Interesting Threads in Dell’s 2013 Social Media Predictions

I happen to be one of the 14 people quoted in this Dell e-book, Social Media Predictions for 2013, but that’s not why I’m pointing out to you. I have great respect for every one quoted in this book, but what’s interesting is the common themes that emerge. For example:

  • Several of these experts see a strong year for Google+, while most believe Facebook is in for slow growth or even decline. I agree completely. The more I use G+, the more I like it. In contrast, I think Facebook is increasingly a place for backslapping and trash talking without the means to sustain meaningful conversations. In other words, I think the novelty of Facebook is wearing off. BTW, Pinterest and Tumblr also draw a lot of praise.
  • There’s a strong subtext of the need to make interactions more meaningful and personal and for brands to unleash their people to speak as themselves. Stop using social media as another kind of fire hose and start using it for listening, which is its most basic value.
  • There are some good quotes on context and sourcing. Basically, stop throwing content against the wall and start making it more meaningful. Geoff Livingston’s comments on creating trusted content are particularly good.
  • A couple of the interviewees call for more civility online, which is something I think we can all support. I like the way Shel Israel phrased it: “It seems to me that that people on social networks were adversely influenced by the…recent presidential campaign. They feel the best way to be right is to demean people who disagree with them.”
  • Lee Odden’s passage on hash tags is a riot: “#lets #just #stop #with #the #hashtagging #of #every #word #in #a #tweet #OK? #You #keyword #spammer #you.” Completely agree.

Here’s the embed, which links to the document on SlideShare.

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Small Firms Again Trump Enterprises in Social Media Use, UMass Study Reveals

The Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is out with its latest survey of the Inc. 500’s use of social media, and once again small companies outpace large ones. Ninety-two percent of the Inc. 500 use at least one of the tools studied, which include blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and Foursquare.

Blog use by Inc. 500 and Fortune 500 companiesInterestingly, the use of blogs jumped among the Inc. 500 after four years of little or no groth. Forty-four percent of the 2012 Inc. 500 are blogging, compared to just 23% of the Fortune 500. The figure is a jump from the 37% of Inc. 500 companies that were blogging in 2011. Researchers Nora Ganim Barnes and Ava Lescault found that 63% of Inc. 500 CEOs contribute to blog content.

Also notable is the surge of interest in LinkedIn, which is being used by 81% of companies compared to 67% for Facebook and Twitter. Facebook was the big loser in this survey. Its usage dropped 7% from last year.  Up-and-comers are Foursquare (28%) and Pinterest (18%).

Growth in social media investment showed signs of slowing in this survey. Only 44% of respondents says they’re looking to spend more on social media, down from 71% in the 2011 survey. Forty-one percent say their level of investment will remain, up from 25% last year.

Sixty-two percent of respondents said social media is “very necessary or “somewhat necessary” to the growth of their company. This is the sixth year The Center for Marketing Research at UMass Dartmouth has conducted the study.

There’s lots more on the summary page, including links to downloads of the full results.

 

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15 Tips for Getting the Most From LinkedIn Groups

I spend a lot of time in LinkedIn groups and have learned a bit about maximizing their potential as conversation-starters. Here are 15 of my favorite tips. Please add your own as comments.

1. Ask Questions

The best way to provoke discussion on LinkedIn is to ask questions. Rather than sharing a link to an article, use it to kick off a discussion. For example, instead of posting a headline and a link to an article about cloud security, formulate it into a question:

“This article on Cloud Computing Path makes the case that the recent Dropbox security breach proves that the cloud is not yet secure enough for the enterprise. Do you agree?”

http://www.cloudcomputingpath.com/dropbox-security-breach-prove-that-cloud-is-not-secure/

2. Make it Personal

LinkedIn is the only major social network that doesn’t permit brands to interact as members. Only people can post content. With that in mind, make sure your posts have a personal tone. For example, instead of saying, “This webinar on the benefits of platform as a service has particular relevance to business partners,” try “This webinar on the benefits of platform as a service looks interesting. I hope you’ll join me there.”

3. Follow Up

This is very, very, very important. Don’t post a question and just walk away. When people do you the courtesy of responding, return the favor by responding to them or simply “Liking” their post. Remember that you started the conversation. That means you own it.

4. Fill Out Your Profile

When you contribute something interesting to the group, people will want to find out more about you. It’s disappointing when their click takes them to a skeletal profile page with no photo. It’s a lost opportunity for you, too, because you’re missing the chance to create a professional contact.

5. Use Active Voice

Why “facilitate the implementation of” when you can just “do?” Corporate speak doesn’t work in social channels because you communicate there as a person, not as an institution. Cleanse your prose of passive voice, buzzwords and superlatives. Write like you talk.

6. Keep Headlines Short and Avoid the Ellipses Of Death

LinkedIn gives you 120 characters for a headline, which is pretty generous. Headlines over 120 characters are truncated with an ellipsis (…). You want to avoid this because you’re forcing readers to click through to read the rest of the headline. The more clicks you require the more visitors you lose. The “Add more details” field gives you plenty of space to spread out.

7. There Are Three Parts Of Any LinkedIn Post. Use Them All

They are:

  • Headline – Keep it brief and use it to communicate basic information or arouse interest.
  • Add more details - Provide background and explanatory information. Tell people why you think this information is important.
  • Attach a link – Use this area to post links. Never include links in the headline. If you need to have more than one link in your post, use a URL shortening service (see below) and include it in the “Add more details” section.

For example, instead of writing a headline like “Can anyone recommend a useful eBook on cloud computing? I’m looking for something oriented toward professional developers that has recommendations for the major PaaS and/or IaaS solutions.” post the question as a headline and the second sentence in the “Add more details” section.

8. Think of the Benefit to Your Audience

Success in social channels is all about helping other people. Keep that in mind when composing a post. It’s not about you, it’s about them. For example:

  • Instead of “A Primer on PaaS,” try “This Paas Primer could be a great conversation-starter for your prospects.”
  • Instead of “Spot Market Pricing, New Services Fuel Amazon GovCloud Growth,” try “What You Need to Know about Amazon’s Government Strategy”

Use words like “you” and “I” a lot. This is a discussion, not a billboard.

9. Minimize Copy and Paste

Respect your readers’ time by minimizing pointless verbiage. Don’t just copy and paste the promotion from a webcast. Boil down the basic facts and tell the reader why you recommend it. The more you make your post a personal message from you, rather than a rehash of somebody else’s message, the more compelling it is.

10. Don’t Copy From Twitter

When I see hash tags in a headline, it tells me one thing: This person was too lazy to customize the message for me. The language we use on Twitter doesn’t fit well in the more generous confines of a LinkedIn or Facebook post. Rewrite the message for the network you’re using and the people you’re hoping to reach. Think of the context, too. Facebook is more playful than LinkedIn. The Sales Best Practices group on LinkedIn has a different membership than the Construction Professionals group.

11. Avoid Repetition

LinkedIn does you a favor by copying the first few words of any article that you post as a link. Don’t copy and paste those same words into your description field. You have 15 minutes to edit anything you post in a group, so check your work to make sure your description isn’t a carbon copy of the item to which you link.

12. Take Advantage of Polls

Polls are a basic tool you can use to solicit feedback. You can specify up to five answer choices and choose how long the poll runs. Try mixing it up; instead of posting a question, occasionally formulate the topic as a survey.

13. Use Trackable Links

It’s easy to measure the response to content you post. URL shortening services like Bit.ly and JotURL make it easy to shorten links and then track the number of clicks they generate. LinkedIn processes these short links just like regular URLs. You can also use Google URL Builder. It generates longer links, but they’re compatible with Google Analytics. You can also shorten those links with Bit.ly prior to posting them.

14. Be Provocative

I don’t recommend overusing this technique, but it’s fun to try from time to time. Instead of a descriptive headline, try one that piques curiosity. Here are a couple from the Sales Best Practices group:

Eat that Frog!

If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first. ~ Mark Twain

How do you start your day? Do you ‘eat that frog?’ Do you have a ritual that starts your morning?

Who’s ruining it for the rest of us?

The member goes on to ask why sales people continue to use spamming tactics that don’t work and give the whole profession a bad name.

15. Connect with Other Members

When you request a connection with another LinkedIn member, the service asks you to verify that you have an existing relationship. If you don’t, it denies the connection request. You can get around this by joining a group to which the other person already belongs and requesting the connection as a fellow member. Be aware that if your request is denied, LinkedIn won’t let you try this trick a second time.

 

 

Great Free E-book on How to Get the Most From LinkedIn

I love LinkedIn. It may not be as fun as Facebook, but it has so much utility, particularly for B2B professionals. LinkedIn does a great job of maximizing the value of all the data it collects so that you can sift through the status updates, discussions and events and find ways to connect with the people you need to reach.

Alan Belniak of PTC has just posted a free e-book about how to get the most from LinkedIn. It covers everything from creating a profile to using advanced search to joining and contributing to the right groups. I picked up a bunch of tips from it, and I teach seminars on this topic!

Here’s an introduction on Alan’s blog. View the e-book as a SlideShare below or click through to download

Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter in Plain English

I prepared summaries for my upcoming Search & Social Double Whammy seminar on May 2 in Burlington, MA describing the “big three” social networks: Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. My goal was to describe in plain English the way these networks provide value to their users and the metaphors they use for interaction. Perhaps you’ll find these basic explanations useful in some context. And if I’ve missed or misstated anything, I’d appreciate your corrections.

Facebook & LinkedIn

The two most popular social networks – Facebook and LinkedIn – use similar tools and metaphors to provide strikingly different utility.

Both are based upon a foundation of personal profiles and “friends,” which LinkedIn calls “connections.” Profiles are online identities that define members’ backgrounds and interests and reflect their activities and contributions to the community. The more active members are in the community, the greater their influence and the richer the interactions with other members.

Friends and connections are persistent relationships between members that require mutual consent to create. Friends can see information about each other that others can’t, and because connections are maintained by the social network rather than by individual members, they outlast job changes, relocations, relationship changes and other disruptions that often cause us to lose contact with others.

The most powerful force created by social networks is the “Power of 130.” The name is derived from the fact that the average Facebook member has 130 Facebook friends. That means that every member’s actions within the community can potentially be communicated to 130 other people through the every-flowing timeline called the “activity stream.”

Marketers can think of these communications as a Web 2.0 version of the classic impression, but social network interactions are potentially much more important because members can comment upon, endorse and share other members’ activities with their own networks. This means that a compelling message can be spread far and wide by the members themselves without investment or active involvement by the person or organization creating the message. Good content sells itself.

Facebook is the overwhelming favorite of business-to-consumer companies because the action is free-wheeling and fun. Good Facebook marketers provide a constant stream of information that provokes conversation and interaction among members. Contests, polls and games work particularly well there.

LinkedIn is a favorite of B2B marketers because its members go there mainly to discuss professional interests. LinkedIn’s roots are in networking for job-seekers, but the service’s active professional discussion groups and useful Answers section have become favorite places for people to gather and share information about their work. LinkedIn also enables members to identify shared connections and to form relationships with others through friends-in-common. This makes LinkedIn a compelling new tool for professional networking and lead generation.

Both Facebook and LinkedIn permit brands to create their own pages to communicate with advocates, build awareness and create persistent relationships. Facebook fan pages focus on conversation with followers while LinkedIn stresses information about the companies. Both services provide great value for brands in very different ways

Understanding Twitter

Twitter is still a mystery to many people. How can rich conversations form when people can only speak 140 characters at a time? It turns out you can say more in 140 characters than you may think, and Twitter’s forced brevity actually encourages people to share information they wouldn’t communicate through long-form media like blogs or even e-mail.

The core feature of Twitter is the activity stream. It’s an endless flow of news, recommendations and observations that create endless opportunities for connection. You can find and engage with people on Twitter whom you could never reach by any other means, and it is arguably the world’s best source of breaking news. It is also a valuable extension of any company’s online presence.

Twitter is a loose-knit social network in which members subscribe to each other’s activity streams in a relationship known as “following.” Unlike Facebook’s friends or LinkedIn’s connections, following does not require the consent of both parties. Anyone can follow anyone else unless explicitly blocked by the person being followed (a rare occurrence).

As members amass more followers, the value they give and take from the network increases. People or brands with large followings can reach a large number of people directly because their messages appear in followers’ activity streams. While the percentage of people who see any individual message may be small, the ease with which messages can be forwarded – or “retweeted” – to others provides ample opportunity for amplification. In fact, a study by ShareThis found that the average retweeted message is shared 18 times.

While the volume of messages on Twitter may seem overwhelming and unmanageable, there are a variety of useful ways for people to organize and discover interesting topics. Members can filter the entire Twitter stream by keywords or “hash tags,” which are category labels members attach to their tweets to associate them with popular topics. Twitter also notifies members by default when their username has been mentioned by another member in a tweet. This notification feature makes Twitter an extraordinarily useful way to find people who may be difficult to reach by e-mail, phone or other media.

Twitter is proving to be particularly valuable for organizing and promoting online and real-world events. Hundreds of virtual chats take place each week around Twitter hash tags in fields ranging from medicine to marketing to aviation. Organizers of physical events frequently ask attendees to use specific hash tags when sharing information about the conference, giving the rest of the world a glimpse into the conversations going on at the live event and promoting it to future attendees. “Tweetups” are physical meetings organized on Twitter using hash tags, and anyone is invited to come. Tweetups can be used for anything from attracting fans to a concert to promoting a book-signing or store opening.

Twitter is evidence of the power of simplicity. Users have adapted and modified this relatively simple publish-and-subscribe service in thousands of creative ways, making Twitter one of the best tools for finding out what’s going on now in a wide range of professional activities and leisure interests.