally drop the ball. There will be days when you get frustrated, feel overwhelmed, miss deadlines, get swamped and feel like you are drowning. Trust me, I know. I have some days, maybe twice a year, where I get so frustrated with myself for being off track (yes, I get off track, too) that I look longingly at senior level social media jobs for established companies, because that day it seems like it might be easier to work for someone else. It happens. When it does, do not climb on board the self flagellation train, do not attempt to reboot your to-do list, stop treading water. Take a deep breath, close the computer, and go do something else all day. I am not kidding. Don’t even send an email explaining your absence or making excuses – it isn’t going to bring your project back on track and it is going to distract you from the reboot you obviously need. Go walk in some grass, play on a beach, take your kids to the zoo, hit a few golf balls – whatever. When you return to work the next day, you will find that magically, your reboot has given you an idea enabling you to catch up, and you’ve gotten some much needed time to de stress, because often, stress it what is throwing you off your game.
As an end user, perhaps my favorite application of microsharing platforms of all types (think Twitter, Foursquare, etc) are how they help me add to my already extensive music collection. It’s fun to get a little shiver of a music fix randomly during an otherwise normal business day, just by tuning in to what’s going on around me online.
As a consultant, I love seeing the innovative ways the people behind the music we love are using microsharing platforms. It inspires me to see the ongoing and building connections with fans, the innovations in distribution, the advances in sales, the making of successful gigs and forging of collaborations.
These platforms have another effect also: they make music human again, bringing it out from behind a faceless corporate label or radio station. What should musicians be doing on these platforms to get their music heard and do an end run around the status quo?
One to One Sharing: Hand pick fans to send free songs, offer an opt in DM link to a free song each month for your fans and followers, talk to your fans one on one and get to know them – if you are in their city, meet up with them before or after your show. All of these things foster the one to one fan/creative relationship as well as sales.
One to Many Sharing: Use your social platforms and website to give people ways to discover your music. Use all of them! Sure, Twitter is fun, but if you integrate Blip, iMeem (now MySpace Music), and more, you’ll get more bang for your buck with the cross linking and user driven sharing systems they all have. Toss in more obscure things like Twitter lists and you have even more ways to share your sound with the world.
Collaboration: Social media provides an unprecedented arena for collaboration between artists and fans. Take advantage of the mashup culture, and use the ability to reach people you wouldn’t normally be able to reach to create new projects and expand your reach and audience, as well as to make more varied and interesting music.
Booking Gigs: The access that social media platforms give musicians to venues and enthusiastic fans can go a long way toward eliminating the middle man in booking gigs. One of my favorite uses of this is a musician who has been using his social network to book intimate house gigs all over the country, exposing fans to his music in a much more personal way. Another favorite example is the musician using Ustream with other social platforms to generate interest in upcoming gigs locally. Then you have people like Sooz in Boston using her love of music and social media to drive awareness to local bands through an annual event she’s making (Soozapaolooza).
Distribution: The music industry may be crying foul at the way things are changing, but that isn’t going to stop the deluge of fans clamoring to get their music delivered to them in new and unusual ways that free them from the vice-like grip of pale Clear Channel pop and label generated. Musicians on top of the trend with social media platforms for delivery will find themselves ahead of the game. Innovation is the key to success now.
Live Shows: Fans are clamoring for live shows. We already discussed the innovation of having fans host live in home shows via leverage of social media platforms, and of fans hosting live events to showcase their favorite artists. Collaboration with your fans using social media can increase attendance at live shows already on your schedule and help you schedule and broadcast live shows in new and innovative ways on and offline.
These thoughts are just grazing the tip of the iceberg of potential. I’ll be talking in Cannes France at MIDEM about more ways to leverage specific platforms for musicians this month – if you are there, come have a listen!